Fantasy written by HARESH on Thursday 23, April 2020

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BUILDING BRIDGES Whoever said travelling is education must have been a very intelligent fellow. Travelling & visiting different places, especially in India does teach us lots of things. But real learning in India comes not from visiting well known & famous tourist places but off the road small villages & towns. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said real India is in its villages. So when once again opportunity to work in small village & surroundings jungles came, the learner & adventurist in me jumped at the chance. So here I am once again in a small remote place amidst lush green jungle, somewhere in Orissa trying to build bridges. Everything in life starts with food. Let us agree that prime driving force for all living things is satiation of hunger. Invariably, our leaning here must also start with food. Cook here is a marvelous person. He cannot cook any food without getting drunk & after getting drunk he cannot cook any food. No one has ever suggested that drunken human beings have better eye, hand co-ordination. So we have Salt in our early morning tea instead of Sugar & Sugary Milk….. instead of salt in Omelet, particle sizes do not matter; in any case cook is not a quantum physicist. Then we have Dal with hint of lentils at bottom & rice whose water refuses to evaporate. We have baked potatoes on which we must expend more energy to chew than it gives us back in return; we have steamed leafy vegetables which “spring” surprises while mulching on them. We must eat what our wonderful cook has “painstakingly” prepared or alternatively prepare our own food, which in hindsight is a worse proposition, because we must remember we are far away from civilization in the midst of jungle without benefit of modern gadgets. We must also remember poor fellow has labored hard to prepare food on twigs collected from our early morning trip to & fro thicket for easing “pressure”. But all these have obvious side benefits. For a change no one ever complains of bowel congestion. As we dash to our umpteenth trips for that salted discharge; snakes, lizards & weird looking insects zip past you with a strange look in their eyes. And by now if you are not scared out of your wits, you can see confusion clearly writ large on their faces, perhaps confounded by that strange sound & smell emanating. For sure they could have never “scented” that “aroma” Any hint of civilization is good 9 kms away. If that looks near enough, think again, “civilized” people might circle half the globe by the time we can come out of thicket & reach semblance of a road. And do not forget we must then travel by “Sardine Machines”, famously known as Autorickshaws to reach civilization. Time stands still for these “Sardine Packers” till all human sardines are truly packed & compacted. People in cities might circle rest of the globe in ”Modern Mean Machines” by the time these “Sardine Machine” are fully packed, compacted & labeled. However, once these “Sardine Machine” are truly packed & compacted time “flies,” there is no stopping these “Sardine Packers” then. You wonder if they were actually trained to be pilots & it was only cruel twist of fate that they were forced to drive these rickety machines now. And God forbid, if by another twist of fate, some “Beautiful Tribal” girls sit beside them, they are then no less than Astronauts trying to take their damsels to moon & back before another “Karva Chauth” is due. The nearest town is in fact an apology of a town. It is a town struggling to transform itself from village into modernity. There is a mega mall but with just one shop, selling Garments. The whole town emerges on it. There is long queue to enter the shop, there is long queue to buy clothes & there is long queue to make payments. People fight bitterly over every single piece of cloth as if that is the last piece left on the earth and if they do not get that piece they will be forced back to uncivilization. Oh well …….yes, they are fighting to be civilized people….!!! Weird things happen in the town. There is a Mega Power Generation plant, but lights go off frequently making mockery of “Mega Power Generation Plant.” Someone has dared to open a discotheque here, but no one dances, except waiters while serving liquors and bell boys while clearing dishes! Highly inflammable petrol and diesel sell “openly” in way side Pan, Beedi, Cigarette shops, therefore, perhaps to save themselves from abject starvation Petrol Pump owners have started selling Pan, Beedi & Cigarettes “openly”. A perfect example of tit for tat or is it you scratch my back I scratch yours!! Roads are comparatively good, in a sense. There are no potholes on the road, but someone in his wisdom has bumped in lots of speed breakers, in fact speed breakers at every 100 meters!! God knows why they need so many speed breakers