Those who know me, know I am in love with my 8th Main Road. I travel the length of this three-kilometer road four times a day. For me, my ride on 8th Main is not just a ride. It is a whole lifestyle with some interesting yet strong, unusual relationships I’ve formed along the way.
I do everything en route – grocery shopping, fill my scooter’s petrol tank, buy my meds, freak out at the bakery, visit the sweet shop, socialize at the supermarkets, check out clothes, get my mobile phone talk time refilled – not sure if I left anything out, but trust me when I say there is EVERYTHING on this road. I love it because it makes my life easy. I know every shop and am friendly with all the shopkeepers. They always have a smile and a joke for me.
Oh, I forgot the bread van guy. I see him every day and even if we pass each other on the road, he waves from his van. I feel happy.
Then, there’s another guy who I see every day on the way to or from school on 8th Main, who is dressed for work (wears a tie) and walks down to the little hotel on the way for breakfast. I’ve seen this guy do this for nine years. Funny thing is, he doesn’t look very different from the first time I saw him. I mean, guys do put on weight and stuff – but not this one. During the past week, I am tempted to stop him and ask him what he does and tell him I am curious because I’ve been watching him for nine years. How kinky that sounds! I wonder how he’ll react? I even notice when he’s wearing a new shirt!
The “hotel” I mentioned is one of many in our city that feeds our people good food that’s reasonably priced. They are called “darshinis” or “sagars” because almost all of them are prefixed with a name and are south Indian “fast food” joints. Quite healthy and clean, quick service, usually with a smile. I used to be a regular customer at this hotel near my place, two years ago – for a few months when I had to give my Mom idlis for breakfast every morning. The moment the guy at the cash counter saw me parking, he’d instruct his cooks at the food counter, and by the time I reached him, he’d have my parcel ready. Very gratifying. Of course it never occurred to him I might want a different order. And weirdo that I am, I would actually take what he packed even if I did want something else.
As I ride my scooter down the 8th main, I also pass my favorite medical store and since that’s a traffic point, the moment I slow down, I turn my head to the left to see the owner of the store grinning and waving at me. If there’s a transaction on, he’d use sign language and say something that I obviously couldn’t hear in the noise, but would understand. Then he’d make the sign of the phone call and I’d nod and move on. Perfect. This medical store was my savior on many occasions when I had difficult-to-fill prescriptions for my Mom. When I phoned him, he’d say “Tell me” and just give me a delivery time, no questions asked. And stick to it. The power of trust!
When I enter the supermarket, the girls at work always ask me if I had breakfast and coffee, and whether I was returning from dropping my son at school. One of them knows some of the routine stuff I buy, so she’ll bring me a trolley and follow me around, asking if I wanted specific stuff. If they receive fresh stock of something that is yet to be unpacked, she’ll tell me and ask how many I need. So gratifying. And if one of them looks sad, I hug her and ask her what is wrong. If they are lifting crates, I give them a hand. If they get hurt, I whip out the cream from my bag to apply it for them. If they have a headache, I have a tablet for them. Very give and take, that.
Also along the same road, is this person. I am not sure how long he has been residing here, but can vouch for the fact that he’s been here for nine years – because I’ve seen him every day. Four times. There was this one time when he was missing from his spot and I panicked. I worried. I got desperate wondering what happened. Then I almost died of relief when I saw him across the road under the newly build bus shelter – and realized he must have moved there because it was raining. Phew! Here are pictures of this guy’s “abode” on the road.
The gate you see in the picture is of the church (I posted a photo of the church here). Now, I have a deep relationship with the man in the picture. For the last nine years, ever since I started traveling on this road, and noticed him for the first time, I’ve carried food, clothing, water, snacks, bed linen, jackets, and just about anything I wanted to give him. He would always accept it with both hands, very courteously. He’s like a part of our family, because whenever there’s a birthday or special occasion, I give him something. When we have extra food, we immediately think of him and pack it up.
