Wednesday, October 26, 2011

the empty nest- a film by Berticcinno Feluciti

It was great news in the reality show business- the famed Berticcinno Feluciti has agreed to do a reality show for Indian television, to be released globally later. It was to be about a worldwide phenomenon which would strike a chord with people all because of its universality. It was a show about people working hard all their lives to set up a nest and the chicks growing wings and flying away leaving those that spent most of their productive years building it alone in an EMPTY NEST.

The great BF had chosen a typical Indian family as a case study. The man was a 56 year old middling level business man, the woman a 53 year old teacher. Married for 31 years their only claim to the starring roles was that they had just married off their younger daughter and were currently living in an EMPTY NEST. His secret cameras lined their whole house and (lets go into flashback mode now- a cinematic liberty I picked up from his conversations)

Camera one sees him looking at the typical suburban house in Delhi from outside. It is late evening and it zooms in on the house and the great BF sighs as he sees that of all the houses in the street THIS one, which just the other day was all lit up for the wedding of the family’s younger daughter, is still dark . The camera pans in at the trees the couple had planted when the kids were still at school and notes that the shadows of the trees cast by the street lights are causing strange patterns to appear on the now dark downcast walls.” A perfect setting to go with his theme” he thinks as he gets to the main door and------- FINDING IT LOCKED shouts, “CUT ,CUT ,CUT”

Camera two sees the couple sitting quietly in their den staring at the television screen with not a word spoken between them. The woman occasionally sheds a tear , the man puts an arm round her as violins play a long lost tune in the back ground and lights dim as the director moves in for the close up shot BUT observing what they are watching he shouts” CUT CUT CUT.!!!!!!!!!”

Camera three delights the great BF! It shoots the couple at the dining table very obviously arguing. ”EEt ees the empty nest” he whispers to the assistant fawning over him . “now even the smallest of differences weel blow up into major arguments” he signals the cameraman to get closer to get the argument in the frame ,”my chance to capture life in the raw”, he thinks,” the tragedy of the nest gone empty” ,TILL he hears what the argument is about and shouts” CUT, CUT ,CUT!!!!!!!”

Camera four is set for the mandatory bedroom sequence- he sits by the bedroom monitor , observes the tossing and turning going on inside and knows he has finally found out what the truth is. ”They” , he tells the second spot boy “ cannot sleep – the layers fall off in the bedroom and here is their tragedy all exposed – their true selves - their true lonely selves are finally out for the world to see- and I ,Bertuccina felluciti will capture the moment,” he gloats . The spot boy peeps in again looks back at the boss and winks at him and says,” look carefully Boss, they are not sleeping all right- but I certainly don’t think what they are doing is called loneliness” He has a second look and is so stunned he even forgets to shout CUT,CUT,CUT.

The Great Berticcinno Feluciti has had it upto his gills and rings the door bell and shouts “YOUR NEST IS EMPTY YOU IDIOTS, DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT IS EXPECTED OF YOU?”

“OHHH we are not allowed to do this? “ I stutter.”Of all the nights you had to choose this one- and on camera too!! heaven knows what he will do with the filmed part”,hisses Sarita.

The great Berticcinno Feluciti first throws down his wig and then begins to pull the balance of his hair out. While he works at his favorite exercise, l turn to explain that it is US he is filming , me and my wife of 31 years, Sarita, recent empty nesters with both daughters now married and just the two of us at home. (we are back in current documentary mode now)

He told us recently that he wanted to shoot a documentary on the empty nest syndrome and thought we were perfect subjects. He told us he would shoot us unobtrusively and that we were to just be ourselves and we gladly permitted him thinking this would be a new adventure( of course we never expected him to enter the bedroom but when I noticed the cameras I thought he was doing it for oomph factor.) Except that now it seemed we been living life all wrong . (back to flashback mode- clever huh!!!)

