Monday, May 02, 2005

It's About Time

This was going to be his last trip to his parents’ ancestral village, he was going back to finalize the sale of their house there. He hoped he would be able to make the outbound train the next day, that would still give him a couple of days more to spend in the city before he flew back home. 3 weeks of vacation had zipped past at breakneck-speed, a familiar sensation that crept in at the end of each visit, was now nudging it’s way back in. But he needed to get back, there was way too much to do. His world was beckoning, his wife was waiting and his Manager was hysteric as usual. But most of all, he had promised his son. The apple of his eye had made him promise he would be back before his birthday. And if he was a well behaved boy for the 3 weeks and his Mom vouched for it, the Disneyland trip would follow the next weekend, the promised reward. The little fellow had waved like a maniac and when he had turned back one last time before heading to his gate, he saw him nudge his Mom and they both waved one last time.

It had stopped raining and he struggled to open the 3 different shutters which had all proved useless in stopping that trickle of water that still made it through to the sill and then down to the edge of his narrow berth, flowing down to settle in the little pool below. He looked out of the window at the passing countryside, at the fields and fields of green paddy and the occasional splash of a plot of bright yellow mustard and sometimes the taller, paler patches of sugarcane. The rotation and variety of the crops keeping the soil fertile and the bellies of the farmers’ families full, a safety catch for the times when markets were as unpredictable as the monsoons themselves. The dull brick-red of the window framed the scene, which was like an ever-changing canvas. The horizontal iron bars were too close to mar the picture, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. The scenery was at just the right distance, like an artist would have planned it. The dark frame, the right rain-washed medium and the positioning close enough to catch the true colors and yet far enough to mask the hard lines on the faces of the people working it. They stood knee deep in water in the paddy fields, barefoot and mostly bare-backed. The women stood behind the men, bending down with their hands deep in the water, occasionally walking the proportional, narrow dividers that marked the boundaries of their fields, balancing baskets on their heads, their dark brown skin glistening with sweat or rain or both. Children worked the land too, though they would inevitably stop what they were doing and would stand and wave at the passing train. But then the train slowed down at the signal, and a few of them clustered around the train. He could see their faces now, grubby and brown, teeth bright, matching the whites of their eyes. They waved and he waved back, and they nudged each other and pointed at him, delighted at his response. Their delight at being a part of his world for that fleeting moment was mirrored in their shy smiles. There were no promises here, no rewards, yet their eyes shone with hope. How? What kept them going? When would their Disneyland happen?


Blogger shub said...

yay I'm first, so I can go awwwwwwwww without sounding cliched!
Lovely Gabby! you've got me thinking,when I feel de-motivated bout work...hmmm...damn you've got me thinking long n hard now...
hmmm...will be back

11:13 PM  
Blogger phatichar said...

Beautiful post. :)

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:49 PM  
Blogger KJ said...

nothing to say except. :)

thanks for visting my blog.

2:38 AM  
Blogger AmitL said...

You,Gabby,should be an author.:)I could just imagine the scene of the 'grubby and brown,white teeth' children..:)

3:05 AM  
Blogger vipul said...


4:15 AM  
Blogger anantha said...

Hmmmm... Wow... will re-visit and re-read the story till I can grasp every single word! awesome!

6:17 AM  
Anonymous alpha said...

Nice thoughts echoed.. feel very similar when I see people laughing and smiling with their eyes in India..bereft of all the trivial worries we are gifted with.

6:54 AM  
Anonymous sqrl/nt said...

kids waving... there is something so innocent, so untouched about that, isn't it? The kids wont ever know Disneyland...but chances are they may be happier right now than we are..then again, grass greener on other side lalala.
as someone had so rightly put it.
mo money mo problems. :)

6:54 AM  
Blogger Peg said...

Does this continue? It should, but then so should all of your posts...
You bring justice to the writing world!

*peg smiles*

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The description of the people working in the fields is riveting. Very good piece Gabby.


