Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cycling

It is hot. Spinning columns of dry mud all around us. On hearing something grrrrrr, Murugan shouts, “Dey, Palarampatty bus is coming. Bus is coming”. We all pause. Wiping the dry mud around our eyes and mouth, and me being a girl, I hurriedly adjusted the tucked skirt to fall free. I couldn’t see anything on the left. Nothing on the right either. We are at a T-junction where a ohdai (gully) meets the Pannaipuram to Pallavarayanpatty tar-road. The ohdai is deep and covered with fence type dense shrubs and some trees on both sides, covering the ohdai with complete shade. Tamirnd trees and Neem trees. Shades under these trees are heaven. I am sitting under a neem tree watching Senthil ride a cycle. He is showing me “how it is done”. Mother asked us not too go too far. Murugan had to really explain a lot to get her to come to a compromise to send us off to manthathohtta (Mantha farm) Maarimuthu’s vaasal, which is slightly spacious than ours. We agreed because it is off her sight, as it is just behind the last house in that lane. We ran off to the ohdai. After some cycling, we have long left the Minar’s farm, which was the farthest place I have been to in that gully-path so far. After Minar's farm, the ohdai becomes quite deep. It has a nice blind summit before it meets the road. There where Senthil has been showing me how to stop the cycle exactly at the summit, just after reaching the top of the steep summit with such acceleration. The summit is really too short, and yes, it does need a great calculation to stop without falling down the down slope on the other side. Senthil is all proud to show me his talents, more so, that I can’t do it. He is teaching me to ride a cycle. He and his friends.

“Muruha, there is no bus”. “It is coming Mathini (I am mathini for him), listen carefully. Ley, stop talking, stop talking, listen carefully mathini, it is coming”. “From which side, left or right”? “Akka, akka, look one more time, ha ha ha ha..”, Senthil stopped exactly at the top of the summit, this time as well. His friends are laughing with him applauding his achievement, this time as well. The bus comes from the left. Conductor was standing on the footboard, wondering at us. The bus stops. It is not a regular stop. I stand up. “Ley, what are you doing? Who is she? Why are you with these boys? Do your parents know? Are you alright”? I am tempted to say that Senthil did not give me cycle at all, he has been keeping the cycle all the time, but he claims that he has been training me. He is laughing at me whenever I fall down. Murugan, promptly replied. “She is my mathini. He is her brother. We are teaching her to ride cycle”. Senthil and his friends take a break to listen to our conversation. “Whose children are you all? Those two (myself and Senthil) look like they are school-going-ones, why are they here? Do their parents know that they are here? Are you alright, girl”? Again I am tempted to complain that I fell down few times and Senthil laughed at me. Again Murugan replied. “These two are military man’s children”. Nope. Conductor does not get it. “Whose son are you”? Conductor goes on adding questions, without giving Murugan a fair chance to reply. Some voice from inside the bus comes to help, “Conductor sir, what is happening? Need help? Whose children are they? What are you doing here, in the middle of nowhere”? “Aren’t you Muthamma’s grandson? I will speak to her. And these two, awright, amukkana Ponniah’s grandchildren”. “Isn’t Ponnaiah Muthamma’s nephew? So, you are all related?”. “Yes sir. She is my mathini”. “How? Isn’t she your sister’s daughter?”. “Yes sir, Chuppakka is Latha-mathini’s mother. Latha mathini is elder to me”.. “Right. So, what are you doing”?. “We are teaching her to ride cycle”. “Are you ok, girl? What is your name? “Latha. In schooool, Premalatha”. “Are you ok”? “Yeah. But fell down few times”. “Why do you want to ride cycle? You are studying and this cycle business is only for jobless boys. Why are you coming to these kinds of places? Go home. Alright. I will talk to your grandfather”. Some voice from inside the bus, . “Muthamma is the only one alive among her sisters and brothers”. “How did you forget Solayppan? He is alive”. “Ah right, he is Muthamma’s younger brother, isn’t he? I forgot. Ponniah is the eldest sister’s son. And that little girl and his brother are Ponniah’s grandchildren? How time flies!!”. “Ponniah’s younger daughter works in Seelayampatty school. Ponniah’s younger sister used to work in lakshmipuram school, but she has moved to Chinnammanoor after her marriage. Her husband is also a teacher. Ponniah’s elder daughter was married off to a military man”. “That explains. This boy was referring to some military man”. The bus leaves. “Vettip paya (jobless) conductor, asking all sorts of questions. Tomorrow my grandmother is going to know that we were all here. She is going to kill me for bringing you both here. They have no clue about cycling. They are asking to teach cycling in our vaasal. Wtf !”. Murugan shakes his head. I know Murugan’s fear for his grandmother, i.e., my chinna-great-grandmother (chinna = younger. My great grand mother’s younger sister). Training continues. Gullies generated some more muddy storms.

“Where have you been? I went to watch your training, but you weren’t there”, mother asked when we reached home, after a solid six hours of training, well, Senthil’s talent-show. Mother didn’t need the bus-conductor’s report on us; our clothes, our dry-mud-covered faces and her visit to manthathohtta Maarimuthu’s vaasal just after five minutes of our departure were good enough.. “You nuts, you didn’t even have your lunch. Come here. Go and wash yourselves first. Then eat. Muruga, where are you going? Eat here. You mother is going to kill you, and probably you are not going to get any food at all for today. She has been looking for you since morning”.

8 comments:

sudha said...

u r my muse :)

Dadoji said...

That was wonderful! Reminded me of Malgudi Days.

டி ராஜ்/ DRaj said...

Boasting brothers, people who love to know "who is who" and "who does what", cycling lessons in which the trainers themselves get more training and the trainee is left behind, "mathini" (now replaced by Anni), caring and detective like moms. Looks like I have been here too.... Awesome.

Madura said...

Beautiful writing prems. Enjoyed it absolutely! Nice topic too - Reminded me of my biking lessons in Sattankulam patti's house area streets with my cousins! Vivid explanation on your blog about your area, makes us imagine actively the geography of your land! ... funny conversation at the bus ... could relate to it all ... through your free-flowing high-spirited words ...

the wannabe indian punkster said...

that was so nice.
:)

Premalatha said...

Thank you all.

:)

phantom363 said...

hi,

did you finally learn how to bike? i heard that england has several bike lanes in the counties where you can have a holiday or day trip. :)

Premalatha said...

I did. :) My class mates in college taught me. It was a must in college life (the campus was really too big)