“You are doing eet all wrong- YOU two are supposed to be miserable!!! and when I tried taking a shot of your dark house three nights in a rowI found it was dark only because it was locked as you had gone out every single night “ he yelled , “This is not done!! You are supposed to be home and mooning”.

“And when”, he raved on,” I found you sitting quietly in the den you should have been watching reruns of the wedding videos and getting teary eyed and you were actually munching at pizzas while watching the latest blockbusters!!”

“And when I finally found you arguing, would you ever have the sense to argue about each others quirks and foibles- there you were arguing about in what resort to spend the next extended weekend” he loudly ranted.

“You two are disgusting, a blot on empty nested parenthood, sceallatioslstampondas,spilencias” he shouted ( maybe these were Italian words cause we did not understand them)” and now” he continued,” just as I thought I was capturing your real loneliness,” he screamed.”you two get into bed and do this” ( as if his parents had been amoebae and did not do this when he was born)

I did want to tell him that kids going out was not the end of life but could actually be a new beginning. I did want to ask him as to why now that we had both time and money and no responsibilities toward either parents or kids, could we not lead a vibrant active full life. BUT it was too late, he had stormed off ,as had the second assistant director and four spot boys and all the sponsors leaving just the two of to sit and argue about whether to continue what we were doing or go out for dinner. Any guesses what we did?????

Saturday, October 24, 2009

i saw myself

This entry was never to be. I thought my blog was just a means of keeping friends in touch with the walk. It was great fun writing it and I really looked forward to the act of getting up before anyone was up, to bang away at the laptop with all the ideas accumulated during the day. When the walk ended it was meant to fold up but so many people ask me what were the lessons of the walk that I am forced to think of what the walk taught me- if anything at all.

So here I am writing a blog entry I hope no one ever reads-it’s too personal, its too complicated and there are bound to be loose ends all over- It is about where the last one ended – with me having traversed the journey to Ajmer and at the end of the post making the grand declaration that “the inner journey would now begin” .

Honestly like all others like me who are the standard of the “thinking people” in today’s world I said it for forms sake- because it sounded real nice and gave me a kind of mental edge marking me out as the thinking walker- Like all these “thinking people” I am totally comfortable with form without content and can discuss people, places and things with the right dose of humor – and deliver my punch lines in the right way, but ask me to discuss ideas - particularly ideas that require original thought and I draw a blank! Hence I am probably writing this entry more for myself than for those that may chance upon and decide to read it.

I think the major lesson of the walk was that I knew what I wanted and did all that was necessary to achieve it- and did nothing else.. Had I started out to reach Ajmer and then kept going all over the roa- stopping at Neemrana , going off to Alwar to watch the tigers or deciding not to walk further till I had eaten all the stuff on the menu at Behror- would I have made it Ajmer ? or if I had started to lay the started practicing playing the clarinet to get there ? or if I had practiced walking, packed all the right stuff , got my logistics right but yet not decided where I wanted to go ?
We could all work out the answers to this and yet this is what I have been doing – either not knowing what I wanted or playing the clarinet to learn to walk- and then ruing not reaching the places I wanted to go to.

This came to me not in an “ Ahaa “moment when I walked but it was the at the end of the thought process which started from the moment when on the way to Dudu the Captain stopped by the road to offer us butter milk-and when I cried as I walked away from him. I cried for the God in me I had forgotten all these years-I cried for all those that still believed in love, God, truth , honor, the value of the word, doing the right thing and all such nonsense.. I cried for all those simple clods the world takes for fools and tramples upon as it goes about its daily business-I cried for the simple guy who once believed that the Lion would never eat Androcles because Androcles had done the right thing by the lion- I cried for all the Androcles’ lions eat all over the world for a post breakfast snack- and I Saw myself- Androcles standing in the middle of the arena secure in the knowledge that he had done the right thing and no lion would ever dream of eating him.

I will have to believe in all the simple things that make the real me and live by them since that clod is what I was and this is what I shall forever be and being him is the only way I will ever be at peace.

