Satish got down from the S.T. bus at Vengurla Bus Depot. He made sure that his belongings were with him and nothing was left on the bus. There was his briefcase containing personal material and a small cotton bag containing cloth material for a shirt & a pant, two books, a few eatables & chocolates. Satish was visiting Ramchandra for the first time after knowing him for five years.

Satish remembered, that 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 traveling to Vengurla by S.T.bus. That was about a 10-12 hours journey. Normally such journeys were comfortable. But this time due to some festival, the buses were running to the capacity, At one stop, Satish got down to have some beverage. But when he returned, he was shocked to see that the bus had already departed. Very costly electronic material was left on 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, Satish pushed himself onto the already packed bus. In two hours he reached Vengurla. As soon as he got off the bus, he rushed to the bus depot. On the way he found some person staring at him. Satish felt that he knew the person. But he could not place him.

The person approached him. "Your baggage was left on 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 on 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 a hotel here in the afternoon?  We will have lunch together”

“That is not necessary. But we can talk to each other sometimes. 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, and honest. They had regular conversations on current topics, sports, politics, and whatnot. 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 us 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 a 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 a soft breeze. All the area was fresh green. He observed the hill was covered with cashew trees with no fruit left on them. He remembered, “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 effort 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 effort to get a good yield.”

Satish was enjoying the morning chill in the air. The sun rays quickly spread over the

swaying crop looking beautifully golden colored. A few small springs with crystal clear

water were flowing on the sides of the 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, and 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 the 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 the footpath, was 4 feet high crop. The crop was fairly damp due to a 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, and tamarind trees. Satish reached the doorstep of a small little house. The smell of cow dung, the crowing of cocks, dogs wandering around, the mooing of the cows, and children getting ready for school. 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 nickname. 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 hands followed him. Soon they came across a herd of cows going in a line. The boy helped him with 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 and bulls, pass by. After a walk of around a 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 pants 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 the bus depot to pick you up on the bike. It must have been very difficult for you to get an auto. And they drop you at the foothill. So you must have walked all the two kilometers. 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 of tea, quickly."

In a very short time, Ramchandra was back with two cups of hot tea and some biscuits. Before Satish could have his first sip of tea, there was a deafening sound of raindrops on the Mangalore tiled roof. It had started pouring heavily. Satish looked out of the window. A 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-colored mountain glittering brightly. This habitat of 8-10 houses in the lap of the mountain had mesmerized Satish.

After some time Ramchandra asked Satish whether he would have breakfast before bath. Satish was hungry anyway. He wanted breakfast before the bath.

Amboli and chutney were 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 the 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 anything, with 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 the crop which he had seen only in pictures or whenever he visited the interior part of the state, he had seen it in actuality but from a faraway 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, 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 plantations. We have around a 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. 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 fruit. The fragrance of the flowers itself is so delightful. At the other end of the 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 a few calls of the birds, the tranquility prevailed. The scorching heat was making them sweat profusely. After about a 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 occasionally 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. “ Satish said.

After 10-12 minutes both of them came out of the pond. Got into full clothes. Then started  their walk homewards. Satish was trying to capture images of fields, trees, pond, etc. in his mind. Walking around 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 lunch. Chicken curry, shevaya cooked in coconut milk, and a 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 both banks of the 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 the 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 with the cattle going to meadows for grazing Satish was a 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, and neither the cows were unfriendly to him. They reached home without any further instruction from Ramchandra. They entered their stable and took their respective positions. Ramchandra put the rope around their neck. He also gave them some healthy food that 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, a few of Ramchandra’s neighbors 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 neighbors again gathered, and all started to take a walk river-side. 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 the universe. Looking above, Satish explained the concept of the 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 watched upwards the clear sky. Nobody noticed that three hours passed discussing the mysterious world of astronomy.

After it struck midnight, they wound up. Dispersed with a promise of having one more meeting the next day. Satish expressed 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 the next star gazing.

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 for summer. You can enjoy Konkan Meva like mangoes, cashew, jackfruit, pineapples, 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." Satish said.

The next day, after morning tea, Satish told Ramchandra that he couldn't extend his stay. He had a very tight schedule. Satish promised him to come back again in summer. He even visited a few of the neighbors and explained to them his tight schedule and promised them a visit in summer and for a longer time.

Satish picked up his briefcase and started. Ramchandra, out of compulsion agreeing with Satish, took out his bike. After bidding goodbye to Ramchandra's mother, Satish  took his pillion riding seat behind Ramchandra. The motorcycle started and Satish was on his way back to work after a brief vacation, a stint with nature.

April 27, 2022 02:23

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