Thursday, January 25, 2007

What a Trip!!

Had some one told me that I would end last year and begin the new one with a roller coaster ride that’ll test my strength, emotionally take me high and low, make me travel across the length and breadth of this country, I’d have thought those were pretty thoughts…..but that’s just what happened and when I look back at the recent past, I just wonder if it all happened at such short notice………

K and I didn’t go visiting his parent at Diwali due to his work and it was getting put off each month….we’d finally zeroed in on Feb when the distinctive longing of our parents compelled us to make the trip in the last week of Dec……this coupled with the upheaval that k leaving work for so long at such short notice and I having to meet a friend visiting from America and tying up lose ends meant that from the 27th of Dec when we came back to Hyd from Bangalore to 30th, we were too busy to notice even if there was an earthquake……..
Our loved ones have moved from Ahmedabad to a place near the kandla port called gandhidham almost a year ago…..this meant that we had to travel to Ahmedabad and then make the 10 hr bus/train journey to where they are now….simply meant more time spent…...but it was inevitable, we armed ourselves with warm clothes(most of Gujarat was around 4-5 degrees C!!) and got onto a bus….the ticket said ‘sleeper coach’ so I imagined something like a train berth…..what it turned out to be was more like a coffin draped with (thank god it was dark) curtains and a dhurrie…….with people having regular push back chairs under this berth….i lay down wincing….wondering how clean the dhurrie and who else had done what else…..coupled with the claustrophobic feeling it gave me…..K took one look and said not happening….he wangled his way into a couple of tickets to regular push back chaired bus…….i heaved a sigh of great relief… was meant to be short lived……an hour onto the highway at half past midnight, the bus stopped suspiciously and the verdict was due to a malfunction, the headlights were’nt working well and wouldn’t be on for long!! What!! On our roads, traveling that way meant danger of the most high…..protests, threats and middle of the night dharna in the middle of the road later, passengers began to complain about not reaching their destination on time, that the driver was perhaps used to this all the time etc……the transport company of course far from sending us help refused to even answer our calls… the solution was amazing, indigenous and the best at that time, but thoroughly frightening…….we were driving on the highway between two other buses that had their lights working…….. and this is the way we finished the entire journey…..praise god that we reached in one piece cos I never slept that entire time……….the welcome we got more than made up for anything we may have undergone the night before…….
By the time we caught up on sleep and rest I realized; a) it was very cold, b)this was as small as a small town can be c)I hadn’t seen as many cows in my life……..!! it was straight out of a travel documentary on India! Being used to the rural interiors of Andhra and Tamil Nadu, the cows, camels, mud roads and carts fascinated me…………there were bungalows with at least 3 cars parked outside, but no tarred roads but for the highways!! It has its own charm but definitely not a place I can live for very long……..
If there is one thing Gujarat can do to you, is cause serious damage to you with food……..the people are so hospitable that they ply you with a myriad variety of food, and no thank you isn’t an answer good enough!! All that walking and the four Kg reduction quickly came to a nought….plus all my MIL’s cooking…….its homely and comforting and so good that it can break the most resolute!!

We took a day trip to mandwi……..its a beach as virgin as virgin can get…….i mean kilometers of sandy shoreline, clear waters and no body around……in fact the shack run by the tourism dept has closed down… I know what virgin is……we frolicked and savoured every moment of it, watched only by the sea gulls and some dogs……it was worth the 150 kms drive……..on the way we passed lovely colourful jain temples, ruins of sentry posts (there were many of these), camel carts, women in colourful lehengas carrying wood, men in their shirt frock attire with dhoti and turban, it was as rural as a rural experience can be…..mandvi town also has a small ship (boat) building industry…….we saw many at various stages of completion and it was a treat to watch…..drove past some impossibly narrow roads to reach a restaurant called Osho…….theres an osho centre nearby hence the name……no one knows the real name of the eatery…… I’ve had one of the most unforgettable eating experiences here…..the saurashtran thali was unbelievable, I gorged on the hot jalebis…..and suffered, again because no thank you wasn’t a good enough answer….i should have tried ‘I’m going to die’……….a few more days spent in idyllic bliss, visited the school K studied in from class 2-6 (his family was here 2 decades ago) a temple, local market, picked up some handicrafts (how couldn’t i??), ate pav bhaji from a cart…….and then it was time to say bye bye…….hoping this time the bus ride wasn’t an ordeal was like asking for too much….this time around, my brother’s wife was in labour and as only labour can be, it lasted 13 hours after which they had to do a C section……..thankfully I was kept awake and welcomed the news of Rachel Aradhana’s birth at 6 minutes before midnight on the 5th of jan….praise god….both mother and daughter (and might I add father) are doing well……got back to Hyd via Ahmedabad on the night of 6th, all bundled up in warm clothes courtesy of the Gujarat cold, only to be greeted at 26 degrees in Hyd, with people looking strangely at us at the airport!!
I cant tell you how happy I was to be in my own home, on my own bed with the knowledge that all my loved ones (potted plants included) were fine…..actually flourishing!! I spent the next day washing 5 loads of clothes, before I caught the evening flight to Bangalore….at this rate there are dogs at the airport that wag their tails at me!!
Rachel was so small I almost missed her on the cot!! She was all bundled up!! I cant but wonder at the miracle that the creation of life is….brother and mother were visibly relieved to see me………I spent the next 36 hours at the hospital, carrying, changing and helping the baby suckle……its amazing how something so small can latch on with such gusto………the day after that, home was prepared to welcome the newborn and her proud but tired mother………Cindy our dog sniffed, snooped and appointed herself as bodyguard……….
The next 10 days passed in a blur, I have experienced happiness, joy, helplessness, fear, and tenderness and the span they all last for is very volatile……………the entire household went into a tizzy, I never knew I could feel something so strong for someone so small…….we fell over each other to do what we thought the baby wanted……my brother has yelled,, begged, cajoled and sung for his daughter….we’ve changed countless diapers, rocked her to sleep, agonized over dressing something so small, and even learnt to bathe her to her satisfaction……….all this while K was in Hyd, sorely missing each other, I was too busy but he got the flu…….he visited on the weekend……laid down some rules for us, audited our processes and gave us a certification!! Another week went past and I decided that SIL was well enough to want her space, so I got back home…….its been one hell of an experience…….and all I can do at the end of the day is thank God for all this………..