It will take courage being him – it will take effort on a massive scale- there will be much pain as the pit of the stomach tells me to run every time the lion comes out – but be him I will. I owe it to the Captain and to the remains of all the Androcles’ the lions ate .

I will of course need to work out what will make me Him but then that is a mater of detail- and as the walk has taught me – it is identifying the target that is important – the rest can follow.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The HE did it Saturday

As the last day dawns there is nothing really left to do. The 8 kilometers backlog is easily completed walking in Kishangarh town and we are all up and packing to shift base for the last time. We incidentally whenever we have gone to the temple stayed in a resort which is ahead of the temple ,It is comfortable , small and cosy, with huge lawns and the owner is known to us. This time however I have preferred to stay in Kishangarh because I did not want to miss the thrill of seeing the temple first time as I walked towards it.

We start rather late since we are expecting friends from Delhi to join us. We start round 10 am and cover the 5 kilometers from the city to the main highway in a few minutes. How perspectives have changed since we started!! A few months back walking 5 kilometers would have represented a pinnacle of achievement- now it is just brushed aside casually.

Also whenever we leave a motel all of us carefully pour the water left over in any bottles we have consumed into another one to carry in the backpack. One of my companies sells reverse osmosis water purifiers and I often used to tell clients “you will waste at best 20 liters a day, how does it matter?” Now I am sure I will tell them to collect it in a bucket to water the plants.

The perspective on money has not changed though, since we were doing this trek on a virtually unlimited budget. In the end we will have spent some Rs.12000 per walking day. Looked at like this it does seem a total waste incurred on a whim. There is a school I support in Himachal Pradesh where some 128 children trek upto 10 kilometers every day to be there just because they get a square meal every afternoon. I could have fed them for 7 months with this money. But then any who ask this question or those to whom this does strike are also guilty of the same. We all do prioritize – I don’t think of those children every time I get into the car or switch on the air conditioner or have a meal outside the cost of one such of which can feed all 128 of them for a week ! I brush aside this guilt with the opportunity cost of discovering oneself argument and walk on.

We are joined from Delhi by Arun a very close fried of both Mangesh and me , whose car had broken down so who drove some 700 kilometers that day back and forth to be with us for just two hours and in a Maruti 800 too. His wife has been advised not to travel since she has an eye infection but somehow when she joins us her eye pops open .”Miracle , Miracle ”shouts her daughter. For the Lord I guess just another day at work.

Apoorva’s in laws Vijay and Archana join us a few minutes later. It is of curse sheer injustice to address them thus , since they are also amongst our closest friends. In the hierarchy of Indian families we are supposed to address them as Bhai sahib and Bhabhee jee or something. If I tried doing that I am sure Vijay will beat me up and Archana in her soft cultured voice will tell me “ye apne achaa nahee kiya neelesh”. We all walk in proper kafila towards the temple stopping to refresh ourselves with a glass of water just a few meters before it.

The temple is now in view .I would love to add the ‘excitement mounts’ part but actually it doesn’t - we just walk on just stopping for the kids to shoot a video of us striding in. We have decided to walk in together hand in hand but when we reach the gates we do not know what happens – we suddenly find ourselves in the courtyard – and Aakanksha who has been extremely tense in the last few meters bends down to put her head at my feet- I lift her up and embrace one of my closest friends - who has done so much to egg me on when I was near collapse , with the calm pats on the back, her “come on Papa you can make it” her obstinate refusal to ever let me carry the back pack when she was around and her ever readiness to massage my feet even when she was in extreme pain – and as she hugs back the crying begins.

Suddenly everybody is hugging everybody else and everybody has tears streaming down their faces. We have arrived ! We walk into the garba griha and everyone starts ringing the bells- Sarita calls Apoorva and Rohit and I just say “Apoorva” and hold the mobile against the bell I am clanging feverishly, Sarry calls my sister Vandy and her didi Sunita. From Pune to Vadodara to Switzerland (where Apoorva Rohit currently are) the bells clang out that there is a God and he DOES take care of those that have faith in him.

