by Nuggehalli Pankaja
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
I was in the doctor’s shop when this conversation cropped up of a sudden. Perhaps it was inspired by the couple holding on to crutches? By the fear stricken look on their faces? "Accident to both of them simultaneously! How tragic! While on scooter?”
One of the other patients asked sympathetically, “On which road?”
The couple looked at each other, then burst out laughing.
“I don’t know how to operate a scooter.” The man explained.
“Neither do I.” The wife joined her voice, “That’s why it sounded so funny! But nothing wrong in your asking.” She hastened to add-“Usually scooters, motorbikes are the main cause for the accidents we read and hear, these days.”
“Lorry and bus drivers are equally bad!” Argued a youth who had come on his scooter, “At least we have some fear. . . however urgent, we make it a point to halt our vehicle, apologize, and offer help, but they just hit and run!”
“Recently a young man like you, came upon me suddenly while I was crossing the road, rushed from the wrong side as though he was on a royal mission, hit me from behind, saw me fall down, but sped away without a backward glance,” said an old man sitting quietly in the corner. He raised his dhoti, and showed the wound on the limbs. “I have been finding it difficult to walk, but with hundred and one important tasks awaiting me, and no children around to take care of us, I have to go about, limping-or dying.”
Naturally, it brought tears to everyone’s eyes.
“Bangalore traffic is proving very dangerous to pedestrians.” They all agreed. “We don’t know where to cross, which route to take; Very rarely do we find any policeman on duty-and even if he is there, he looks the other way, or is in the hotel sipping coffee………public complaints have brought no good results………….”
“We fell down in our house only” Now, the couple were eager to tell their harrowing experience-“Thanks to the jaipur beauties……”
“Jaipur beauties?”- All raised their eyebrows-“ Of whom are you people speaking about?”
“Who else, but the beautiful marble-mosaic floorings in everyone’s flats nowadays?” When the couple retorted, they didn’t know whether to laugh or commiserate.
“Marble or mosaic, they are the same-lovely to behold, but dangerous to enjoy, being as slippery as a dancer to hold! Time was when residents would think it a status symbol to own houses-flats with such floorings, little knowing the perils involved.
Now, it has become a social problem, whether at home or outside. In the beginning, it gave a wondrous feeling- the beautifully designed mosaic floorings. It was sheer pleasure to look at them, to walk on them, till they began to slip and fall. . . . .reminding them of the mirage the Kaurava king Duryodhana encountered while strolling in the fabulous palace of the Pandavas. Duryodhana fell, and Draupadi laughed, Duryodhana got insulted, Kurukshetra took place.
“Same Kurukshetra takes place in our homes whenever anybody spills water, and forgets to wipe it; we spend most of the day blaming each other, giving lectures ,and going about ever armed with wiping cloth.”
“And we just can’t see that water at all-these marble and mosaic are so deceptive!”
“ One has to walk slowly, very carefully—many have slipped and broken their limbs………..”
“Fracture doesn’t mend in old age…….” Conversation flowed like this for some time.
They spoke about the marble steps every temple big or small, in posh locality or dingy one, was flaunting.Thinking they would go to heaven, the donors had contributed towards the steps, with their names inscribed.
“Their devotion has landed all other bhaktas in a soup.” The couple grumbled, and everyone agreed, knowing how dangerous the steps could be –awfully slippery due to rain, and greased due to pujas.
Even public buildings were having marble steps,to give a look of grandeur to their façade, and that many a time without railings, so that even youngsters have tripped and suffered injuries, during rain, or after rain, worst are Banks.
I “recently went to the bank I frequently go, renovated its spacious hall-by making it a marble one. A big drum of water is kept at the other end, with the good intention of slaking the thirst of the customers, but it is proving highly dangerous to the senior citizens who come there to collect their pension. The thirsty customers thoughtlessly spill water and walk away without another glance behind. Naturally, the area around, including the opposite end becomes watery, with nobody to swap. We senior citizens find it terribly dangerous to walk all the way to the counter”-Another old man sitting like a mouse till now, aired his views, “But walk we must, to draw our pensions.”
“On the whole, these modern floorings and steps etc are posing big problems.” I, a silent listener till now, conjectured-“Yes, it is fascinating to have such floors, but the hazards involved?”
Naturally, everyone had begun to think longingly of the old safe floorings, before the lure of Maharaja-style trapped them. Oh, it was a different case for Maharajas living in marble palaces, with those shining floorings. Maharajas,always had an entourage around to prevent them from any mishap.
In contrast, Kadapa stones which were used mainly in all the residences of our forefathers, were really safe; Somewhat of a black granite appearance, children could toddle around, run as much as their little legs could carry them.
And if there was water, it would be clearly visible, could be wiped with cloth-dried in a minute! After a time ,redoxide became the fashion, the gleaming spread highly inviting when kept clean. Kadapa stones lost their place.
In many places redoxide floorings were done in the Italian fresco-method, increasing demand. Alas, now they are also not seen anymore, having been shelved aside…………!
To be frank, we old-timers miss that crimson hue of the red oxide, glowing like sunset sky when swept and swabbed, and also the way old ladies moved about briskly through the spacious houses ministering to the wants of numerous members! No slipping down, breaking of bones; But now? The way they walk, almost like brides, with eyes scanning the ground (Lest there be water), and shaking with trepidation at the slightest imbalance! What a pathetic sight! Has the change been worth it? Speaking for myself, No, but then, the floor doesn’t look so dirty even if the maid-servant skips work for a couple of days…………………****