Sleeping at odd hours is something that I share with all the fellow web addicts. Waking at odd hours is a talent that I acquired during the documentary film. Waking up at 2:45 am to get down at Dhaman Gaon where the train was to stop for only 2 minutes was the first challenge that Sabiha Ma’am and I had to overcome. The Indian Railway did not surprise us by being 30 minutes late. This gave us ample time to drag our luggage till the door and be on the ‘ready, steady and go’ position to make most of the 2 minutes that the train was to stop for at the station. Before I proceed, I would like to re-instate the fact that I am filmy to the core. And I don’t mean documentary or offbeat films type filmy. I am the Hindi masala movie type filmy.
The station of Dhaman Gaon presented an eerie picture. It was dark. There were a couple of homeless people crouching under thin, worn-out blankets. Somewhere on the platform was a small bulb to provide the only source of light except for the moon that was in full bloom. Even the bulb was ready to give up anytime soon. I actually heard a dog growl. The only thing missing, and I thank God again that it was missing, was a ghost of the stationmaster. The most filmy thing that can happen in a backdrop like this is for two females to lose the way. That is exactly what happened. As is the case mostly, the only person who was ready to answer our query decided to inform us wrongly at that God forsaken hour. Ma’am and I tugged our heavy bags from one end of the station to the other. Finally we figured out the way out of the station. This village was comparatively a big one. There was a bus station to testify the fact. The presence of a bus stop, I soon discovered is the measure of categorizing villages.
We walked to the bus stop that was a stone’s throw away from the station. The scene at the bus stop was my first brush with reality of villages and villagers of India. For years I had written essays describing at length (what I intellectually perceived till then, without any real time experience to back my conviction) that the metropolitans like Delhi are not the real India. Suddenly I could see in realty what the books and the intellectuals all along had said and I had repeated as a wise old parrot.
Sabiha Ma’am and I were clad in what is known as the best garb to travel in (specially when you have been traveling for three days straight!) i.e., jeans and sweat shirt. The freedom to wear clothes of my choice is something I have always taken for granted. I realized this when I saw these old villagers and the chai wala looking at us strangely. They were not eyeing us but just that for the first time in my life I felt that I was inappropriately dressed, specially if one chooses to go by the dictum--- ‘when in Rome do as Romans’. What struck me at first was that despite it being so early in the morning there were people around, not too many, but nevertheless there were enough people to not give the quaint town an eerie feeling!
The Indian villagers are of a different human race altogether. They may have not approved too much of our clothing or the fact that two women were visiting them at that odd hour, but they were respectful and very courteous towards us. We had not felt the need for a cup of tea this early in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised that the Chai wala offered us chairs and was ready to answer all our questions about the local buses or transport that would take us to Yavatmal. A Delhi shopkeeper will not as much as give you change for a 50-rupee note unless you buy something from them. And here was this magnanimous old man who was ready to help us out though he did not entirely approve of us.
The bus stop of Dhaman Gaon was opposite an old home that I am pretty sure will not be there the next time I chance to visit the place. It was dilapidated but the beauty and artistry with which it was made many years ago was still visible in parts. After ma’am saw me staring at the old haveli she told me about a haveli in Lucknow where she had spend some summer vacations as a child and that the arches were peculiar to the Mughal architecture and were called ‘Bara Dari’. She was narrating a prank that she and her cousins played by knocking on all the Dari’s of an old haveli to tease an even older man. Even Sabiha ma’am was a child. I generally presume that the people I have met have been the same age all their lives. Imagining Sabiha ma’am as a prankster kid was fun.
* I told you 14th January was to be a long day. Imagine one blog just explaining the span of 1½ odd hour of the part of morning that many of us have never witnessed i.e., before sunrise. Yes it is referred to as ‘early morning’ rather than the Delhi norm of calling 9 am as early morning!