As Sarry and others prepare for the Arati I sink into a corner – the trance I go into is deeper than ever as I talk to HIM and tell him that at this moment I surrender to HIM all the positive karma if any I have accumulated during the trip. “idanna mamma” it was never mine anyway .I tell him that he should do to me exactly as he has set out to do without letting this come in the way.- this positive karma was just an aberration- HE should do only justice and judge me on the basis of what I make of my life later rather than let this outweigh my negativity which I will have to fight myself. I have told this to Sarry on the way too and told her to judge me only on the basis of what I have been to her not letting this interfere with anything. I want to go back with neither a sense of achievement nor a sense of loss at having completed something so important with nothing left to do. The walk was not to a destination –it was a journey – a tool to help me travel inside and how far I travel inside is something I have to decide. Let the journey begin !!!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

touching distance Friday

That this is the last step in the journey does not make this any easier. It is the same shade less road, the same thirst, the same step after step after step of pulling oneself on. The spirit understands that the journey is almost over- the body does not. Amazingly HE has taken care of me all the way, there is not a single blister on my feet, my bad knee has not acted up even once, I have had no muscle pull, never a problem of stiffness while getting up. The only problem seems to be the sunburn. Since both Mangesh and I wear shorts and tee shirts while we walk our arms and legs are burnt. My arms look like the shriveled arms of a man 25 years older, there are also surface wounds in the skin and they burn all day. The only respite is when I cover them with the wet cloth but the burning restarts when the cloth runs dry. I am told aloe Vera is good for anything to do with the skin. We are carrying a bunch of aloe Vera leaves which I cut up every night and apply on the arms and legs.

When this is over I had thought many clichés would get validated if I completed the walk- one of them was the old mind over matter thing- at the end I would certainly testify to the truth in that one!.

The women have all tanned many shades and Aakanksha tells me the cost of getting her back to her original complexion will be something like 15000 bucks and that she will need to be on long l eave before she rejoins office since they would throw her out by not being able to recognize her. The cost of staying poor seems to be growing day by day.

For some reason we get up late today and hence will need to walk more in the sun to achieve our target. Sarry’s brother our corporate consultant sets us a target of 28 kilometers for the first session .I and Mangesh like true salesmen argue against it and in the end decide to say yes just to get him off our back. He revels in the make believe role of top management and we enjoy pulling his leg but he is actually doing a magnificent job of managing the back office.

Today the road seems all the more relentless and we have decided to keep going without break to end it today once and for all. By afternoon the search for shade is intense. We spot a roadside temple and decide to take refuge. It is a bajrangbali temple and hence we are sure we want to stop. There is a priest I there who is reading the ramayan over the PA system. He is toneless and so out of rhythm that I burst out laughing. “Look at the biggest sinner on earth,“ say my friends and start laughing too. When I ask them why I was one they ask me to listen to the words of the priest , he is tonelessly singing “je na mitra dukh hoy dukhare tinhee vilokat patak bharee ” (he who is not miserable on seeing the misery of a friend is the biggest sinner) “look at us “ they say , “we are your friends, we have been made miserable because of you , you’re seeing us being miserable but there you are laughing away” QED . Everyone laughs, we pour water over our legs and arms from a running pipe and much refreshed walk on.

The first session ends abruptly at around 1-00pm,one of us is tired and wants a few moments off and as we settle in the shadow of a bus shelter realize we do not have the slightest energy to carry on even one step. We call for the car and even waiting for it to come is a torture.

The last session is made interesting by the first use of the deterrent arsenal. As we stride out Aakanksha takes the lead and is at least 10 yards ahead of us when a young guy suddenly materializes and tries walking with her. Sarry notices and joins her though I and Mangesh are far behind. He is joined by first one then a second till we join them .They then cross the road and go to the other side and rejoin ahead of us at an abandoned petrol station. There are now six of them.
Sarry picks up a stone to throw at them. Now Mangesh notices them and calmly takes out his revolver (the cigarette lighter one ) cleans it and aims it at them. They look at it, one of them raises his hands in a gesture of give-up and they disperse. The day is saved.