He’s all covered up in these photos because it is winter and quite cold here, now. When it is summer, he just wears a light shirt and the dhoti and even stretches his legs, strolling on his section of the pavement. He has a mattress and a few clothes. A milkman stops by in the morning and pours some milk in a huge mug the man has. At other times, I’ve seen him getting tea/coffee from the mobile tea/coffee-vendor. I’ve seen this guy consistently all these years, while we’ve been worrying about all sorts of things. He has no idea what the Internet is. He’ll never know what Facebook or Twitter or any of those things are. He just survives. I don’t know his story. I would love to, but he barely talks. He always has a smile for me, though.
The woman in the picture (with two kids) joined him recently, to share his space. Not sure how they’re related (none of my business, anyway). All I know is I’ll give more of what I have, because the kids are quite little and I know how hungry the young ‘uns can get. I am in the process of putting together some more bed linen and some warm clothes to give them.
Reminds me of a funny moment, years ago, when Vidur was still small enough to travel standing in the front space of my scooter. We were passing this man one day, and Vidur suddenly got excited and said “Mummy, he has a bed sheet just like ours!”. Well, it was our bedsheet. After that day, I make it a point to make Vidur hand over stuff to the guy, which he does very cheerfully.
I felt a little off-color today – and thought I would look at some photos. Then I came across these – and my off-color-ness just faded away. Also reminded me of a post I did back in March 2008 titled “back to the present”
Happiness is a D.I.Y. project. I just stopped to think of all the things that made me feel good, and I feel much better now.
What do you do when you feel sad without really knowing why?
Love that line.. Happiness is a DIY project. So true.
You have captured my Heart w/ your stories, words, and deep compassion….
When I am sad, I write write write. Don’t you see how much I write? Ha
Love to you, my dear Vidya. Xxxx
My Inner Chick http://myinnerchick.com
btw, have you recieved my last two blogs. They have not been going out.
Hi lovely Vidya. Just when I think I’ve seen your best work, you write something so richly and culturally beautiful, I am almost driven to tears. Ah, if only we in America had this relationship with our neighborhoods…our very own main roads and their shops and people. The older I get, the less I have anything to do with anyone in my neighborhood. Crime and selfishness and I am not sure what else has driven us all in doors, and we are surely missing out on the simplest of life’s pleasures, personal contact. Your life is full, colorful and passionate and no wonder you are such a happy, caring person! Vidya, this story could very well be made into a book that would sell big time. Your story is unique and raw, one we all hunger for. I’m so happy to be a part of your virtual life. Thank you for sharing your real life! It is quite amazing.
You have a way of just drawing me in, bringing me there. And that’s not even considering the photos (which are superb!). Love the bedsheet quote from your son. So cute!
This is wonderful! Terri Sonoda gave me a heads-up to your site, and I am delighted she did! Your descriptions make me want to step into your picture with you, smell the smells, maybe hop on the back of your scooter for a ride down 8th!
Thank you, Robyn. What a sweet thing to say!
Thank you, Betsy. I feel as though they are my support group!
Janet, welcome! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed “the ride”! I savor this every day. That Terri, she’s a 110% sweetheart, no?
Lisa! What a pleasure to have you here! 🙂 These days my son quietly looks that way to see what he can recognize as ours and feels happy. Thank you for your comment!
So! Just eight days to go now until your time with your sweeties!
Terri, come here. *Putting my arms around you for a big hug* You say such wonderful things and touch my heart. I am totally overwhelmed and have to see through my tears. Although we have our share of crime here, it is still a laid-back kind of culture where people are willing to spend the time of day with you – and that is so nice. I particularly have a tendency to talk to every one in our area – even strangers, as though I’ve always known them. A friend of mine once told me that the eyeglasses i wear (kinda old-fashioned) and the perpetual smile I have on my face make me very approachable. The fact is, I smile because I can’t focus very well, and would hate anyone to feel hurt that I didn’t acknowledge them. Childhood habit 😀 As an adult, I genuinely like talking to people 😀
Hugs again, Terri – and I really appreciate your kindness, in sharing my post. (and I think you’re a far better writer than I am)
Thank you, Tulika. 🙂 Long time. How’ve you been?
Dear Kim, I love your heart 🙂 Writing is amazingly therapeutic. You do it so beautifully! Always look forward to your posts! Didn’t get the email alert for the last one though – thanks for the heads-up! I usually see your Twitter update and head for your blog! 🙂 Love, Vidya
Helping someone else is certainly one thing to do to make ourselves feel happier. I love hearing about your life. Thanks for the trip down your street Vidya! I really felt like I was there!!
