"Cramus maximus" quite possibly the motto of the KSRTC.I knew this fact to be true when I unwittingly found myself engulfed in the large arms of a bear like man.
The conductor was a tiny man.i watched with awe as he made his way through the aisle, squeezing his lithe frame through impossibly small spaces.He elbowed his way ruthlessly,parting the crowd like a modern day Moses. Unfortunate, tall, men bent over in pain, tears welling in their eyes, as the conductors elbow landed on their crotch with an unerring accuracy. Finally he stood in front of me, palm outstretched , demanding my money. I placed a hundred rupee note in his sweaty hand. An ominous silence descended over the passengers as they stared unabashedly. The conductor looked at me in disbelief. Slowly, methodically he began to shout, his voice rising in a ringing baritone. The words”change”, illa” and “ticket” were mentioned several times in varying combinations. I quivered and quailed and handed him several coins. Appeased by my ‘donation’ he pushed me to the back of the bus, to the dark and dreadful abyss, that is the last seat.
Ten minutes later, the bus began to move. Writhing bodies filled the bus making a can of sardines seem quite roomy. The bus creaked and groaned as it carried the equivalent weight of three Indian elephants . The driver sweared proficiently and egged the bus on, occasionally hitting the engine with a mighty ”thump”.
The conductor screamed a medley of words, one among which was my destination. I leapt to my feet, eager to be off the bus. Twenty, large, men scrambled for my now vacant seat and I was unceremoniously pushed and prodded towards the door. Largely unscathed I exited the door with a sense of triumph. I had survived.
Looking around at the vaguely familiar landscape, I realized that I had alighted one stop earlier! A bus stopped in front of me, seeming, impossibly so, more crowded than the one I just left. I took a deep breath and dived into the sea of human beings……
“The problem with you young people is you have no respect”, I nodded in agreement with Mr. Crenshaw, a prospective client. ”When I was in the army, we were taught discipline, etiquette” he said, waving his spoon in the air to illustrate his point. We were at the Roost a five star restaurant, where I was trying to convince Mr. Crenshaw to invest in our company.
“Well sir", I said trying to edge in a word, "you can be sure that our company is a disciplined one in fact...”, I was going for the kill, “Would you like some drinks sir?” said the waiter swooping down from the bar .Mr. Crenshaw brightened .He scrolled down the list and ordered the most expensive drink. ”And for you...Sir” said the vulture, looking down his long thin nose. I straightened my tie and with all the dignity I could muster ordered a lime soda and added as an afterthought “stirred not shaken”. The waiter vanished with our orders.
From the other end of the room another one of them slid across with the menu. Mr. Crenshaw clapped his hands in delight and set about to ordering
A quarter of an hour later I found myself staring at a list of unpronounceable dishes. ”What’s this?” I asked the waiter .he looked heaven wards for inspiration and then said slowly as if talking to a toddler, ”Bread...Sir”. ”Aren't bread sticks complementary?” I asked innocently. Mr. Crenshaw and the waiter exchanged a look and burst out laughing. Mr. Crenshaw patted me on the arm in what he must have imagined was a fatherly way, snatched the menu out of my hand and ordered for me.
Twenty minutes later the food arrived. A tiny plate was placed in front of me. Complimentary starters I said approvingly.” No...Sir” responded the waiter “that is your meal”.
My ‘meal’ consisted of what looked like a bark of a tree coated in a slimy green liquid. It tasted even worse. Mr. Crenshaw, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying his steak and mashed potatoes.
I was getting desperate; I hadn’t even started my sales pitch. It was time. Nothing could stop me now .In a ringing baritone I began to speak...
Ten minutes later I stopped, breathless. ”Well, Mr. Crenshaw what will it be” I asked, hopefully. To my surprise, he burst out laughing ”My dear fellow, whatever in the world made you think I’m Mr. Crenshaw. I’m his personal assistant."
"Your bill... Sir" said the waiter, placing it by my hand, just out of reach of Mr. Crenshaw’s outstretched hand.