with no civilization in sight. Driving on these roads give you more bumps than potholed roads of Mumbai. You can at least “snake” through potholed roads of Mumbai, not here! Drivers & pilots must trudge over them patiently & peacefully or they spoil your peace. Quite often, in their anxiety to take their damsel to moon, these “Sardine Packer Astronauts” prefer to overlook these bumps, without consideration for us common folks who have long last protection over their head. Most of us have no option but to watch our head elongated after every trip to that bastion of civilization. The real problem is when you see Ambulances drivers, in their eagerness to take their patients to hospital “safely”, also choose to overlook these speed breakers!! You can see “peacefully” sleeping patients, jumping out of their seat. You never know if they are “jumping” out of joy or in the sad realization that end is not very far now!!! But yes thankfully there are lots of road side eateries. As you sit in these open road side eateries, trying to fulfill your long insatiated hunger; dogs & pigs, cows & crows mill around you with a look of askance in their eyes. You do not know whether you should satiate you’re their hunger first or your own. Perhaps they are demanding their “pound of flesh,” after all you are in their domain. Most considerate People leave their left- over’s in dishes for these animals to lick them clean! Hotel owners are of course very happy to see these dogs & pigs, Cows and Crows around as they do not need to employ dish washers to clean the plates. What a way to cut costs using “natural resources!!!!” Wonder why no one has ever thought of patenting the system; he could earn millions in royalties!! As dusk spreads its wings, tired after day’s work, feeling of loneliness engulfs you slowly. Why must you come so far away from civilization leaving away your near, dear & friends? Is it all worth it? Then there is no entertainment, no toast master meetings, to take away your sorrows. Either you must immerse yourself in sorrows or you must find ways to entertain ourselves. After all necessity is mother of all inventions & games! So every day after work we sit & listen to clatter of birds & rattles of insects trying to read their thoughts & emotions. I must admit over time we have sort of become adept at reading their thoughts & emotions from their unspoken words. There is joy of meeting their loved ones again after a hard day’s work, after all they also go far & wide in to satiate their & their loved ones’ hunger and there is sorrow in their voices on loosing someone close, may be to some hunter. At times we have contests to guess exact words they must be conveying through their unique language. Of course there is no way of knowing if winner truly interpreted emotions, but then every game must evolve its own rules. With perceived threat of Naxal & Maoist, every other person who stares at you is a suspect. Every hustle of leaf sends chill down your spine. You never know if you will wake up to see another dawn. Suddenly debate rages within you if you will be going to heaven or to the hell, you start taking account of good & bad deeds you have done in your entire life. If you have done bad deeds you try to justify your actions, good deeds do not bring cheer to you. Prayers do not work here. To live you must “buy” your own life or “pay” with your life. Laws of love do not work either, but then Engineers are not Philosophers. They understand law of Physics; they do not understand laws of Metaphysics. They build monuments for people to trample upon. They know how to build bridges on Terra-Firma, they do not know how to build bridges between Terra-mente. They build bridges so that people across can live happily, in the process if they sacrifice their happiness……………… well…….. who cares? - Adieu

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    OMG, that was such a terrific ride. Like an auto rickshaw but instead of painful bumps, every sentence bumped a laugh and a smile out of me. The analogies were wonderful and clever. The comic pathos was so very well expressed. Regardless of your English glitches, your story telling is way better than anything I could do. I worked with an engineer whose English was a little off. I asked her how many languages she knew. She said, 'Five fluently. I'm working on English for a sixth.' That shut me up.
    I love your writing style, it's brilliantly crafted and so descriptive. Well written. I don't know why but I love the 'prayers don't work here' sentence especially.
    Okay, it is quite obvious that English is not your native tongue. Therefore, I will not rate. However, I shall comment.

    I thought this a wonderfully funny essay! A marvelous observation by a city-dweller heading into the wild. Excellent!

    One caveat: I cook like your cook, and I do not drink! And I like my food. Be careful! We cooks tend to stick together! Angry