Satish remembered, some 5-6 years back he was exploring almost every small town in the state to introduce his electronic products in uncovered areas. On one such occasion, he was travelling to Vengurla by S.T.bus. That was about 10-12 hours journey. Normally such journeys were comfortable. But this time due to some festival, the buses were running to the capacity, in fact jam packed. At some bigger depot, the conductor announced the bus would leave after ten minutes halt. Satish paved his way out of the bus to relieve himself and to have some refreshment. Ten minutes would have been enough in normal circumstances. But due to heavy rush, even to have a beverage, it took extra time. And by the time Satish came back where he had got off the bus, he was shocked to see that the bus had already departed. Very costly electronic material was left in the bus along with his personal baggage. Satish was extremely upset. A huge loss was in sight. But by chance, he saw another bus leaving for Vengurla. That was also already full. Somehow,SatishI pushed himself in the already packed bus. In two hours he reached Vengurla. As soon as he got out of the bus, he rushed to the bus depot. On the way he found some person staring at him. Satish also felt he knew the person. But he could not place him.
The person approached him. ”Your baggage was left in the bus. Is it not?”
“Yes. Yes. Do you know where it is?”
“It is in the safe custody of Depot Manager. Let us go there. You take charge of your belongings. I was also in the bus coming from Mumbai. When the bus reached the depot, I realized, the luggage was left unattended. You were also not on the bus. I picked up all your baggage and handed it over to Depot Manager.”
“Oh! Thank you very much.”
When they reached the Manager, after his identification, Satish got his luggage back. “Everything intact. Thank you so much. May I know your name?”
“I am Ramchandra. I stay in a village named Ansur some 5-6 kilometers from here. If you have time why don’t you come to my house? Have tea and some snacks for breakfast and then you can move on.”
“Thanks again, Ramchandra. I have to meet someone in two hours. I will come to your house some other time. But I would like to have lunch with you. Can you come to some hotel here in the afternoon? We will have lunch together”
“That is not necessary. But we can talk to each other some time. Give me your number. I will call you.”
They exchanged their phone numbers and took their own directions.
After Satish returned home from the tour, he called Ramchandra on his phone number. Satish found him open hearted, sincere, honest. They had regular conversations on current topics, sports, politics and what not. Satish realized in Ramchandra he had got a friend with high human values. The friendship continued and was getting stronger after every dialogue between them. Now after five years, Satish took some time out for Ramchandra when he was touring that area.
Morning cool breeze, the soft sun rays of the rising sun, different birds gaily gliding in the sky, the scattered dark clouds reminding the monsoon was not over yet. Satish hired an auto which dropped him at the base of a hill beyond which he had to walk It down since the road was in very bad condition not suitable for any vehicle.
Satish in his early thirties, was fit enough to take that hiking risk with two bags to carry. He looked around. After a good monsoon, the crop of paddy was swaying merrily with soft breeze. All the area was fresh green. He observed the hill was covered with cashew trees with no fruit left on them. It bears fruits only in summer, and that provides income for the locals as the cashew fruit is used to brew liquor named ‘fenny’. Cashew is the easily, abundantly obtained fruit needing some efforts only to pluck the fruit. Nothing more. The seeds of the fruit are also in demand. Jackfruit is yet another fruit that fetches some money. Mango, the world famous fruit grown here has an outstanding taste and flavor. But this is a very delicate fruit needing extreme care and a lot of efforts to get a good yield.
Satish was enjoying the morning chill in the air. The sun rays quickly spreading over the swaying crop looking beautifully golden coloured. Few small springs with crystal clear water were flowing on the sides of footpath. After a walk of a kilometer, the climb was steep. The wind increased its speed. The partly clouded sky started getting covered more and more. In no time it turned very dark and posed the danger of heavy rain. Satish increased his pace. Soon the road was going downwards. Now the signs of habitation were visible. Some big trees of Tamarind, Jackfruit, Kokum were seen along with four feet high dancing paddy crop. He then saw a board sign showing an arrow in the right direction with caption “Gawade wadi”.
