October 01, 2010

Even Illusions Can Elude

I met Tulsabai when we stopped for tea at a roadside hotel in Ballapur, a seemingly non descript hamlet reached from Aurangabad off Sillod along the Jalgaon bypass road. We had left Aurangabad early that morning. I had sprinted past the bus in the baking heat upon seeing her transform from a dot cresting the swell in the road to an eye catching dash of colour approaching a barren tree, contrasting as sharply with the tree glinting beaten silver in the sun as the tree with an unusually blue sky.

There was scarcely a soul on the road except for the elderly woman in sari walking down the stretch balancing an empty pot on her head. Only a compelling reason could press legs out in the scorching heat. Her steps were slow and measured. She would turn her head every once in a while to watch for the occasional heavy vehicle coming up from behind her.

She told me she was headed to a roadside hotel "owned by a Marwari" some distance down the road to wash dishes at the hotel before filling up the pot with water the owner spared her before trudging back home.

Behind her, the barren tree reached up to the skies, and while its branches, reminding of upturned hands beseeching the heavens for mercy, sought succour in the pleasing blue they however wished for clouds to come floating by.

In the backdrop of the sky whose alluring blue reminded me of faraway oceans staring back from covers of glossy travel magazines strategically placed in air-conditioned book shops, I found the stark contrast of spare, leafless branches with Tulsabai’s clothes worn from use, poignant.

At least I had an illusion to fall back on. She had none.


marja-leena said...

A lovely image in words and photo.

Amrit said...


An excellent post.

Perfect title and perfect ending.

Believe it or not, my eyes are kind of wet.

Riot Kitty said...

I've missed reading your blog! As always, great photo and prose, Anil.

dr.antony said...

As usual,your canvas is brightly colored with those wonderful strokes of your brush.It is distinctive. Anil ,you write so well

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Very poignant indeed...just had to share this!

Anuradha Shankar said...

Its such a pity that so many women like her have to work so hard, and as u say, they have nothing to fall back on. everytime we visit any interior areas, we see the plight of the people, and it makes us feel so helpless.. and wonder what we are actually doing! But what I really liked here was the wonderful way you have expressed these feelings.

Ugich Konitari said...

The thirsty must drink

senseless thirsties
mentally paralysed
by drinking
of a different type....

Some thirsties
are fooled into believing
that a digital id
presented by a lady
and a turbanned man
is the answer...

Some thirsties
simply continuously
for something
that shines
and rustles
in their bottomless pockets

And 60 years and more
for the country,
as well as her,
nothing has changed ;
the hardy life,
the drunk husband,
the arrid land,
and the long trudge
in the Sun,
to fill the pots
in her life,
and the brightness
that blinds the Sun
is her attitude
that says,
"Karmanye vadhika ....."

Dorraine said...

Vivid description! Especially relished this: upon seeing her transform from a dot cresting the swell in the road to an eye catching dash of color approaching a barren tree.

Yes, you made me see her! Wonderful..

Anil P said...

Marja-leena: Thanks.

A: Thank you. The landscape was quite something. No one on the road except her, and the tree that could not offer shade even if wanted to.

Riot Kitty: Thank you :-)

Dr. Anthony: Thank you. It's encouraging to learn you liked the post.

Corinne Rodrigues: Thank you. The landscape out there added to the poignancy.

Ugich Konitari: Much of which is true.

Maybe they'll offer 'digital water' as solace even!

Water and health will acquire an even greater urgency as years go by, the pitch would be queered no doubt by an ever increasing population.

Dorraine: Thank you. The swell in the far distance, and given that there was no one around, ensured she was brought into focus slowly, step by step.

Anonymous said...

A thought provoking post. It's poignancy and your compassion is obvious.

Ms.N said...

lovely post. it is sad that some have illusions to indulge in, while it is just the reality for some. but some times i think, may be everyone has illusions, just that its different ones.

the post evokes a beautiful, yet thoughtful image.

Anil P said...

Lqsquirrel: Thank you.

Ms.N: Thank you.

Water, and Health are two key issues in the rural hinterland, in addition to access to education. Asides from that I would be inclined to believe that live far healthier lives than any of us city dwellers can imagine. The communities are usually tight-knit unlike the case with much of city communities.

Gauri Gharpure said...

traveling brings us out of our comfort zone and can introduce us to so many truths as yet ignored.. you travel so much, but more importantly, have the energy to capture what you see not just for yourself, but for us.

Thanks for reminding us of stories of people like Tulsabai so that we are prodded to see things out of our illusions..

V said...

Lovely image!
And I love the last statement :)

Good one!

Anil P said...

Gauri Gharpure: Thank you. It's always encouraging to learn the post was liked so.

Travel introduces India to self in ways that no books ever can. And there's so much around that it will continue to enthuse the senses, and the mind.

L Viju: Thank you.

karen said...

This is an interesting story - the picture and the woman, and the sense of her life, as well as the barren scenery (reminds me a lot of Africa).

Your comment about the town/village life reminds me of the book I am reading at the moment 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry, recommended by a friend, not something I would usually pick up, but I am enjoying it thoroughly. Have you read it?

radha said...

Touching post. Yes, wonder what she has to look forward to. Or does she not look beyond the luxury of the pot of water?

Anil P said...

Karen: As you travel toward the Deccan Plateau, the topography changes by quite a bit.

I haven't read the title you mention. But I've read Rohinton Mistry's remarkably delicate Tales From Firozsha Baag, and Such A Long Journey.

I'm glad your friend suggested his works to you. He's a mighty fine writer.

Radha: Thank you. While water, health, and education in rural India are urgent issues needing much attention by authorities, the village folk do lead lively lives otherwise.

Nisha said...

Touching post. How do you weave words into something as brilliant as this?

To most of the ppl, it'd be just a tree and a woman fetching water.

Excellent piece of work !

Susan Abston Wiley said...

As always, Anil, your beautiful prose makes me want to grab a paintbrush and capture the vivid images you've sent tumbling through my head!

Bindhu said...

Wonderfully described!

Anonymous said...

Anil - it was over 20 years ago that I used to drive down the rural roads of Rajasthan's truly under-developed Jhalawar district. And the one image that remains imprinted was the sight of a motorbike from far, vibrant with colour of a milkman and his woman, wearing traditional Rajasthani attire and balancing two huge cans of milk on both sides of the bike. I was reminded of that by your opening para.

Indian Bazaars said...

Loved the thought behind the post! Thanks for sharing...

aparna said...

Its beautiful.

Coffee Messiah said...

Amazing what some people endure to make even a simple living.

Nicely written. Cheers!

Anil P said...

Nisha: Sometimes, it just happens. Thank you. :-)

Susan Abston Wiley: Thank you. It's very encouraging to learn of the images the prose evokes.

Bindu: Thank you.

Hari Nair: I can imagine the sight you describe. The faraway sound, and the dot materialising into the colours of Rajasthan must truly evoke time past.

Indian Bazaars: Thank you.

Aparna: Thanks.

Coffee Messiah: Thank you. They endure much more, often with a smile, though not always.