The tale of the Haves and the Have-nots

Oct 9: The house where Mahatma Gandhi was born and lived is preserved as a museum. This opens at 8 AM, before which I have enough time to down two cups of chaai, and photograph a few kaathaiwadis. These middle aged and old men go berserk posing in front of my camera, and I have a hard time taking leave of them. Anyway.

The house is an interesting place. A few rooms are very well preserved, among these being the room where Gandhiji was born. The principal attraction is the section of the house converted to a museum of pictures. Lots of pictures. One striking aspect of these is how the Mahatma is almost always bare chested, and wearing perhaps only his dhoti. This sets him apart from all the other subjects in most of the photographs. Other dignitaries are covered in the photos, which aren't really arranged in a chronological order, as I would have wished.

Gandhiji is a personal role model for me, and I'm happy to gaze at many of these pictures, trying to imagine how difficult it would have been to accomplish what this man did. For a few years, I've been seeing a lot of criticism about Gandhiji. I am pretty sure he wouldn't have been perfect, and he really was a 'politician' to a certain extent. But he did do things, difficult things. I am happy keeping track of his achievements, and not really bothered too much about the flaws. After all, who doesn't have flaws ? Perhaps people in the know need to acknowledge any flaws he had too, rather than thinking he is above criticism. Keeping the criticism healthy would obviously help.

Also impressive is the Mahatma's body of work, covering significant parts of a shelf. He must have been prolific in his time, perhaps serving as an example to the others just by his work. Good qualities to emulate for sure.

It was 10 by the time I left Porbandar. Dwaraka is about 105 kms from there. Significant distance to cover, given the heat. But off I started, and picked up some pace too. Headwind again, damn! Lots of windmills here, which is good to see. At-least someone should make merry from the wind. I dozed off for half an hour near a village, tired after riding.

Some distance before Miyani, I met this guy on another bicycle. He had overtaken me once earlier, then I had overtaken me, followed by the rest. I had overtaken him again after my rest. He was riding a typically creaky "men's bicycle". He said he was riding since two days from Junagadh, more than a days ride for sure even in cooler climes. He was also going to Dwarka, and this brought us together. He said he was a daily wage labourer from a place near Junagadh, earning a 150 rupees a day. He would visit Dwaraka and then off towards Ahmedabad. He had apparently been promised a cleaner's job by a truck driver who had come to Girnar.

It was lunch time, and we had a good lunch together. Me sponsoring another fellow traveller a lunch for a change. This fellow was hesitant in the beginning, but I insisted he have lunch with me. The kid serving us in the small hotel was this sharp fellow, and ensured we had good food. A whole mug full of buttermilk kept us cool. The lunch wasn't expensive either, 35 rupees.

Off we went talking after the lunch. I had to apply my sunscreen; I carefully explained to him that this ensures I won't burn. It's surprising how much a human body can adjust to the conditions. In classes 9th to 12th, I was in an orphanage. We used to do a fair share of manual labour. I have done ardurous farm work too. But our skins never burnt during those times, in spite of spending hours in the sun. Sitting indoors with computers changes all that conditioning. He asks me how much the cream costs. I say 250 rupees. For which pat comes his observation, "that's two days of my salary".

We keep riding. His chain keeps derailing every now and then and needs to be fixed. We make good progress overall, stopping only for tea once. Another stop or two more to take snaps of the lines of windmills close. Around sunset, we are 20 kms away from Dwaraka. I ask him what he would have done in similar circumstances, and he says he would have just found a bus-stand close-by and slept, as he had done the previous day. We decide on stopping at a temple. A local tells us that a temple is not far-away, about 3 kms down the road. It turns out to be much further down the line, not surprising at all...

Meanwhile, a passing car bearing a Haryana registration stops by us, asking for directions for a "beach ka raasta". My companion is puzzled, but I don't waste much time telling them that we are new to the place as well. Then I explain to him what the guy meant by "beach" - sea shore. This is a place where people don't even understand hindi well, so it is indeed much for the car folks to expect them to understand a word like beach !

Anyway, we continue riding on, making small talk. I'm somewhat happy to have found a companion, even if it were for a while. It's about 8 PM when we reach a small temple. The road is mostly deserted otherwise. The baba at the temple permits us to sleep outside the temple. He stays in a small house behind the temple. There are some local visitors to the temple, and it takes a while before they leave.

Meanwhile, I remove the only things we can eat: an apple apiece and a pack of Parle G. I share this with my friend-for-a-day. It's interesting how many perspectives change post education, and with access to a good life-stlye. Again, it is not too long ago, that as a high school student, I could happily pass a whole year on a hundred rupees as pocket money. My demands improved marginally during engineering, but just balooned after I accepted my first job with a very good salary.

I want to have a good sleep sans the stinky riding clothes, so I throw aside a bit of caution : how about sleeping in the dhoti for a change ? The downside of this is that I'd have to keep my purse and mobile phone in my bag. Something tells me that this is not very safe, but I decide to brush aside my inner voice. Before long, unmindful of the ants roaming around, I doze off. A little bit of uneasy sleep for me, to be honest. I'm concerned for the safety of my bicycle - for it's lying unlocked. And strangely, I have shown no intent to lock it either. Simply put, I have shown a lot of faith in my companion. Little would I know how much that would cost me the next day. My friend-for-a-day has asked to be woken up when I wake up to answer's nature call. I take him for something of a coward, and wake him up, perhaps after midnight, when I go out for a leak.

Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. When he asked you to wake him up , you should have realized he is telling that to give a false impression about himself that he will be seeping when you wake up.

  2. I did think it was odd, but I was way too trustful at that time. Anyway, I live and learn 🙂

  3. Luckily, you kept your cool.

  4. Its easy to analyze after the event. At that moment its very difficult.

  5. Ah now i see what I misunderstood in my other message. This guy is a different person and not the son of the ashram owner.

    Again, bad luck friend and hope you never have to suffer another episode like this. Take care.

  6. The ‘beach ka rasta’ was most probably Bechtel Beach. This is a real cool beach just on the way to dwarka from porbander. Actually even I missed it for the lack of time cause my legs were just recovering from cramps after cycling in the afternoon heat in the windmill area after bhatiya. Too bad, I did’nt read this blog earlier. I had done the ride from jamnagar to dwarka on my trek- somewhere around october during the diwali holidays this year. NIce writeup.

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