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Monday, December 17, 2018

Praapta Munna Theeraaniki Padava Saagi Poyindi (Boat cruised towards the shore destined [for it])

As usual, in one of those winter evenings of 1968, as I was chatting merrily with my pals in the park as if there is no tomorrow… suddenly Sridhar reminded me of the time and goaded me to go home and pick up the luggage and head towards the Bus-stand before it is too late.

Becoming conscious of time, hurriedly went home, had a bite, listened to the parting-homilies  of amma and aamma  attentively; and as Naana hurried me up, came into veranda with luggage. It was put on the Rickshaw and as usual, as amma walked in from the opposite direction, the Rikshaw fellow was ordered to start.  

As I reached the Bus stand, found my friends, Sridhar, Hema  and others were already there. After a while, red bus with the name plate Hyderabad drove in. My friend brought the ticket costing Rs 13. Luggage was placed in the hold and as my friends were waving their hands the bus took off for Hyderabad … And within fifteen minutes everything changed… I am in the moving bus …alone..gloomy … as Tenali and my pals were slowly waning. …

Arriving in Hyderabad next day morning, I went to Ford Foundation’s Sorghum research centre in Rajendranagr to enquire about the fate of my interview with Dr Young for a research post in the Sorghum Project.   Well, as luck would have it, Dr John said that I have to wait for a week or two more as Dr Young in New Delhi, who was supposed to sign the appointment order, had to rush to Washington on an urgent work.  

I was in two minds. Am I to wait for the order from the Ford Foundation? Or, go and join the post offered by AP Agricultural University? If I delay joining the university in want of Ford Foundation job, I may become junior to the rest. And what if I don’t get the job of FF at all? After a lot of debating with myself, arrived at the conclusion: I shall go and Join the University, for it’s after all a permanent job…

Finally, relieved of the trauma, went to Gouliguda bus stand and enquired for a bus to Bodhan/ Rudrur.  No bus till tomorrow morning. That meant, I would be late to the Research station for reporting. Then what? Kept on pestering the enquiry-office with questions for exploring if there is any alternative. Finally settled for Adilabad bus that leaves the stand at 11 pm that night, hoping it would drop me in Nizamabad in the wee hours of 17th December so that I can catch the first available bus to Bodhan.

But to my misfortune the bus dropped me at Nizambad bust stand at 2.30 Am. And you could imagine my plight in that December winter of Nizamabad of 1968—with a short sleeves cots wool checked shirt on, standing under the sky … in that dense fog  I was literally shivering in my pants… teeth grinding. …

The dusty stretch in front of the Railway station said to be the bus stand wore a deserted look. There was none to talk… except an old man in the far off corner… burning a tyre, perhaps, to keep himself warm.  Keeping my luggage in one corner, I just started walking on the cement road to and fro, of course, with an eye on my luggage. At last, as the golden rays filtering through the fog, appeared on the eastern side, I could spot a man in khaki uniform. Thanking my stars, I asked him if I have to go to Rudrur Research Farm, which bus I would get and at what time. He was kind enough to suggest me to take Nizamsagar express scheduled for 6.30 am and importantly, to request the conductor to stop the bus at the Farm gate. And the obvious next question to him was: “What is the time now?”

After another hour’s wait the bus finally arrived. Dumping my luggage on the bus roof rack, purchased the ticket and entreated the conductor to help me to get down at the Rudrur Farm-gate, for I am new to the area. At last it lazily pulled out of the stand but again halted for a quarter of an hour at another stand within the town. Arriving at Bodhan the driver and conductor went out for tea and came back after half an hour. Thus by the time it reached Rudrur village it was 9.30 am. Picking up a man, a woman and their goat, the bus moved out of Rudrur, giving a feeling that I am nearing my destination.

Slowing down and pulling to the left-hand side of the road, the driver stopped the bus in a godforsaken spot. Pointing towards a gate on the right side, conductor directed me to get down. And getting down along with me, helped me off-loading my bedding and suitcase from the bus roof rack.  Without paying attention to my thanking him for his goodness, he boarded the bus hurrying the driver to move on, yelling, “Right… right.”

As the bus moved away, there, right in front of me down the road stood a wrought iron gate under a wild tree. Before me stretched a long gravel road with coconut trees on either side. The road is empty and red. To the right of it are the sugarcane fields.

As the roaring sound of the bus died down, suddenly pastoral calm pervaded the surroundings… From nowhere suddenly a man appeared before me and asked if I am heading to the farm. As I nodded, he took the luggage and asked me to follow him…

As I walked in desolately, could notice quite a few buildings of different shapes, sizes and shades dotting the left side of the road. In that wintry morning’s quietness, a jungle bird gave voice to a song… In the distant north-western side were the friendly shaggy hills. Finally there came a white-washed building with columned corridor. The central entrance was adorned with an Allamanda creeper in full of yellow blossoms. The mood grew strangely quiet and awkward…

As I took a turn from the main road towards the building, Murthy came rushing towards me from the corridor with a hand stretched forward to shake mine and welcomed me to the farm. His smile gave me a little comfort in that quietness … Ha! At last I have someone with whom I could relate in this isolated land!  He wanted me to go straight to ASS and submit the joining report so that I, having reported in the forenoon, could get the day’s salary. But I was to plead with him, “Look Murthy garu,  I haven’t even brushed, may not look nice to walk into office straight… Why don’t you let me have a shower before I enter the office?

He then took me to bachelors’ quarters where he stayed along with a few others. There in that barrack-like accommodation, he allotted a few feet to me to unfurl my bedding and place the suitcase along the wall. Pulling out the towel from the just spread holdall, straight went to the bath room and completed morning chores. By then, rest of the lodgers came for breakfast. Finishing the ritual of getting introduced to all the inmates, gulped that richly sweetened coffee and walked out of that barrack-like dwelling along with Murthy to the main building.

It’s exactly fifty years ago today …entering the cabin of the Assistant Sugarcane Specialist—Mr K Krishnamurthy, the in-charge administrator—and presenting myself as Murty, the newly appointed Entomology Assistant, gave him my joining report. And with it metamorphosed myself into an employee—saying a once-for-all goodbye to the student-life.  And since then I have been working for one institute or the other…and no cue when and where this journey would end.


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