Old Lady High

Old Lady High was a rich landlady who lived just across the street in a grand manor. She was not known to be vain as she was pompous, nor was she called arrogant as she was righteous. Barely a few men in the town knew her first name, Mary; apart from the priest, her ancient butler, the postman and Roger the undertaker (who happened to know everyone in the town by their first names. “Them folk don’t greet me when they are alive, so I know ’em by them names to greet ’em when they die,” he says.) It was rumoured that the undertaker got his information from the barber, who got his from maids, who got theirs from the meddling kids, and so on. Yet none of those tributaries knew Old Lady High’s first name, and it was a mystery to the masses as to how the undertaker knew.

Turns out Old Lady High’s husband was a forager, and his search for firewood to keep carnivorous beasts away during his long trips led him to someone who knew which wood burns best. Roger proposed a small man’s deal, promising to give away the best firewood of the forest in the exchange of Lord High’s wife’s name. But big men don’t like dealing with small men, and in his haught the Lord ended up slighting Roger, and Roger directed him to the firewood beside the wolves’ den.

Lord High left Lady High riches and desolation in aplenty. To find a way to curb the forlorn reaches of her old age, Old Lady High took to horse tending, then to croquet, and apples seemed to be her latest fancy. She had the best apple trees brought to her yard from the world, which bore fruit sweeter than nectar. She had the biggest tree planted closest to her tea table in the yard, and had also installed a ladder to get up and choose the biggest, reddest, and juiciest apples for tea. Such was her love for that tree, that no servant was allowed to pry the apples off it, she would pluck them herself.

One fine day, brave Old Lady High climbed the ladder, but all the nearby apples had been plucked. She kept on climbing higher and higher, but her desire wasn’t fulfilled by what she saw. She decided to climb onto a thick branch as she saw a couple of apples, agile as ever, but as she stretched to reach the apples her leg slipped, hit the ladder, which hit all the way down. Old Lady High was stuck, but was too posh to scream out for help.

As a happenstance, Mr. Löwe, a special guest and a friend of Lord High’s, arrived at the scene. Mr Löwe, short of sight and low on hearing.

Having waited for Old Lady High for a while, he wondered if the butler had lied, and his host my not be in the yard at all. He called out,

“Mary High?”

Old Lady High had no idea who called her, but still called back.

“It’s not the best time for greetings I’m afraid,”

Mr Lowe always could only hear half of what she said. Befuddled, he tried again.

“Where are you?”

“I’m high up here!”

Mr Lowe, again, only seemed to her half of what she said,

“I know you’re a High, M’Lady. But where are you?”

“Low, are you? I’m here!”

“I am Löwe. Where are you?”

“Up High, Löwe!”

“High or low?”

“High, Löwe!”

“I believe you said it isn’t a good time for pleasantries, Lady High. Now, where are you again?”

“I’m high up here!”

“You’re high on what? Oh Lady High, what venial sin has got hold of you!”

“Above your head Löwe! I’m above your head!”

“M’Lady, your stature was always above my head!”

Old Lady High was so frustrated, she could have thrown a couple of apples at the deaf man. But the apples were outstanding, and throwing things wasn’t very ladylike. It didn’t suit the Lady of High Manor. She tried again.

“Raise your head, Löwe!”

“I can only raise my head high, my Lady. You seem to be mistaken.”

Exasperated, Old Lady High let herself go.

“You are a low life, you, Ragnald Löwe!”

“I am aware that I am a Löwe, as you’re High,” Mr. Löwe replied.

“Löwe! Move your neck high!” Old Lady High bellowed.

“Move my neck high or low, Lady High?”

“Pray, I ask you look high!”

“I’ll definitely pray for you, but when did this happen!? Are you speaking from heaven?”

“Löwe, pray, save me, I’m high up here!” she begged.

“I’ll surely pray to the Lord to save you, Lady High. In fact, I must let the word spread, so the entire town can pray for you.”

He left to share the news the Old Lady High was high in the heavens, taken by her own beloved apple trees.

Imagine the weeping butler’s shock when she fell, tired and asleep from the branch!

Imagine the doctor’s shock to find a dead lady alive!

Imagine the folk’s scare when they heard Old Lady High was back from the dead!

Old Lady High may not be sure how a doctor keeps the highs in, but she had solid proof how apples keep the Löws away.