We end the day with a 8 km backlog which I promise them I will cover even before they are awake and we drop off.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The met God thursday

Today the second day of the final leg starts some 30 km outside jaipur. Till date we have been coming back to base camp in the afternoon around 1 pm and then leaving again from the same point as we ended at after 4-00 pm.This is the only day that is not possible since when we end the first session we are likely to be somewhere between ajmer and jaipur so that coming back to either base camp will involve a more than one hour drive one way, making rest impossible .We decide to stay on the road all day and take rest at any convenient point at midday.

We begin the day and start walking on the Jaipur Ajmer highway. This stretch of highway is in many ways better than the Jaipur Delhi stretch. It is less crowded, broader in most parts, has absolutely clean rest rooms at every few kilometers and also has emergency phones every 5 kilometers or so from where one can call the control room incase of any mishap. It also has shady neem trees planted along the side which on more than one occasion I saw a tanker watering. When we decide to walk again fifty years from now to celebrate 50 years of this walk there will be so much shade on the highway we will not feel the heat at all- or at least the robots who push our air conditioned wheel chairs will not.

It however suffers from a great disadvantage for walkers. There are many stretches where for maybe 10-15 kilometers there are no villages or motels or even ordinary dhabas. We have the constraint of that we can carry only a maximum of 3 liters of water in the backpacks we have, otherwise they get too heavy and these get exhausted in an hour in the afternoon. We are therefore always looking for places where we can slake our thirst as it is impossible to walk while thirsty. In the afternoon we are looking for such a place having rejected the last one since it did not have power and hence no cold water. We are also looking for a place to stay out of the heat till the afternoon when we spy a building with glass frontage which looks like a hotel. We eagerly walk towards it but to our disappointment we realize it’s a residence. We walk past it and see a dhaba in the distance on the other side of the road. It is dirty but at least has cold bottled water and some soft drinks and we walk on again a little refreshed but unsure of where to rest for the afternoons. We start the namaste ritual more to pep ourselves up then anything else and see a car drive up to us, pull up and wait- and we meet the Captain.

As is the routine I say namaste to the occupant of the car. He is a gentleman in his sixties with two school going granddaughters in the back seat. He gets out of the car “Capt. Om veeer singh ,16th grenadiers retired” he introduces himself. “Are you on a religious walk “ he asks us (kya aap teerth yatree hain) on being told we are he folds his hands and beseeches us to come home with him.” I own the glass fronted house back there”, he says, “ and just as I was waiting to pick up my grandkids from school I saw you walking and told my wife to prepare some meals for you and also open the guest room, so that you could rest awhile at my home. You however crossed the road and disappeared on the other side so I rushed to get my car keys ,put my granddaughters in it and drove ahead to the cut in the verge and drove back to cut you off” he said.

It brings a lump to my throat. I fold my hands to him and thank him profusely but having already gotten our second wind breaking at this stage would not have been appropriate so we tell him that being on a yatra we could not turn back having gone ahead and hence regretfully would have to decline his offer. Accepting the explanation he drives away and we walk away with lumps in our throats for the simplicity of the man. We have hardly walked a kilometer when we see the same car pull up ahead of us and stop under a tree. He gestures us into the shade and says” You walked past my house and it is my duty to ask after your welfare and I could not have slept wel had I not been of service to you so I asked my wife to make some buttermilk for you .Please oblige me by having it” very very reverentially he pours out the chilled butter milk for us.

