February 18, 2023
Indian winters are anything but harsh, more so if you live in the western part of Mera Bharat Mahaan. Avalanche, snow storms are the terms, aliens for a person like our Gopal kaka who has lived his entire life in and around South Gujarat.
The imperceptible onset of winter rarely makes a significant difference here in the languid Extra Innings Resort till the day hordes of English NRIs descend in hordes, filling the surroundings with orright, orright – just like the chirping of those migratory flamingos, launching on their annual missions to see their near and dear ones languishing in the humid, hot country they left behind a generation ago.
Bachubhai, the sprightly 82-year-old young uncle of my friend, Jignesh, always seen with the hideous looking light sun glasses, loves to regale gullible guys like Gopal kaka with stories, replete with copious inches of snow that their town received in the harsh winter long ago, and how his Morris Minor got stuck in the snow on the road that hadn’t been cleared off by the snow-plough behemoths.
‘Oh, make no mistake, this is no winter, Gopal Kaka. Back there..”- with a hand gesture generally in the direction of geographical north-west- “the English weather makes you shiver, with layers of snow piled on the road. You have to stay put in your cozy apartments for days together. You have to just believe me to get a feel of the misery that a real winter usher in ‘there’. Of course, you will never know, hunh’
While most oldies in their cadaverous eighties tend to stay quiet and blame their luck for not being so English, our Ramanik kaka, probably smarting under the ill-timed put down by this pseudo-English character called Bachubhai, removing his chappals and struggling to pull his legs in to sit cross-legged on the ubiquitous Neel-kamal brand plastic chair, would retort with a rueful smile, “Arey bhai Bachu,”, in a measured tone, “ I had a taste of such weather when I went to the Char Dam jatra 20 years ago. Can you believe, I actually fell down from the mule on the road, and began to slip down into the steep valley? …’
‘And then?” Champa kaki, in the hope of garnering some attention, duly impressed with her old man’s adventure,
‘Arey ubhi re nee too’ (Just wait a while, will you?), I am coming to that’ Champa kaki was duly shut up from spilling the beans prematurely.
Gopal Kaka rumbled on in his staccato tone, dismissing the look of embarrassment on her face, “Your Kaki, came to my rescue, along with the lone sherpa-like helpers walking along. You know she got down from her mule and pulled my body to safety. Such a brave lady, I dare say”, his eyes, gleaming in grudging admiration of his life-partner.
‘What were your fellow yatris doing, Kaka?” asked the incredulous Bachubha, sticking his index finger in his extra-wide nostrils to drill a hole in the sticky mess.
“Oh, they had all gone ahead with the rest of the party”- so careless of them, Shambho Shambho.
Leela, Champa kaki’s dutiful attendant, pulled her wheel chair away, back to their warm apartment, it was time to watch the next, unmissable exciting episode of the Hindi serial ‘Pavitra Rishta’
As her wheel chair turns, Champa Kaki stirs into action, “and had I asked you to gift the Lord an additional Rs 11 for saving your life”
“Oh, did you? I must have forgotten; God damned this old age – I keep forgetting”
“..that is so mean of you, Bablinaa bapa” and the wheel chair sped away.
Bachubhai, the quintessential giver, swiftly flashes out a bill of Rs 2000 and hands it over to Ramanik kaka, ‘here, you can gift this to the Lord the next summer you go there again. Sorry I can’t join you – it is going to be our Baba’s tenth wedding anniversary you know!”
That ‘baba’ could well be a strapping young man with two kids.
O.., these wintry tales at Extra Innings!