Monday, October 09, 2006
Last evening, after ages, I sat in a giant wheel. It was a dilapidated contraption handled by a man, geriatric enough to be the wheezing machine’s impresario. At fifteen bucks a ticket, there was nothing old-worldly about the price. But well, what’s a little rip-off for nostalgia?
My friend and I sat in a green bun-shaped dangling cart (there were orange, blue, and yellow ones as well). In the cart next to us sat a couple of guys, one of who seemed to be drunk on the joy of life, and the other one dehydrated from it. The happy one suggested that they sing boisterously (‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja’, no less) when the ride started in full swing. His nervous friend frantically asked the operator how long the ride would last. In true Pune fashion (the fashion in which a straight answer to a straight question is a faux pas), the operator said he would get his fifteen rupees worth. Ah. Joy.
A few minutes later, the ride started. Slowly it climbed up and then, suddenly, with a swoosh almost, it picked up speed. By that time, I had shut my eyes tight, but I could feel the wind near my ears and my heart in my mouth. And then, the wheel hovered ever so slightly at the peak before it made a clean dive downwards. It was brilliant! That feeling of breathlessness where you feel like you’re sweeping down like a feather with some aim! I love it when the clouds and trees and little people bustling about in the marketplace sort of swim around you while you are hurtling (or at any rate going really fast) up and above and then down and below and then right at the level and then all through that all over again.
A few rounds later, my heart still leapt into my mouth a few times but I more or less got settled in the rhythm. Then I relaxed and took in the wonderful, glittering sight around me. There were serpentine rows of stalls that sold heaps and heaps of glass bangles. From that distance, I could see mounds of gold-flecked ornaments in such brittle, shiny colors - rani pink, imli-brown, parrot green, violet, magenta, some iridescent ones, and also samples with verve to have all of these colors mixed together. The stone steps to a quaint little temple run over by moss was lit with tiny diyas. Children were tugging parents towards pinwheel hawkers. Mounds of pedas and laddoos were packaged and sold with the kind of practiced thoughtlessness that’s wonderful to watch in sweetmeat owners. I could see huge cauldrons bubbling with hot oil and rings of jalebis fried and dipped in sugar syrup. And then, moments later, the ride would take me up and I’d see patches of treetops looking silent and peaceful. I wonder if the topmost leaf of the tree ever tells the other leaves what the first sighting of an evening star is like. Maybe it happens. Who knows? Inevitably, I think of ‘The Faraway Tree.’
The ride is over. I feel that strange, childish resistance before I have to get down. One by one, everyone steps out. We need to mind our heads while exiting under an atrocious beam that, I guess, holds the wheel together.
It’s nice to see so many goofy grins at the same time. Just for that, I hope the rickety giant wheels stay around for ever.