8:34 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Shub - How's the thinking coming along girl? :)

Phatichar, Anon, Amitl, Vipul, Alpha, Shobha - THANK YOU SO MUCH!

sqrl/nt - Yes, and they wave so enthusiastically. Travelling by train in India is one of the most bring-u-down-to-earth experiences you can have.

Peg - That was big! Thank you. :)

8:50 AM  
Blogger Rhyncus said...

Rice and sugarcane and mustard, all at the same time?? Why did this guy ever leave?

8:53 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

rhynus - he wasn't the son-of-the-land types. he was coke-cars-big-house-in-the-suburbs kinda guy. you know.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Sid said...

simply beautiful and no doubt touching. keep on writing.

9:55 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Thanks Sid!

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Post ! Reminds me of Arundhati Roy and "God of Small Things!"

11:38 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Hello? Who is this Anon? Please, if you're teasing me, stop. Arundhati Roy?!! If you are serious, you have JUST MADE MY DAY, WEEK, YEAR :)

11:51 AM  
Blogger thennavan said...

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me the pleasure to introduce Ms. "So and So" more famously known as Gabby, Pulitzer Prize winning author, who has made a big mark among a generation of Indian Americans.

Gabby, this is from some event in the future. I would like advance permission to be the MC of that function (how about a "10% from your royalty" deal now itself for having predicted your rise as a novelist?)


12:10 PM  
Blogger vipul said...

thanx for dropping by my poor blog...(poor in terms of content and visitors both) You should definitely try writing professionally


12:16 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

thennavan - LOL, yes, yes, sure sure, why only 10%? Any illusions I had about being able to write begin to fade every time I stumble upon yet another great blog, the talent out here is mind blowing...! Thanks very much though.

Vipul - Your blog is not poor by any means! & I was surprised to find that you and I have something in common. Try and find out what that is! :)

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the contrast between his kid and the kids he waved to in fields was nicely brought out. kudos.

- A regular reader of your posts.

1:00 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Thanks Anon!

OK, I understand people who want to remain nameless when they write bad stuff about me. But when ya'll have nice things to say, please do leave your names! I will look for you next time, I will link you in my next post etc. etc.

hmmm...guess that won't work, these Anons don't care for all that in the first place. But still, worth a try.

1:16 PM  
Blogger MD said...

I like the part with the children best: the part with the shy smiles. And the description of the water coming into the train to 'settle in a pool below.'

You know whenever someone disses the writing on blogs, I always say, you are not looking at the right blogs. This is one that proves you wrong, dear blog-critic....

1:43 PM  
Blogger MD said...

MD, again: you know, we should start a web-zine with all these wonderful writers, like East of the Web, with stories and stories and stories. I'll never tire of reading them.

1:45 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

Gabby: Hmmmph! You did miss someone when u were running behind all those anon guys/gals :p

No more Thamizh tips for you!

Hmmmm... Wow... will re-visit and re-read the story till I can grasp every single word! awesome!

And revisit I did! Was totally reminded of my last trip back home. Though in my case it was my prof's insistence on a thesis that was pulling me back here! And well, I did see technology spreading its wings among the countryside! Sometimes it was hilarious and I was actually proud.

But the universe has a nice way of balancing itself and I think soon, the world will actually be one, in everything and we need not feel homesick at all. Thats one wish that I'd like to see fulfilled!

1:59 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

MD - WEB-ZINE! lets totally do it! we really should meet for chai one of these days :)

Anti - Awwww, sorry sorry sorry! manniche-ko da....thaeriyama pannithen.. (what grade do I get for that?) :)
I like your theory, it's pretty good, but only in theory. The world actually being one in everything will also mean all these different shades will be will be like Walmart, same layout, same aisles, all the time, everytime. Not appealing any more non?

2:20 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

Gabby: You just get a passing grade. And that too cos I think it was a honest mistake. This is just the first quiz, so you have ample time to improve!
And interesting that you shld mention Walmart. In a way thats actually true. But that is also quite against idealistic thoughts and would not serve to boost anybody's morale at all!
So, is there a middle way?

2:43 PM  
Anonymous karan said...

