And so today Koni (my friend Choudary alias Koni alias Chow alias Ravi alias Shiva etc) called me early and asked me if I was game for a ride to see the farm and other lands nearby. It was fine weather so I jumped at the offer and met him at Srinagar colony. It was probably 915 that time.
Koni was all enthusiasm and told me that we will first drop in for a moment's work at Tank Bund where he was coordinating all the cranes for the Ganesh nimmajjanam. It is obviously an important job so I nodded and went along. Once we went to his mobile office, (a container that is nicely done up on the inside to serve as a mobile office), parked right outside NTR gardens I had this old sinking feeling. Outings with Koni, especially the 'just a moment ones' are notorious for all night, all day and if you have the time could take all week as well. Many times in our youth, when we had much time to spare, many of us got caught in these 'just a moment' jobs and before we knew it we were whisked off to some Godforsaken place in the middle of the night, with no place to sit, slapping away at mosquitoes, hoping for some food at some point, surviving on tea (if at all), sometimes holding torches, flashlights for the mechanics to work, carrying diesel and spare parts and many such jobs that are in the least enjoyable. Several times we got caught but we learned with experience and learned to stay away. But even to this day, some of us do get trapped in that 'just a moment' trap and its all deja vu after that.
One reason why Koni's 'just a moment's' are so famous is because he is so entertaining. He will have no money in his pocket. No diesel in his car. No support. No idea what he is doing (sometimes). Definitely no idea what the other guys are doing. But he will be all enthusiasm. He will never be in the least apologetic despite all the long faces you pull (I am the king of long faces and he has put up with that for decades now) and in fact laugh at your predicament. After sometime you realise that there is no use of that long face and you tend to join in with the laughter. Somehow he will get diesel on credit. Somehow he will get money on credit. Somehow we will be all feasting at some weird place which suddenly starts serving the most delicious food. I guess that is one of the advantages of his great enthusiasm and never-say-die attitude to life. One reason why its great fun to recount those trips with the incomparable Koni. The same trip for anyone else in the world - people would willingly slit their throats before doing anything like that. But with Koni its a totally different thing.
Anyway time ticked by slowly. At 1030 I pulled the first long face and drowned the mobile office with a disapproving silence. No one bothered. I looked for long at my mobile. I stared longingly at auto rickshaws. I sipped at the chai that was served. I looked hard at the sheaf of paper he was making small entries in and coordinating with other crane operators. I never once went close enough to peek at that sheet. (Now if Koni was in my position he would have read those papers thoroughly and given me a million suggestions on how to improve this whole operation, and then moved out and improved the situation outside as well.) The clock ticked to 1130. Just as I was shuffling in my place an associate came and a quick meeting was held. At 12 he wound up the meeting and announced that we were on the way out. I walked silently to the car. We took off and went around the island. 'Shit, no money,' he said and turned back. Familiar words. He stopped at the office and called his manager and asked him to get some money across. Again we turned the car around and off we went over the Khairtabad flyover when he got a call. 'Just now...abhi aa raha hoon...saab,' he said and turned back again. I told him that if it was a long meeting I'd head home. He assured me that it would be a short one. Thankfully it was.
And then he chose to take the longest, highest traffic density route to Shamshabad. We crawled through traffic at Moazzamjahi Market and bumped ourselves on really bad routes as we headed to Shamshabad. We finally stopped at 230 pm and grabbed some lunch at 'Nellore vari Mess' - a hot favourite with the man. Unfortunately the restaurant chaps were building a new place and had set up a temporary place by the side which was crammed to the gills even then. Lunch kind of softened me and we laughed our way through rain into some really dangerous roads. Of course he stuck his head out most of the time in the rain and yelled loudly in delight as the rain blew into him while I rolled my window up and kept out every drop of rain. After a while he looked at me bewildered and admitted that he was lost. And then he turned and took a turn into a road which was now resembling a small river. We went into big potholes, not knowing what was beneath, skidded on muddy roads, lurched and heaved and somehow reached the place he wanted to show me. Nice. We stopped at his farm for a while. He wanted to see his sheep (two), dogs (two), buffaloes (one or two, they never made an appearance), cabbages etc. I merely checked out the guava trees which have some of the sweetest and ate a couple. He was quickly done with the farm and we headed off bumping and bouncing.
On the highway I asked him in a confident voice what the plan was. It was almost 345 pm and we had rough rides so I thought he might want to fold in. He jauntily swerved the car towards Gandipet which has been reported in the local news as overflowing. It is not a huge dam or anything, just a lake that was full. But that is good enough. And so we drove for miles and miles, picked up some college kids with the most irritating ring tones, and landed up at Gandipet which was so crowded that you could not get out of the car. We dropped the kids and turned back, without seeing the water. What? This was not Koni. I would have done something like that, but not this guy. Not a word from him. He was all appreciation for all the other guys who were getting their families to see the lake. And once we hit the highway I knew his plans - he was going around the back of the lake! It was some fifty kilometres more certainly, and we did manage to see a small stretch of water at the back end of the lake. He stopped to buy 'fresh' vegetables from some local farmers meanwhile. I preferred to sit in the car and wait. And then we drove to him Chilkur land which was having an even more difficult access. We first cut across some open field, then followed a motorbike on a single bike track which was progressively getting narrower, slushier and more water logged. I think for the first time, he actually backed off from that road after a while, much to my surprise, saying that it was too risky. Getting old, Koni is.
We drove for a couple of hours after that, on roads that once had been there, trying to get back home, The traffic was crazy after we hit civilization but that did not bother him one bit. He was all praise for a new one way that had come into play at Krishna Nagar and shared a couple more new ideas on traffic management. Just before we stopped near my car at Srinagar he got another brainwave. How about coffee? I was too far gone by then and agreed. And before we got ten metres ahead, we got stuck in the biggest jam ever. Koni burst out into laughter and says 'Wonder whose face you saw when you got off the bed today.' I can do nothing but smile. Or better. Laugh. We had the coffee, ate some chaat, refreshed ourselves and he dropped me back.
Last I heard he was calling someone up and making plans for the later half of the evening. I crawled into my car and drove home. It can be rather hectic with Koni you know. I was thankful we did not have a flat, did not run of of fuel, did not have a breakdown, did not run into cops, or dacoits - all high possibilities when our man is around.
Things seem to be changing for the better.