Satish looked at the chit he was carrying with the detailed address of Ramchandra. He took the right turn. That was a narrow footpath covered with 3-4 inch high grass crushed by human treading. On both sides of footpath,was 4 feet high crop . The crop was fairly damp due to shower just a few hours ago. The sky was getting darker every moment due to fast spreading dark clouds, offering dark background to the picturesque tall jackfruit, tamarind trees. Satish reached at the door step of a small little house. Smell of cow dung, the crowing of cocks, dogs wandering around, the mooing of the cows and children getting ready for schools. Satish was thrilled with the atmosphere. The adults in the house turned around as they found an unknown person searching for somebody.
A teenager came forward and asked, “Whom do you want?”
“Ramchandra.” Satish answered.
The boy was lost in thought. In a while he said, “Oh, Baba. Ramchandra is called Baba, his nick name. He is just two houses away. Come on. I will take you there.” The boy started leading the way. Satish with his two bags in both the hands, followed him. Soon they came across a herd of cows going in a line. The boy helped him for the bag saying, “Take care. No. No. They will not hurt you but you may get scared.” Satish stood still to let the herd of 8-10 cows pass by. After a walk of around hundred steps, a nice little house was in front of him. “Baba, Some guest has come for you.” The boy shouted.
Ramchandra, bare bodied in half pant came out and found Satish. Very surprised and very delighted, he came down the two steps and lifted Satish’s bags taking them inside. “How did you reach here? You should have given me a ring and I would have come to bus depot to pick you up on bike. It must have been very difficult for you to get an auto. And they drop you at the foot hill. So you must have walked all the two kilo meters. But you made a mistake. You should have called me.” Uttering these words, he took Satish to a room, kept baggage and said, ”Now relax. My mother will make tea for you. You have hot tea and biscuits. Then you will feel fresh.”
Again he went out shouting, “AAi, make two cups tea, quickly.”
In a very short time, Ramchandra was back with two cups of hot tea and some biscuits. Before Satish could have first sip of tea, there was deafening sound of rain drops on the Mangalore tiled roof. It had started pouring heavily. Satish looked out of the window. Thick screen of falling water drops was blinding the entire view outside.
“You were saved. A few minutes delay and you would have got drenched completely. Rains here are unpredictable and when it pours, it is very heavy”.
After about 10 minutes of heavy downpour, the sky got cleared. Bright sunshine made the paddy crop shine. Satish could see the green coloured mountain glittering brightly. This habitat of 8-10 houses in the lap of mountain had hypnotized Satish.
After some time Ramchandra asked Satish whether he would have breakfast before bath. Satish was hungry anyway. He wanted breakfast before bath.
Amboli and chutney was served and both Ramchandra and Satish satisfied their hunger. While breakfasting, Ramchandra told Satish that they were only two brothers. The elder brother and father had gone to a distant village to attend a family wedding. So for coming 2-3 days only his mother would be at home with him. Ramchandra told Satish to be comfortable and to spend 2-3 days with him. He would see the farming activities hitherto unknown to him. Satish was delighted with the offer. He wondered how a person can be so open hearted. Ramchandra was exceptionally unassuming, not hiding any thing, a fully transparent personality. A clear heart just like an uncontaminated spring which he had noticed while he was walking after the auto left him at the foothill an hour ago.
After breakfast, they went to the farm which was just 15-20 feet away.
Satish entered the farm and touched the full grown crop. He was thrilled with the feel of crop which he had seen only in pictures or whenever he visited the interior part of the state, he had seen it in actual but from a far away vehicle. Satish was ecstatic when he actually touched the crop.
“When would you cut the crop? Is it ripe enough to cut? ” Satish asked.
“After the rain stops completely and the paddy is dry enough, we will cut it. Then threshing, then winnowing and finally milling. Satish, why don’t you stay here for 2-3 weeks and be a witness to all the processes?”
