A Blast from the Past

This is a story where one needs a few photos or a video clip or better still, the boys doing it in mime, but my writing and a drawing by Sonati will have to suffice. I was telling Kumar and Rajeshwari this story in Madras, when I realised that many of you would not have heard it.

When we moved to the land, there was no road to Valagapattu, just an otha adi paathai (footpath). In fact, ridiculous thought now, but we were thinking of fencing off that part of our land and leaving two gates for people going to and from Valagapattu.
Anyway, we knew that a road was on the cards and it did come through, but after many battles, throwing stones at the JCB, inter-village fights.
The contract for the road was given to “Contractor” Shanmugam from Omalur.

What follows took place at a time when we did not have electricity or a phone and so, of course, no computer and no Internet. It was early 2003 and Varun was a toddler.

It was getting to be dark, Sonati had lit the lanterns, when I saw four fat men in white (Imagine Tamil politicians, well endowed paunches, all, white veshtis, white shirts) climbing our slope. They came, and without a by-your-leave plonked themselves on our camp-cots which were in the Front Verandah. The cots creaked ominously, but, thankfully, nothing gave.
The boss-man was reclining on one cot, head on hand, elbow on cot, like in a Roman Orgy. The other three were squeezed together on the other cot, which was therefore full to carrying capacity.
I sat on one of the ledges waiting for them to begin.

contractor

The boss-man started off, “I have spoken to the thalaivar, and he has said that it is OK, so now I have come to ask you (the sub-text is tell you). I need to blast your rock for making jalli for the road”.
I am more than a bit taken aback, since this was quite out of the blue, and stammer, “No, No, can’t you find some other rock?”.

He says that he is making the road to help me, so I have to help him in this way.
I say that I have come here to get away from roads.

Looking around, as if changing the subject, he asked if I was not afraid of living alone. “No-one is close by”.
I said, “No, I know all my neighbours, I have been here for a few years and what do I have to be scared of anyway?”

He says that he is always careful and produces a pistol from the recesses of his veshti. He says that I, too, should keep one, perhaps, for “Who knows?”

I realise that I am seeing a pistol for the first time in my life. And I realise that I am being threatened, also for the first time in my life.
Luckily, I also realise that the answer has presented itself in the question, as it were.

I say that I don’t need a gun, I have Aandavan (God) looking after me. I also said that my grandfather has said that the Hippo Rock has a lot of “Power”. And in fact my eventual game plan is to carve a statue on the rock when I am able to.

This, thankfully seems to be a clinching argument, and thanking me, and calling off his lackeys he left. He never did come back with that “request” again, possibly because he found other rocks to quarry. But we would like to think that it was a case of God saves the Hippo Rock.

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8 Responses to “A Blast from the Past”

  1. Damayanti Says:

    This read like a ‘bhai’ tale bollywood masala maarke:-)

  2. Godfrey Says:

    now isint that a proof of transcendent power

  3. Suseela Says:

    In all these years, I don’t remember having heard this story. Your writing and Sonati’s illustration make a lovely read. But I do shudder to think what if… Keep the stories coming. And I really think you should write a book.

  4. Jaydeep Says:

    Gutsy.What a lovely drawing. Keep the masala stories coming. Whoever would want to unsubscribe!

  5. rittika Says:

    Do you think if you had said go blast the rock he would have done it. Or was he trying to see if you would call his bluff?

  6. Sanjay Maharishi Says:

    Love the illustration and the story. Both have so much tension. She watching from behind the door, the man plonked on the charpoy. I’m loving it!

  7. GreenIbis Says:

    Oh brilliant! I haven’t read this till now… I guess not being on FB has some disadvantages 😉

  8. Meeta Says:

    That was a smart move sv. I love the painting, and also the wonder that God can say anything we want her to say 🙂

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