As we take it and walk away I want to shout out to him and to all of his ilk and tell them” Look dudes I am just waking- there is nothing so good about me . I am not deserving of the respect you give me just because you think you are saluting your God when you serve me- I have lied, I have cheated, I have let people down – I am cheating you when you I let you look at me so respectfully- don’t do this to me guys - I am not even as good as you are- at least you know there is a God within you and know there is one within me. I do not even know THAT- I am walking only to remind myself that there IS a God within me and that he still shows himself to me at times- and YOU saw him in me – don’t be such an idiot Captain, you hurt me bad by showing me so much respect , you shouldn’t have done this to me “ I yell mentally at him and burst out crying. As we walk through the town of Dudu for the next fifteen minutes people stare at the sight of a grown man striding by crying non stop as a younger girl holds his hand and keeps saying “ It is all right papa calm down- It is all right”

A café coffee day miraculously materializes as we are almost at breaking point and we whoop and rush to sip our granitas and munch on sandwiches to ease out the pain at having met God. The rest of the walk is uneventful and we are picked up and taken to reasonably decent hotel to collapse for the night. We are now just 50 kilometers from out final target.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

within striking reach wednesday

Jaipur brings with it lovely memories. I was working in jaipur when we got married and the hotel we have shifted to belongs to a then friend with whom I was associated even as he hotel was being built. The moment I step in I ask for Harsh Bansal but am told that he longer comes to the hotel. His brothers sons now run it .It had always been a very family kind of place with the brothers running the hotel part and the wives supervising the kitchen. It has grown much since then and the “Arya Niwas” is now a famous place with a very loyal select clientele. I notice his wife in the in the evening and ask about Harsh. She also gives a very evasive reply. She says he does not come here at all now but manages some construction work. He calls the next day to say he wants to see me too but does not turn up at the time indicated. Obviously something has changed- as has the city of jaipur.

It has grown massively-the sleepy five kilometers across each way town we knew is now chockfull of vehicles- the very lonely road near our old house where would go to watch peacocks is now difficult to cross. Sarry is in a greatly excited state today pointing out this place or that which we knew as a young just married couple, to all the others. We take the mornings session out of Jaipur and reach almost 22 kilometers out of it but for the evening session we walk within Jaipur for two hours because we make a late start from the hotel and had we gone out to the mornings end point we wouldn’t have been able to walk even 5 kilometers before darkness would set in. At the end we go to the house we had lived in and pose outside it. Sarry points out our rooms from outside to the gang and we spend time peering at name plates to see which houses still belong to people we had then known. Nostalgia at its best before tremendous tiredness hits in and as the others troop out to LMB for a traditional Rajasthani meal I sink into unheard of luxury – a hot water tub which relaxes the body completely as does the foot massage given by Sarry’s younger brother who has brought tremendous energy into the trip. He continues to exhort us to do better and says his task is only to motivate the troops. we hit back saying since he only manages the logistics and gives lectures whereas we do all the work he is actually a corporate consultant – good for nothing except giving lectures and then settling down to a company paid meal.

It is very hot in the afternoons and we have reinvented the arab head dress. All of us wrap a drenched chunee round our heads which keeps us cool at least for 2-3 kilometers and then its time again to hold it under the nearest hand pump. It is not very healthy to do that I understand but where is the time to think of such things? What matters is the trudging along at all costs since the temple is now within striking distance. Life is a total blurr and there is no time to think of what is going on. I wish I could write the blog regularly and also upload the hundreds of pictures I keep clicking but there I hardly have time or energy. The mind is also in a haze and I cannot for the love of God remember what the silly jokes are we laugh at all day, though we do laff a lot . Maybe later as we see all the pictures we will remember them later.

We regretfully have not been able to use most of the food we have brought with us. The formality of transferring the food to the room and then back to the car has also been dispensed with .Now the packets stay in the car and are only readjusted every time we want to sit in it.