Wow! link-hopping from Megha's blog...on my voyage to discover good writing! :)
That was a beautiful post.
"When would their Disneyland happen?"
I would like to think that it doesn't happen just once in a while. What with all the colors, the tractor/cart rides, playing maze in the fields, sliding in mud, adventure dips in a pond, washing in the gush of a water-pump, and train tracks scattered around, is their world any less than a 'Disneyland' ? :)
Let's just say that the grass is green on both sides!...or am I wearing colored glasses?! :)

2:44 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Anti - I think we are safe from the sameness, I don't see the world ever becoming same/equal, it just can't happen. Or maybe I lack that kind of vision. Those futuristic movies where they show the human race in uniforms scare the hell outta me - Imagine not being able to stand out with either grubby face or Manolos!! Imagine everyone speaking Tamil with equal fluency!?!! See, it JUST CAN'T happen :)

Karan - That was one picturesque description!! And I feel great now. You are very good at this feel-good therapy yound man, go put it to good use! (That is if you're not already). Thanks for coming by!

3:17 PM  
Blogger Khushee said...

You write so beautifully! :o)

4:53 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

Gabby: Why do I get the impression that you are giving up learning an ancient language even before you come to the mid term exams? Padayi mein dhyaan rakhoge tho seedha 'A' milega Masterji se!
Jokes apart, "human race in uniforms" reminds me of George Orwell's 1984. Incidently, Sify reports that a Broadway version of 1984 will hit the London theatre scene soon! Hmmm, to me that would be the most anticipated musical after LOTR, not that I have seen any musical on stage!

5:38 PM  
Anonymous HiredGun said...

Awesome visual. Sometimes a thousand words is better than a picture.

What I also miss about the train rides is the *smells*. (No, not the potty smells that waft in during the mornings). Smells of rain, rust, roasted groundnuts, tea, flowers, sun, et al.

Cringe if the train passes by a sugar factory.

5:56 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

khushee - Thanks!

anti - You should! See a musical on stage that is. My first one was Aida and I think it's still one of the best.

hiredgun - LOL @ sugar factory smell! And chai in those little mitti-ke-pots....that taste CANNOT be replicated. Thanks!

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautifully written gabby. loved this post :)


7:25 PM  
Blogger phatichar said...

errr...IIT kharagpur??

8:17 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

shwin - Thanks very much.

Phatichar - Errr...We might have to this this offline...

8:38 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Sorry, that was


and "take this offline" :)

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very, very well written piece.


9:29 PM  
Anonymous charu said...

lovely post... happens to all of us - a smile wich has made a day... or an unexpected complkiment that keeps us going

10:08 PM  
Blogger phatichar said...

errr..ok gratis! But was I right 'bout the commonness, hmm?

12:45 AM  
Blogger manan said...

beautifully written. you see through to the soul of incidents.

3:38 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Peggy - Thanks girl!

Charu, Manan - Thanks, I believe this is your first time here, welcome! :)

phatichar - yes. :)

7:06 AM  
Blogger Patrix said...

Late to comment but had already read it few days back...just couldn't think of anything smart to say. Beautiful post and wonderful imagery.

9:41 AM  
Blogger The Reporter said...

No expectations, lots of hope i guess :)

9:49 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Patrix - Thanks and that's cool...look at what we do on your comment box :)

coolcat - Yes. Lots.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Good. Keep going.

1:07 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

observer - thanks. keep commenting.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Ash said...

Darn ! I hate being late for a party ... all the good stuff has been said and done. Humpf.

Oh well, here goes, at the risk of sounding cliched and super-reudundant, that was a beautiful and well written post. Seriously Gabby, I sure hope your real life-job involves you writing, otherwise its such a waste of talent :(

6:57 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Thanks Ash! My real life-job has almost to do with writing! Powerpoint headings count? :(

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the train post - I wanted to visit my village, now I feel like talking about my friends, the previous week I wanted to drink wine! Heh, heh.

8:20 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Anon - Glad to note my posts have such an influence on you LOL!!!

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such a shallow theme. how superficial of you all. I guess I will never return to this blogspot again.

5:01 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

you won't be missed.

7:57 PM  
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10:35 PM  

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