This was an inspiring journey.
Thanks for visiting and commenting. Blessings to you!
I loved the way you decided to involve Vidur in your sharing with the old man. It s important to make children socially aware and compassionate at an early age so that they may grow up to be great human beings.
I worked in Detroit and I would pass by the same man at the same corner at the same time every day. He always had a sign that said “God Bless You”…I really wished that I would have given him something but in Detroit…it’s a scary place. But I still wished that I would have given him something.
So nice to hop over and read a bit of your life! Love this story, and the visuals you bring to it! It reminds me of my trip to Asia 4 years ago, and the stories of people in her neighborhood. She lives in Jakarta. Scooters everywhere!
It really is amazing, when we write, look at pictures, or realize the power of connection how much it can lift the spirit!
Love and Harmony,
Dear Jen – you’re right. It is wonderful to be conscious of our surroundings and the people in it – because often it defines us and the way we are 🙂 So happy you dropped by, thanks!
Thanks, Sheila – some memories are indelible. I frequently visit the orphanages I support and it overwhelms me to think of the different faces of life. (Loved your post over at Betsy’s).. Hugs back atcha – and thanks for coming by!
Hugs, Kimberly – I have those moments too – and during those few minutes of indecision, it is too late sometimes. Stays on our minds, though, doesn’t it? You’re such a sweety to come by. I love it.
Dear Zephyr – You are absolutely right. I realized that quite early on – and I am really lucky that Vidur is naturally compassionate. 🙂 I really appreciate your wonderful comment!
A few years ago I helped out at a mens shelter and soup kitchen through my childrens school. Part of their curriculum was volunteering a certain amount of hours there or at other shelters. I was touched to my core by an elderly man named Walter. His eyes pierced my soul, I swear. I think of him often. So this post reminds me of him, and of the other homeless or less fortunate that I’ve met along my own way through the years. (((hugs))) to you and your wonderful heart.
🙂 UnknownMami – I hear you. You know, I’ve always had homeless “friends” wherever I lived – and whenever I visit these cities, I go to the spot I expect to see them in. Amazingly, some of them still carry on with life as usual, same routine, same place, older, and don’t recognize me any more. I had a similar experience like the one you mentioned – I went to one school from grade 8 to 10 – and would walk to school. Just before I reached my school, I’d pass the Bishop’s house – outside which was a foul-mouthed lady (who looked like a very large version of Jason’s mother in Friday the 13th) – and besides learning all my swear words in Telugu from her, I would also sometimes share my lunch, or carry something for her from home. She always welcomed me with curses. Weird. Yet, when I did not see her for a day, I’d worry to death. I saw her for several years afterwards – as I went back to the same city on a job transfer. I remember the last thing I gave her was packed American chop suey from a Chinese restaurant nearby. I never saw her again – and someone told me she had died. I felt so sad. And yes, i am glad the feeling usually passes, too. Hugs!
You made me think of a “homeless” man I knew for years. Funny, we never asked each other’s names. Anyway for years we would see each other, speak, update. I gave him some clothes and sometimes I would give him money. He is one of the few “homeless” people I have ever given money to. At one point, I got pneumonia and I was gone for weeks. When I came back he was genuinely concerned and told me he had worried about me and also that he was glad I wasn’t on the streets because many people die of pneumonia on the streets. Sadly, one day I ran into him on the bus and he was aggressive and mean. He was obviously using some kind of drug that turned him into a person I could no longer safely interact with. I still see him on occasion rarely and he has deteriorated so much throughout the years. It’s sad. Now, I no longer speak to him and most of the time he is to distracted to realize it is me. I was barely an adult when I first met him and now as a 40 year old woman it saddens me to see how hard his life has been and how much it has changed the kind eyes I once knew into the eyes of someone I am afraid of.
As far as sadness goes, I let myself feel it. I examine it and try t see where it is coming from. Luckily, the feeling always passes.
Yes! Terrisonoda.net is definitely a Tiffany-quality site, not to be missed! Anyone who hasn’t checked it out, drop everything, and check it out~~ NOW!!!
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