I live in Bhuj now. Not exactly, but I live in Mankua, a village on the outskirts of the city. I have started working with an alternate-learning school called Sinchan and have been provided an accommodation in the above mentioned village. The school name is not based on the cartoon character Shinchan by the way just in case you were wondering the same while I was trying to distract you with the sentence that followed it. Mankua is reasonably far from the school and I have to take a transport, called ‘छाकरा’, every day in the morning to a circle in Bhuj where a school rented-vehicle picks me up at around 7.15 am. I teach, have lunch at the nearby school and I am dropped at the same circle to fly back to Mankua. Pun intended. On the way to Mankua, there is an office of the school and another school. Sometimes, I alight there and leave for home by the evening.
‘छाकरा’ is basically an auto hired on a shared basis similar to the kind that runs in Delhi or the kind that runs in Rajasthan or for that matter the kind that runs in Maharashtra too. It’s just called by different names: ‘Shared-auto’ in NCR to keep up with the English-inclined IT crowd; ‘Tempo’ in Rajasthan perhaps denoting the high-decibel and high-repetitive nature of its engine’s sound; ‘काली-पीली’ in rural areas of Vidarbha introducing racial profiling in machines as well; and ‘छाकरा’ in Kutch to metaphorically and subtly suggest that Gujarat’s ‘development’ is as fast as the rotor blades of a helicopter in motion. Somehow despite their namesake differences they all ply at the same speed. What’s in a name, anyway?
I travel a lot in the छाकरा as a result of the distance and availability of the transport. When I was living in Uttarakhand some of last year and some of this year, I would happily walk miles and miles as there was no regular public transport there. I don’t get the same opportunity here. Oh evolution, I miss that place! Yes I am an atheist; and I prefer to sigh to evolution. A छाकरा is designed to carry only a maximum of 7 adults including the driver. Through seat extensions to the driver seat on both sides, seat addition in the dickey and the oft-demanded on-the-spot adjustments to accommodate an extra person on the three-people seat by the driver, the capacity increases to 12-13 people. It is quite congested at least 40 % of the time and at least three people need to re-occupy their lost ground after a road bump. Due to my relatively bulky size I am always one of those three people!
I don’t quite like the ride most of the times. It is tricky to balance myself on the three-people seat with three more people on it. One evening when I had to fly again to Mankua from the aforementioned school office, the छाकरा I got into had 8 people occupying the two three-people seats already and I had to take the extended seat to the left of the driver’s seat. The seat wasn’t uncomfortable as I had thought. Actually, it was way better as I could spread my legs as wide as possible, even outside, and I had more movement and balance choices in general like I could crane my head here and there and could drink water without spilling on others.
While I was craning my head here and there in that journey I happened to notice the moon already up and shining and designing the aura around it. I could not take my eyes off it. Other times while sitting in the other seats, I wasn’t ever able to see anything other than the co-passengers, trees moving in the opposite direction and the vehicles passing by in the same and opposite direction. I really don’t appreciate and enjoy too fleeting a glance of things and I can’t really stare at people too much, so it was never a satisfactory journey in the other seats. The side-seat however provided me a whole new opportunity. I could stare at the moon forever and ever, see it rise and fall commensurate with the road bumps and see it travel amongst the trees and electric wires. Even when we took a path perpendicular to our previous one, the moon was still in visual distance if I could crane my head a little bit and I did. Again, I could not take my eyes off it.
Weirdly, I had been teaching children in the school about tides during that time; mostly about how the moon is able to pull the matter of the earth. I had told them why the solid earth isn’t moved immensely but negligibly and why the liquid and gaseous earth is moved so much. I got to admit to them now that some solid earth like us is significantly moved by the moon, though in different ways than perceivable. If one has a sight-seat in this fast-paced world, surely one will be!