Lit.Org - a community for readers and writers Advanced Search

Average Rating

(0 votes)

You must login to vote

Summer sets in early in the Deccan plateau, on top of which sits the city of Hyderabad. As as kid, it would be the time when the morning school begins and to come home at noon, have lunch and a little nap. As the exams are nearing there would be no home work. This is also the time when the fruit markets would be filled with green grapes that grow in abundance in and around the city which is a semi-arid region filled with enormous rock formations and some black soil. It is often said that the ones grown around here are the best in the country and are sold in Delhi for a princely price (slightly above a dollar per kg in those days as compared to about 10 to 15 cents in our city). Huge cart loads of the fruit start appearing after the "Shiva rathri" the birth day of lord Shiva.  
So, my dad would have a cup of tea at 4:30 and hint that we might be on our way to the Monda market. In no more than five minutes, I would wash my face, put on a fresh shirt, hop into my sandals and announce "I am ready". Shortly after, I would be a pillion rider of our "Hero Majestic" moped cruising at twenty five kilometers an hour to the market. On my way, I would wave to my buddies who would be playing a boring (for now) game of cricket in the open plot diagonally opposite to my home. Having a personal mode of conveyance used to be a luxury in the mid eighties and a moped with just enough place for two was the best bet considering the fuel efficiency of seventy kilometers for a liter of petrol. 
A few turns and twists on the bumpy dirt road before we hit the main road and my dad takes a right turn to make me feel almost ecstatic. We could have reached the market taking a left turn too and even save a mile if we had gone through the new bridge. But, on the right, we pass through the Army Ordinance Corps (AOC) center and that would mean well maintained roads lined with hundred year old trees adorning either sides. This area is part of the largest military cantonment in Asia and was built by the British as can be seen by some of the old administrative buildings that dot this green expanse in the city that is 'not so green' by usual standards. What could be better on a hot afternoon than to drive through this canopy of trees and to have cool breeze that soothes your skin. En route I see some trainee soldiers tending to the gardens and giggle to myself. It seems that if these guys have nothing to do, they are asked to dig holes and fill them up just to kill time. Isn't that the stupidest thing to do, more so for grown ups as if they have nothing else worthwhile to do. Maybe, some body clever enough must have thought that instead of just filling the holes up, they could plant some saplings so that they can at least dig holes under the shade. 
Four kilometers of this beautiful road disappears and after crossing the posh Marredpally, where the rich live, we make it to the Monda market around twilight. We park our moped outside the market; mentally mark the position in a row of about hundred two wheelers and step into the narrow lanes and by lanes of this huge bustling market. We successfully cross the road amidst roaring honks and enter the market yard. I clasp onto my dad's hand tightly, afraid that I might get lost if I let it go. Vegetables, fruits, plastic household items, nuts, utensils, clothes, grain, the list goes on, greet the eye. Is there anything that one possibly couldn’t find in this market? Vendors squat on the floor leaving enough space to enter the bigger shops, with light bulbs hanging just about their heads and shouting at the top of their voice to attract the attention of their clientele who are very picky.  
Faithfully remembering the purpose of our visit, I pull my 'pa's' finger whenever I see grapes being sold to grab his attention. Undeterred, he moves on tugging me along. Although a little impatient, I move on hoping that we reach our destination soon. After all, dad grew up in this place and knows his way around. It would also make sense, as he would explain, to buy grapes after we are done with all the other groceries. That way, we can save them from being crushed and also pick a few to munch on on the way back.  
Finally, we come to the other end of the market and are greeted by a plethora of melons, papayas, guavas, plantains, oranges, and yes, grapes. Seeing us, the familiar vendor who has a little beard and a cap that covers his scalp, greets my father with a "salam" and immediately gets to business. A lot of fruit vendors are our Muslim brethren and my dad enquires about his well being with his working knowledge of Urdu, a language that is a blend of Persian and Hindi. I greedily eye the bunch of ripe grapes which are placed within my reach and offer my services to pick the best. "Not these" asserts my parental voice, and reckons the fruit bearer to weigh the loose ones. The bunches are costly. But, there are quite a few loose grapes that fall apart from these bunches and are placed separately for the regulars who value both taste and their money. These are not only cheaper, but also ripe and that is the reason why they fall apart. Recovering myself from the disappointment that we are not taking home any bunches, I immediately brighten up with the idea that we could afford more fruit for the same price. To my delight, the humble vendor after weighing the kilo of grapes for my family also throws in the remaining ones and smiles at me as he ties some thread around the paper bag. 
It is already dark and we are on our way back home. The trunk at the side of our moped is stuffed with vegetables and I retain the bag full of precious grapes in my lap. We come clear of the crowded streets and head for the quiet AOC road. I am already hungry, but have to wait until I get home to have my fill. Our science teacher has said that we should wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. Moreover, mom reminded us about the dust from the market roads. The stillness of the quite roads is broken by our moped and the toads that squeak all along our way. I quietly put my finger, make a hole in the bag and reach out for one little 'pearl' shaped grape. I rub it gently on my shirt sleeve and when the dust is all gone, reach out for my mouth...the grape just melts away and I experience a rare kind of satisfaction. I couldn't help but reach out for just another one and yet another. Eventually, the hole in the paper bag gets a little bigger and I hope my dad doesn't hear my munching. But, I am pleasantly surprised at my fathers' suggestion that we could help ourselves a little before we get home and he holds his hand while balancing the moped with another. I gladly oblige and put a few in his hand and some in my mouth. The return journey was a lot quicker and we reach home for a late dinner. Later, when my portion of grapes is cut accordingly by my envious sisters, I try to compensate for the loss from mom and grandma. 
March, the month of grapes, rolls by with all its pleasantness leaving behind warm memories that one can remember for the rest of their life. But, for some unfortunate kids, there are memories of a different kind. Cruise missiles flying over their heads, deafening sounds of bomb blasts, schools closed, dads in the battle fields losing their lives, moms worried about what they would feed their kids. The situation is pathetic. I don't know if the kids realize what’s going on in their world or if ever they will grow up to live their lives. Even if they do, will their lives be normal again and I am terrified at the thought of another suicide killer that they might become. Traveling through the army barracks it never ever occurred to me that we constantly rub shoulders with war and life is not as green as it appears on the “right” side of our path. 


Related Items


The following comments are for "March, the month of grapes..and war"
by venkatesh

Add Your Comment

You Must be a member to post comments and ratings. If you are NOT already a member, signup now it only takes a few seconds!

All Fields are required

Commenting Guidelines:
  • All comments must be about the writing. Non-related comments will be deleted.
  • Flaming, derogatory or messages attacking other members well be deleted.
  • Adult/Sexual comments or messages will be deleted.
  • All subjects MUST be PG. No cursing in subjects.
  • All comments must follow the sites posting guidelines.
The purpose of commenting on Lit.Org is to help writers improve their writing. Please post constructive feedback to help the author improve their work.