“I am not free enough to take off according to my will. “ Satish said with regret.
“Not necessarily this time but whenever you can manage, do come here. You will enjoy different routines of farmer’s life.” Ramchandra.
Satish was wondering when that could happen.
The clouds had disappeared completely.
“Okay Satish, it seems the day is getting sunny. We will go to the Ghati, where we have fields used only for mango plantation. We have around hundred mango trees. A small pond is also there. We can have a look at our mango orchard. Ready?”
“Why not? “ Satish’s youthful spirit was showing up.
Two of them, then took the footpath going upwards. Again on both sides the golden crop was smiling happily. Half an hour’s upward hike, brought them to the mango orchard. Bright sunshine made them sweat profusely. Ramchandra started explaining.
“The mango grown here in Konkan is known as Hapus i.e. Alphanso. The entire world eagerly awaits the arrival of Alphanso. A variety of mangoes are available in different parts of the world. But nothing is comparable to the taste and flavor of Hapus. Around November, the mango starts bearing the fruit. The fragrance of the flowers itself is so delightful. At the other end of orchard, we will see a small natural pond. Let us go there.”
The sun was shining brightly and these two youngsters were walking briskly to take a glimpse of the pond. Barring few calls of the birds, the tranquility prevailed. The scorching heat was making them sweat profusely. After about 15-20 minute walk they reached the pond.
“The beauty is that the water in this pond never gets contaminated. Always cool and clean through the year.” Ramchandra said.
“Any signs of crocodiles or snakes?” Satish.
“No. Nothing of that sort. We men take dips in here and occassionally swim for some time. Satish, do you know swimming?”
“No, yaar. “ Satish.
“I am thinking of having a dip to cool off. It is not very deep at the bank for up to 4-5 feet. One can get inside the pond and just walk. Would you like to take a bath here?”
“Not a bad idea. I would have done it. But we have not got a towel or spare under clothes.” Satish.
“Don’t bother for that. We will enter the pond only on under wear, cool ourselves and come out and get into proper clothes.”
“Won’t anybody else come here?”
“No. This is our orchard. No one will come here without my permission.”
Satish was relieved. He stepped into pond with just underwear around his waist.
Ramchandra also got into minimum clothes and jumped into pond, their clothes lying under a mango tree.
The cool water was very comforting after getting soaked in sweat due to hot sun.
After a joy swimming stint for 10-15 minutes, they decided to end their swimming pleasure. Both of them came out. Ramchandra taking down his wet underwear also, walked completely naked to the mango tree to pick up his clothes after drying body and underwear in hot sun. Satish saw Ramchandra’s privates hanging merrily between shaped legs of his mascular body. Satish was hesitant to take out his wet underwear in front of Ramchandra. “Do not feel shy. We are not in your city. This is a place where everything is close to nature. No artificial restrictions.” Satish also got into his birthday suit. Completely naked. Now he was also not feeling any odd to move around naked. They squeezed their wet clothes and spread them on the branches of tree to dry. They moved around the pond. Satish enjoyed the thicket of trees. Satish was thrilled to be close to nature in completely natural way, totally naked. After a few minutes, he even forgot that he was moving around without any clothes on. Ten minutes were over and they picked up their dry underwears. Put them on. Got in to full clothes. Then started their walk homewards. Satish was trying to capture images of fields, trees, pond etc.in his mind. Walking around naked for 10-15 minutes in the natural surroundings was also an experience he would not forget.
When at home, Ramchandra called out for his mother and told her to serve them the lunch. Chicken curry, shevaya cooked in coconut milk and heap full of rice were savories to enjoy. Both of them had enough to fill their hungry stomachs. Then they decided to take a walk river-side which was just a furlong away. A lot of coconut trees on the both banks of river. Actually the river was just a big stream, water flowing slowly without creating even a single ripple. Ramchandra climbed up a coconut tree with ease and took out two tender coconuts for them to have coconut water. After having sweet tender coconut water, they had some more walk on the bank of river. Satish was enjoying every moment of this expedition.