Musings, Rants

Here’s To You, Vapi!

Deep into south Gujarat, lies a small town called Vapi. It’s nothing special, just a small town with three to four areas of importance. It boasts of three general trivia points of note: largest industrial area of Asia; once it was (wrongly) declared fourth most polluted city in the world; and of course, “Daman baju me hai na *wink wink*”.

To those people from outside of the town who consider it nothing. To those who think that befriending a Vapi guy is a ticket to Daman. To those people who’ve stayed here and laugh the town off. To those who ask me, “Vapi and magic?” To those who agree with people who say “There’s nothing here.”

I address this to them.

Vapi is nothing special. Many would have told you that. Except that despite being a small railway station of only two properly functioning platforms, it is awash with trains. Connectivity via trains is something Vapians are spoilt with – just ask those Daman folk! Rajdhani (August Kranti), Shatabdi, and many other long distance trains have a halt at Vapi. It often is the only intermediate stop between Mumbai and Surat. Which means the station is a hub of activity every time. You see, the road to Daman and Silvassa is via the tracks of Vapi.

They say it’s nothing special. Except that it does, however, boast of a huge industrial area. Big companies like Sun Pharma, Meril Life Science, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, etc. Have their presence here. Did you know, that the towels which Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams etc. use during their Wimbledon matches are made at the Welspun plant in Vapi? There are a lot of industries, which means jobs. Which means opportunity. Which means a chance at building your life. Being the son of a man who did just that in this town, I think I know what that means. And I’m sure there will be many who agree with me – that even if you reach huge pedestals in life, you’ll always remember your first platform. Vapi has been a first platform for so many.

It’s nothing special, even food wise, with a tourist wealthy Daman beside it. But ask a localite who’s grown up here about Agnee’s Chocolate Balls, Friends’ Puffs and Sandwiches, Anna’s Eggs, Ramu’s Chinese, Jalaram’s Khaman, Famous’ Vada Pav, Mewad’s Faluda and Paradise’s Chicken! And if you’re an old timer like me, you’d remember the now closed (or rather differently run) Vapi Restaurant at Zanda Chowk. Take the vote of this guy who knows Surti food well, you won’t regret these!

It’s nothing special, there’s nothing to see here!” many may say. And I tell you to stay at Vapi and travel to the beaches of Daman and Nargol; the banks of Daman Ganga river and Dudhni, to Tadkeshwar Mahadev Temple, Barumal and Parnera Temple. Relax at the natural beauty at Khanvel. The Gateway to South Gujarat’s tourist places, with it’s optimally placed location, is Vapi.

You can’t talk about a town without talking about it’s people. A multi cultural town, you’ll find all kinds of languages spoken here. And no matter where you’re from, people will ;help you out in whatever way they can. Even if we don’t know your language, we will use Gujjinglish and Gujindi to solve your problem out! And be sure to recieve any delicacies to taste from your neighbours if they are made at their place – because sharing is caring!

It’s nothing special, except for the fact that people would allow their kids to jump societies to play with kids from other societies without hesitation. Inter society tournaments were a big deal, because the best teams often were an inter mix of kids from different societies. That was often due to many societies being very close to each other. But we played. And we were allowed to play – and those who refused, gave us memories for life. Ask a Vapi kid as to how they dealt with people who refused to let them play and you’ll get more than enough for an evening.

Vapi is nothing special, yet you’ll never be at a loss of anything important. There aren’t many reasons you need to leave the town to get something done, unless of course its acute and highly extreme medical emergency – even then, there are facilities to take care of you really well.

And then, there’s the love you have to a place where you grew up. Where you talk about how you used to sit and chat at *that* place years ago. Marvel at how things have changed while you were away studying. Tell visiting friends from other cities about your addas. There’s the familiarity in every step, on every road, in every area. And there’s this magical feeling – home.

Four areas, three neighbouring union territories. Two parts, one Town.

You may say it’s nothing special.

But it’s pretty special.

Musings, Special

My Nights, His Sleep

See Also: To Her Ravaging Memoirs

It’s three in the morning. I stare at the ceiling, gazing at the dark nothingness, perfectly awake. Sleep had not bothered to knock on my doorstep, or rather, it was kept at bay by nothing significant.

If only I could believe what I just said.


Read more at: The Best Of Halfway To Asphodel: 2015-2017!