What could be better than a wedding in July" my mother exclaimed early one morning. "No wedding at all" replied my father, grumpily. On further inquiry I learnt that my cousin John was getting married in July. I was overjoyed; it meant that I would miss a week of school. My joy was short lived, however, when I found out that I was to visit Aunt Lucy’s (John’s mother) house during my holidays to help out. My protests were muted however by the angry glare I received from my father over the top of the morning paper.
I arrived at Aunt Lucy’s house to find the doors open, clothes strewn on the floor and odd pieces of paper floating in the fish tank. ”Aunt Lucy “ I said horrified “you’ve been robbed!” .But Aunt Lucy had not been robbed ,she was only searching for her late husbands wedding suit. I joined in the search but to no avail. The ever efficient John’s arrival an hour later speeded up the process and we found the suit in a dusty box.
The suit however was filled with holes. Generations of moths seemed to have feasted on it, only the pockets were spared as they contained the ill fated mothballs which Uncle had inadvertently swallowed, ten years ago, thinking they were peppermints!
I was now put on decoration duty. For the next month and a half I dusted cleaned, bought streamers, frankincense and myrrh (gold being in short supply) and generally spruced up the house.
As the date of the wedding drew closer, I noticed a marked difference in John. He seemed to be more nervous than usual, but perhaps this was due to the strain of handling the caterers.
The flurry of activity ensuing during the last week before the wedding died down on the day before. I suddenly found the silverware polished, candles ready and snacked stocked in the fridge. As we sat down for dinner, John looked visibly upset .Since it was my turn to ‘cook’ dinner .I had made baked beans and toast, which I proudly served John. To my surprise, he burst into tears “It’s not that bad!” I said, offended” You haven’t even tasted it”. But John was not crying because of the taste of the baked beans (or lack of it), but because he felt that he was going to loose all the freedom of life as a bachelor. My father tried to pacify him, telling him how he lived he lived his life after marriage. John’s wails redoubled in intensity.
Finally, the day arrived .all the preparations made ,the church ready, the caterers on time(surprisingly).A now calm and smiling John waited at the altar for his soon-to-be-wife. I breathed a sigh of relief .All responsibility was off me. I had only forgotten the candles at home, but the church provided us with spare ones. Then the priest asked for the rings. Images of the candles and rings paced side by side on the dining table flashed through my mind. John turned to me expectantly, his hand reaching out for the ring…. but I was gone!
Sam Davenport stared at himself, in his passport .His graying, wispy hair barely seemed to be able to traverse the breadth of his head. Those photographers, you can never trust them with photographs .he looked mournful. Not pensive or contemplative as Lucy had said comfortingly before he left, but mournful. Pah ! Women, they would never understand men.
Sam looked back at his photograph. Those photographers, they always make you look worse than you actually are. His hair really did seem to be extremely sparse for a man of fifty three.He patted the top of his head just to make sure it hadn’t vanished in the last ten minutes.
And the double chin .He had never had one before, but that blasted photographer had made him bend his head downwards, towards his chest, to “make sure your nose fits in the frame”. The arrogant toerag. Didnt he know that a long nose was a sign of aristocracy. No one in his family had ever had a double chin or any excess fat to speak of, except aunt Sarah who was just weird in that way. He also seemed to sport a few straggling hairs at the end of his chin..No doubt the photographer ‘forgot’ to touch up the photograph. The Davenports prided themselves on being a clean shaven lot, again with the exception of Aunt Sarah. Once he returned from France he would have a stern word with that photographer, he would...
“Excuse me ,”said the old man in front of Sam ,”is there a problem with my passport, as I hope to reach France before the next millenium”. Sam looked up, startled, to see an entire line of people queued up in front of him. Behind the old man was a young boy with rather odd teeth, like a chimpanzees, trying hard not to laugh.
“No, no” said Sam hastily stamping the passport” no problem at all sir, enjoy your flight”. The old man walked away ,mumbling indistinctly.
Sam davenport stared at himself, in his passport, his odd teeth seemed to make him look a bit like a chimpanzee. Those dentists, you could never trust them with teeth…….