Friday, April 6, 2007

Time Travel - a short story

This was Anand’s first visit to Tamil Nadu, rather to India. His parents had left India for the better more than two decades ago and his only images of India were the shots from National Geographic and the odd sequences from the very odd Hindi movies.

Anand had never thought about traveling by a bullock cart until now. His maternal uncle appeared to have a plan already in place, with the house cart going off to Dharmapuri for the monthly ration.

He did not know whether to say yes or no. “With more than enough reading, a travel should do me good” he thought. The 'familiar' cart appeared as a strange object to Anand with driver Chinnappa already at his place in the front. Anand joining him had made Chinnappa uncomfortable.He had his face turned towards the road while Anand got into the back of the cart.

The details of the cart intrigued Anand. Two rather large rounded wood with a touch of rubber made up the wheels. The wheels were connected to a wooden half open box. The extension from this box was placed on the necks of the two bulls which in turn were controlled by the rope Chinnappa had. Steerings.

No suspensions meant he had to sway left right with the cart. Once thorough with this sequence, he could actually look out into the open fields, which seemed to extend till the horizon. He wanted to pick up a conversation with Chinnappa, but was worried about his accent soaked tamil and moreover Chinnappa appeared engaged in driving.

This road from Krishnagiri to Dharmapuri would take them atleast three hours and was different to the one the motor vehicles took. Except for the sound of the wheels and the bells off the bulls, the only other sound was Chinnappa mumbling. Taking the curved roads were rather difficult for both Chinnappa and the bulls since there were no parts which could bend. A rather strange sequence happened at each curve. Chinnappa made the first bull turn, then the second, all the while himself making the oddest of sound. Could they not just make the head of the cart out of two wooden piece which could turn easier ? Anand wanted to ask.

The beautiful landscape with few people at the fields, the cool September breeze, empty kutcha roads seemed to enclose him into a different world. A world where time stood still. Strangest of feelings appeared to wrap him. There was nothing to bother him; no mobile, no TV and most specifically no Amma. He could travel forever on these roads. He took note of all the objects he saw, places got imprinted in his mind and some on the camera film.

It was the thirst that caught up with him and broke the trance. Chinnappa had the water provisions all ready and some dried fruits too. The smile across Chinnappa’s face at this moment was the key for Anand to start talking while he moved to the seat by Chinnappa.

Chinnappa has been handling carts since ages and has not seen places further than Chennai, but he appeared to be the happiest. Anand could not help thinking about the people back home hurrying around in their coats with a burger in one hand and mobile in the other. He concluded that everyone should do a bullock cart travel and perhaps meet fellows like Chinnappa atleast once in a lifetime.

Repetition of the heavily accented words, more dried fruits and the silences in between made way to Dharmapuri.

With Chinnappa gone across the street to get the provisions from the regulars, Anand felt over the top of the world alone in the cart. He tried holding the rope but let go when the bulls started to move.

Anand couldnot wait to travel back.

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