‘We are traveling in AC. Half the fun is already lost‘. This was my message to Prachi after finding out at Chennai Central that all of us were travelling in AC. The last time I had traveled with Gowri and her gang, it had been the normal sleeper way.
Oh by the way, I was traveling on the name of Siva and my age was 28 years.
The traffic in Ahmedabad runs weirdly. Everyone can be seen moving in every direction through any section of any road, the way a bunch of marbels thrown over an uneven surface would move.
The hotel were some of us lodged (and that included me) was sexy, with AC rooms, bathtubs in bathroom, swimming pool and what not. I didn’t bother to verify but it was definitely a four or a five star stuff.
The same evening, we checked out the open air audi (Darpan) where we were supposed to perform and it was cool too, with river Sabarmati flowing behind it. The wooded floor was a delight to the legs and many actors later confessed that the floor made them jump more than what they would have done otherwise.
The first night in Ahmedabad was the night of sex-talk, foot massage and a girly make-up. yes, the three women who were part of the gang, and staying in the same hotel, worked on my face with eye-lashes, and maskara, and glosses and this and that and every thing, till I started resembling a tri-sexual zombie who was born to kiss cute puppies everytime he had a hormonal overflow. If those pictures of mine, in that make-up, that were taken that night, show up anywhere, Pratiksha is gonna die. I liked the foot massage by Sam though.
On the face, we wanted to visit Sabarmati Ashram. From inside, we were desperate for booze. The first thing that happened the next day (show was later in the evening) was a visit to the Ashram. We saw framed pictures of Bapu and his friends and his friends’ kids. Big pictures, small pictures and some really big pictures. We saw original letters written to Gandhi, by Gandhi or related to Gandhi, all pasted over one another, (spoiling them forever) and put inside glass frames. We saw words from his speeches engraved in different kinds of stones. We saw everything but forgot to check out Bapu’s original kutia, where he really lived. Supid us. All this while, we had been thinking: how the fuck do we get booze in this dry state?
Booze is banned in Gujarat. The city has no pub. So we were more than delighted when our driver (we were given a vehicle which would take us to wherever we wanted), got us White Mischief later as we left the Ashram to roam in the city market.
The city market. Ah! As you walk through the narrow lanes covered from both sides by colorful sari and bangle shops, the shopkeepers wave their big hands welcoming you to their shop, welcoming in a way that of course smells of hospitality but is funny at the same time. ‘Idhar aao ji, excuse me, come madam, sirjee, hello‘.
We performed Dark Horse later in the evening and I totally loved Dada who played the lead role. Suchha natural actor. Killer! The play? It was okay. Intellectual rater.This was the first time I watched a play, standing over an asbestos clad side-terrace, holding a follow-up spot light. I did my best to keep moving the cylinder that threw the spot-light on stage, in a way good enough to light up the right actors.
The Vodka-session against the backdrop of vibrant Sabarmati, later in the moon-lit night, as we cracked jokes from Indian Laghter Challenge could have been the perfect ending for the first real day in Ahmedabad (and it actually was for everyone else), if only I hadn’t ended up puking all night. I guess I have become too used to beer; should keep that in mind the next time.
Naina! Naina! Naina!
She was the equivalent of real life Basanti. She was our guide the next day. Dude, she was such a free spirit, and so full of bubbling energy, you could easily take her as a mentally challanged case. At least, all of us thought she was. Gujju Basanti; nothing describes her better.
Budbud budbud budbud. The way she smiled at everything, the way she kept blabbering, the way she made us read stories of the Dargahs she made us visit, the way she blushed, hiding her fleshy face with both plams, every act of hers was childish-sweet and nerve-irritating at the same time. But today, as I look back, I would call it more sweet than irritating. She was a sweet-heart, no one would like to hang around with.
The three short plays that were performed later that evening, each play named after some species of lilies went ahead with no one happy with the lights. I did some backstage and observed the lights on stage. This is all I did. Ranjitha did sounds amidst jumping rats and quarelling lizards in the sound-light room.
The return journey
I was Siva, 30 years old this time. I hadn’t shaved all this while so that pulling off as a 30 year old could come in easy for a man who hasn’t even touched 25. I did not know there was way more trouble lying ahead. Only four small timers were traveling back on train. Others had flown back.
Now, we, the train-travelers, had a green colored form which said that we had lost our tickets. I was told that this form was our new ticket. When I showed it to the first ticket collecter, he told us that one needs to get a duplicate ticket issued after getting this form attested. Wow! We are in this train, trying to reach Chennai, in two days and one night, and this guy in black coat is telling us that we don’t have valid tickets! It took immense persuasion and talking out, to finally let the officials travel us. But this was not the end of it. This shit kept happening every time a new TC came for a round. Loads of confusion, my dear friend, loads of confusion. None of us knew the rules properly, and that included all these TCs.
On the second day of journey, few hours before we would reach Chennai, the you-don’t-have-tickets drama started once again and this time it ran for quite some time. The scariest moment was when everyone was asked to show i-cards. For strange reasons, I maintained my calm. I was M. Siva. I was thirty years old. And I had no frigging proof. How often do you travel on someone else’s name and you are asked to show your i-card, that too, not because you don’t look like a 30 year old Tamil guy, but because you just don’t have the ticket? ‘Show me at least some ATM Card, or a visiting card‘. Dude, I have no idea, how I pulled it off, or why they stopped insisting after a while. I had almost started to imagine myself crashing in a dirty railway-jail, sharing the cell with a pick-pocketter, who loved peeing as close to me as possible.
Every drama ends. This one did too, and to our delight, not on a bad note. Before we could reach Chennai, these guys left, or rather disappeared (probably few calls to Gowri, the director, who then called up few others, who tried pulling few strings, came to our rescue). Thanks Pratikhsa for the head massage, which I guess was the most stress-free portion of the entire return journey.
Epilogue: I returned to Chennai in the evening. I am off to Bangalore early morning tomorrow and will be back on early Friday morning. When I come back, it’s all gonna be hard work till it’s time to leave for Bangalore again. No, not for the job, but for the same play again where I am supposed to take care of lighting fully. Some more fun. 🙂