Thankfully we have also not been able to use our “security equipment”. We are carrying a virtual arsenal. A walking stick ,two knives and two guns besides two cans of pepper spray. The stick is normally waved round a lot, one of the guns is a cigarette lighter and the second fires one iron pellet at a time. The knives though are the greatest laugh. They are housed in wooden scabbards with fancy design on them if we ever need to take them out we would be transported to the sets of some period film and all the villains would have to start calling us Badgane alee or something. And if we were ever to take them outt !!! God the rust would show , though we might pretend the yellow marks are actually dried blood marks of enemies we slew years ago but I am sure the villains would know.
And if ever we were required to use them – that would be the day – since I did try out their sharpness one day and found that I could not get my finger to bleed despite running it over the one many times. I then tried slicing an onion with one of them and found that job it did- albeit with some difficulty- I then breathed a sigh of relief –If a bunch of onions decided to kidnap Aakanksha at least one would be safe. We could slice them up with the bigger knife , spray pepper on them and eat them for salad. And if the onions thought they could team up with a couple of tomatoes to pull off the heist – they would do well to remember we have smaller kripan too!!!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday of the shortcuts.

Today we walked through an authentic Rajasthani village as part of our shortcuts drive. It is amazing how the world of bottled water and cold drinks on call changes just as you exit the highway. We walked through a village called Maadho ka bas and then onto another one called Devan. They had those typical village scenes made so popular by the hindi movies. Sylvan surroundings, women carrying fodder on their head with long ghungats covering their faces, small children scurrying about in sleepy village squares and people coming out en masse to look at us wondering what we were doing on a road that led practically from nowhere to nowhere else. Yes but there were roads – some were tar roads others were concreted ones but the villages we went to were well connected for sure.

Older children in all hues of school uniforms walking determinedly in a particular direction. On being asked were their school was all seemed to say deval – which we discovered just 3 kilometers down the road was Devan and it housed some nine schools. We had a lovely time sitting in the village square with Swati and Sarry quizzing every passing student about their class and what subjects they studied. Word must have spread about some strange women questioning the passing students because their flow slowed down to a trickle.Then the teachers started coming in – and it was their turn.” what subjects do you teach ? do they give you pay commission scales here ? Are there computers in your school?” this could have gone on for much more time had Swati not been stumped by a teacher telling her he taught “science subjects” – on being quizzed further he revealed that he taught General science to classes nine and ten and Political science to class eleven!!!!

Then began the educate the girl child campaign – every girl who came up on the road to look at the cap and jeans wearing women was subjected to questions of why she was not going to school and her mother asked to send her to school immediately. We were duly rewarded for this by some lovely butter milk from one of the households. The warmth all around was incredible as was their fascination for the digital camera. Women would run around shyly, men would puff out their chests and both would squeal in delight on being shown their images on the display. Wish there was some way we could have printed those pictures and given them to them. As I and Mangesh were getting photographed with the man of the house his wife seemed to want to be photographed too and so Aakanksha asked her to move closer to get into the frame. She very reluctantly moved closer till she was about one foot from me – and the dirty stares she got for that were not funny!!! Hope the husband did not divorce her for infidelity.

We gained miles by the shortcuts , we shifted base to Jaipur , we gained by the presence of Kshitij –( Mangesh and Swati’s college going son) who at six feet something could be bodyguard, driver and major morale booster for everybody particularly for Aakanksha didi who since his arrival has been in higher spirits. Sarita is also adding miles to her kitty and does not flinch even at doing 12-15 kilometers at a stretch. To my mind it has been a major cardio vascular test for her and this could be the blessing of the trip.

We however lost in the evening an important wicket in Mangesh the colonel of the our regiment who got taken down with fever. He may not now walk for the next two days at the least even if his fever comes down. If the fever continues he may have to even go back home which would be tragedy of tremendous proportions since he has been the backbone of the whole trip from day one. Wait and watch is the policy till tomorrow morning.

We did a major calculation and found that I now need 140 kilometers over four days to get to the temple. It is achievable at a steady 40 kilometers a day .I have done that on most days till now but have been blessed with nice hotel rooms to retire too. This next stretch from jaipur to Ajmer is such that at least on one day I will have to be on the road all day and that in this heat can be killing.

We continue to eat mostly food bought from outside promising ourselves tat all the loads of things we got from home would be need from the next day- they seem fated to get the tables groaning again when we return.