Sunday, May 10, 2015

Raju bhai, the part time guide. Part 1


So finally, I am back after completing my journey that started on April 16th. 
Through 13 states, I traveled a distance of 6264 km. This journey gave me completely varied experiences: both good and bad. You could say that I am no longer the same person that I was when I set out on this journey; because, It is a fact that as i traveled, I had to change some of my perspectives. About our land, our people, life and culture. 
Anyway, I am going to share my travel experiences with you here. This wont be a day to day account, but some fragments from the whole.
(Serious matters and experiences, the purpose of my travel; I mean to write those in a blog. That will take some time. Till then, let us travel through these notes.)

Let me start with this experience I had at Hampi, on my return journey 
It was the 18th day of my travel. I set out from Mehbubnagar in Hyderabad. Traveled a distance of 280 km and a little after 3pm, reached Hampi. I had planned a detailed exploration for the next day.
Still, since I had some time till it turned dark, I wandered around the surrounding areas of Virupaksha temple. A few guides were standing around."
sir, do you need a place to stay? The rent will be Rs.500, 750, 1000 for a room."
That day, I had no plan to stay at a hotel. The rates these guides were quoting were too high. On my way, I could gather that there were no hotels in that area that seemed worthy of these rates.
Some time passed, and a person approached me. He didn't exactly look like a guide.
"Sir, there are some very nice hotels with rooms nearby."  

"No, I will not need one. I will go back today itself."
Since there was nothing to expect from me, he lost interest and stood a little apart; not paying me any attention. Then, I  asked him, "are you really a guide? Where is your house?"
"I live close by. I am a farmer. In the evening I come here and arrange rooms for anyone who might need it. The hotels will pay me a commission of Rs 100/- or 150/- ."
He opened up; since he thought I wouldn't be staying there the night!
"Okay," I said, "can I stay with you at your house?" 

"Oh, sir, my house is very small with only two rooms."

"I do not want to stay at a hotel. All I need is a place to sleep and home cooked food," I said.

"Who all are there at home?"

"Me, my wife, and our son who has completed plus two. One minute sir."

He moved a little away and talked to someone over the phone. Maybe, his wife. Then came back to me.
"All right sir. Let us go. I live close by!"
I had him sit behind me on Tenzing. We went along a little distance through an alley next to the temple, to reach a small house in the middle of a banana plantation.

"This is it sir. We have two rooms. One is the kitchen. Other, the bedroom." 
I liked the place and the setup. Nice village. In the middle of a green filled courtyard, a small house.
'Good, superb', I told myself. 'This was what I was searching for, and I had found it.' 

The two room house had a palm leaf covered area in the front, as was the norm in those parts. Placed Tenzing there to rest. The remaining space held a coir cot.
He pointed to it and said, "Sir, you can lie here in comfort. Rent, 300 Rs!!" 

What! 300 Rs, to stay in this courtyard? I looked at the man closely.  A canny character?
"What is your name?"
"Raju, sir. Why sir?"
"You know my name. Shouldn't I know who I am staying with?" said I.

"This is my wife, Mangalamma," Raju bhai said. pointing to a manly looking woman who was standing there. "Then, we have a son. Chiranjeevi." Chiranjeevi, was not in scene right then. And was supposed to be a plus two student.

So, that was how it was!
Naturally, my eyes turned to the second room, the other one, apart from the kitchen.
"Can I have this room?"
I had my reasons. I had to charge the Gopro, DSLR, mobile phone etc. Also, I needed a place to keep my things safe.
Raju bhai was in complete agreement.
"Can I see the room?"
"Yes, why not?" said Raju bhai.
The room was okay. It held a cot  TV, etc. It also had a heavy shabby smell.

"The rent will be 600 Rs, sir. Will have a fresh sheet on the bed," he added. As if he was doing a favor.
Wasn't it too much for the tiny room? I was getting angry. The chap was a cutthroat.
He thought a bit and said, "Okay sir, 400 Rs. 200 more for food. How long will you be staying here?"    

 "For about two days." 

"As you like sir. Check out time will be at 10 am!!"
Since I started on this journey, for the first time, I was stunned!
(How many more such 'stunning' moments were awaiting me! But, I didn't know it then)

While these 'business discussions' were going on, Mangalamma had swept the room clean.
She gathered up some of their belongings and placed them in the kitchen. And I took charge of the room. I unpacked my things.
Now, what I needed most urgently, was a bath.
Raju had earlier confirmed that the place had a toilet. A very necessary aspect, while on a travel.
Pointing to a screened area, he said that I could have my bath there. 

(A necessary aspect for anyone and everyone. :)
But a traveler is at the mercy of circumstances, and what is available)
'Sir, you will be given three showers. For us, it is two. One extra as special for you.'
As I stood there wide eyed, in astonishment, Raju came with a water filled pot in each hand. That was the 'shower'.
When I came out after a bath in three 'showers', Mangalamma had prepared a glass of fine tea for me. Good. Blessed hands..

While I was having tea, Raju came with a tattered piece of paper. Looked like it was torn off a first standard book of Chiranjeevi's.
"Sar, please write down you address and phone number."
I gave  him one of my visiting cards, and said that it had everything in it.
He turned that around in his hands, put it in his pocket, and stood there hesitantly.
"What is it?"
"Sir, I want 50 Rs more. "


 'Your house, your room, for that, you  want commission!' 
What the heck!!!??
That sir, Isn't this business. I want commission!"
Including rent for two days, and food, I gave him 1000 Rs, and an extra 50 Rs as commission.
He shouldn't get away with this, I told myself.

"Where is the key to this room? Bring it," I told him.
He brought one key.
"Isn't there one more?"
"Yes sir."

"Bring that too. Am I not staying here for rent? Then, I want the key." I said.

I took the keys from him and shut the room.

To be continued..... 

 The rest, later. (After knowing your opinion, let me decide if I should continue 'entertaining' you so wink emoticon )

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