They came back home and decided to have a little nap. Later they had hot tea. Ramchandra put on his regular working clothes and started to go to the Ghati to bring back his cattle which had gone to the meadow to graze. Satish joined him. In the morning in his first encounter of the cattle going to meadows for grazing Satish was little scared of them. But now he wanted to be friends with them. After a walk of nearly half an hour, Ramchandra yelled out some names. And they heard mooing in return. 8-10 of his cows got attentive, turned back and started in the direction of his house. Slowly, they were retracing the path back home walking in single file. Satish was not scared now, neither the cows were unfriendly with him. They reached home without any further instruction from Ramchandra. They entered their stable, took their respective position. Ramchandra put the rope around their neck. He also gave them some healthy food which the cattle liked.
Satish then entered the house and took out the contents of the cotton bag which he had carried from his own town. He handed over the shirt and pant pieces to Ramchandra and told him to give them for stitching the next day only. All the eatables, chocolates etc. he gave to his mother. Both these persons expressed their unwillingness to accept the gifts though they respected Satish’s feelings. After a little bit of insistence from Satish, they accepted the gifts.
As it got dark, few of Ramchandra’s neighbours gathered and got introduced to Satish. They had interesting chat with Satish. In no time Satish had become a part of their family. They exchanged their ideas on different matters. Had many moments of laughter.
After dinner all those friendly neighbours again gathered and all started to take a walk riverside. Satish was at the center of discussions. They all, 7-8 of them halted near an ice-cream shop. Everyone enjoyed the ice-cream treat given by Satish.
Satish then drew their attention to the starry sky. Told them about planets, stars, constellations etc. Also gave them some idea about the enormous size of universe. Looking above, Satish explained the concept of galaxy, black holes etc. He found each one of them curious to know more and more about our entire universe. They shared their practical experiences related to astronomy. Spotting of meteors, eclipses of the sun and the moon etc. The group had taken a position near the bank of the river and watching upwards the clear sky. Nobody noticed that three hours passed discussing mysterious world of astronomy.
After it struck midnight, they wound up. Dispersed with a promise of having one more meeting the next day. Satish ecpressed his inability to stay over for the next day. But no one was in a mood to accept any excuse. Finally, Ramchandra convinced all of them that he would not let Satish leave the next day. All went to their respective houses with some plan for star gazing next evening.
At home Ramchandra made a bed ready for Satish on the cot and he made another bed on the ground for himself.
“No guarantee of rains. So we have to sleep inside the room. During summer we sleep in the open yard in front of the house. So your next trip we will plan in summer. You can enjoy Konkan Meva like mangoes, cashew, jackfruit , pine apples, bush berries etc. Your next trip will not be such a short trip of one day. You plan a week for all your new friends. We will have a great time.” Ramchandra announced.
“Okay. I promise. Now let us sleep.” Saying this Satish got up to change in to night dress. He was very much impressed by their way of life. He even adapted to their natural way of staying. While changing his clothes, he was as native as these people. He got completely naked in front of Ramchandra, without bothering for the so called manners. Got into night clothes and went to sleep.
Ramchandra slept on the bed on the ground and dozed off immediately.
Next day, after morning tea, Satish told Ramchandra that it was not possible for him to extend his stay. He had a very tight schedule. Satish promised him to come back again in summer. He even visited few of the neighbours and explained them his tight schedule and promised them a visit in summer and for a longer period of time.
Satish picked up his briefcase and started. Ramchandra, out of compulsion agreeing with Satish, took out his bike. Satish after bidding good bye to Ramchandra’s mother, took his pillion riding seat behind Ramchandra. After giving the kick, the motor cycle started and Satish was on his way back to work after a brief vacation, a stint with the nature.