Aati kya khandala? (lets go to khandala?)

Here is an interesting story by Syed Abdul Qadir. Abdul Qadir is the force behind the Desert Friends. He along with several other friends, I started this newsletter for The Desert Friends called DFX.

He wrote this rather interesting story after the popular Hindi song "Aati Kya Khandala?" - sung by Aamir Khan. This story appeared in The Desert Times in its September 1998 issue.

By: Syed Abdul Qadir

It was Friday, Rakesh was singing climax song “pyar to hona hi tha” (a Hindi movie) Mahesh rubbed his eyes to see more clearly as for the past half an hour he had gone to sleep.It was Rakesh’s idea to see the movie Mahesh had gone along just to see Kajol (popular actress in India).

They were in Khandala, on their way to Mumbai.Both were coming from Pune, Maharashtra where Rakesh had a plastic factory.They had decided to spend and serene Khandala instead of the noisy and chaotic Saturday nights at RG’s or SlipDisc.

It was about 15 minutes walk from the ramshackle theatre Prabhat to the Diamond Hotel, where they chose to stay.There was cool breeze flowing through the trees lining the road.It made intriguing whispering sounds.Mahesh wanted to reach the hotel as quickly as possible, to finish off half the bottle of scotch still lying in the hotel room.But, Rakesh said, “saale, look at your paunch in a few days you will not be able to see your toes while standing let us walk and who knows we might be able to pick up some good company.

Bypass at Lonavala Khandala: Mumbai Pune Expressway
Bypass at Lonavala Khandala: Mumbai Pune Expressway | Source

Now, the group of people that had emerged from the theatre had already dispersed in different directions, leaving the two alone in the street leading to the hotel.“Look,” Mahesh said, “Rakesh, under the lamppost I can see a girl selling moong-fali (roasted peanuts).Let’s buy some and see if the moong-fali wali is as interesting”.Rakesh went to the girl whistling the song “pyar to hona hi tha”.He called out to the girl “ae chori, these peanuts look as fresh as you.We come from Mumbai and have come here just to eat peanuts of Lonavala, Maharashtra.He added softly “did someone tell you, you have beautiful eyes.But, do stop staring at me like that “kha jaogi kya?”

Khandala - a place to visit
Khandala - a place to visit | Source

Mahesh waited back and was watching the situation with interest he saw that the girl had a high forehead. Where the forehead ended, there started a drop of jet-back hair, swept backwards rather too neatly over her head. It fell over her shoulders almost touching the ground behind the stone on which she was sitting. The hair was tied in a single knot at the end it had a strange wet look. She wore a short sleeved clean white blouse and a colourful skirt which village girls wear for special occasions like melas, jatras (fair or village festivals).

She was slim and held her head upright in the posture that comes with balancing water pots on the head since childhood. Her eyes were the most captivating in the point of being frightening. They sparkled in the light thrown by the small kerosene lamp kept beside her. The basket, which held the peanuts, was made of wicker and had pieces of coloured paper stuck around the outer sides. The basket had a slightly raised bottom, which was partitioned, into three sections each containing roasted grams, peas and salted peanuts. In the section containing grams there was an earthen pot with handle made of steel wire but covered with a thick cloth. The pot contained small pieces of burning coal, which kept the roasted merchandise warm. The girl’s skirt was neatly wrapped around her knees and tucked behind her calves as she sat in a squat position. She wore silver anklets but her feet!

Her Legs
Her Legs

Oh! My God! Was the involuntary scream that rose in Mahesh’s throat? Her feet were turned backwards with the heel in front and the toes at the back. The girl swung her head towards Mahesh with blazing eyes. Mahesh saw that Rakesh was bending over to collect the peanuts being handed to him in the paper cone. Mahesh pulled him back by his shoulders and hissed in Rakesh’s ear “Rak, look at her feet.” And by the time he grasped the situation Mahesh was already running away and yelling at him to run. He followed him and soon joined the huffing and panting Mahesh.

It was clear they had to stop somewhere or Mahesh would simply collapse. Just as they were turning a bend, they saw help in the form of a Tanga (a carriage pulled by horse), which was luckily empty. Their shouts made the confused Tanga Walla stop and look with wonder at the two frightened creatures. Mahesh without saying anything jumped into the backseat of the single horse drawn carriage. It made the Tanga lurch down towards the road. Rakesh too jumped in beside Mahesh and shouted out to the Tanga Walla, “Diamond, le chalo (proceed to Diamond)”. Without any protest the Tanga driver struck his whip on the flanks of the emaciated horse. The horse started forward at a gentle trot.

Nobody spoke for the first few minutes. The Tanga Walla in his gruff voice tried to make conversation by saying “Saab, what happened? Is everything alright?” The question brought back both the friends to reality. After some time Rakesh mustered courage and narrated the events. The Tong Walla patiently listened to him without interrupting. At the end he said silently “Saab, you have seen Lata, who died on that particular road in a fatal road accident 15 years back. At the same spot. But did she look like this?”

On turning back for an answer, the friends saw the same girl sitting a place of the Tanga driver and he was nowhere to be seen.

Tanga - a horse driven carriage - used in India quite often.
Tanga - a horse driven carriage - used in India quite often. | Source

Mahesh was the first to jump out from the moving carriage. As he hit the road he lost his balance and fell down. Rakesh jumped out and ran towards him supporting the limping Mahesh he ran into a street on their right they wanted to scream but fear had stolen their voices.

Mahesh loudly thanked God at the site of a lighted house, which from far looked like a guesthouse. They ran through the main gate and up the stairs leading to the porch. The sound of their footsteps alerted a dozing Gurkha (a watchman usually from Nepal). The Gurkha stopped them by banging his cane on the floor. The cracking sound followed by the loud “kidhar jaata hai (where are you going?)” put brakes on to their sprints. Rakesh immediately blurted out the full happenings of the past couple of hours to the annoyed gurkha.

His story calmed the Gurkha, who listened to the end and then nodding his head said, “saabji, you have seen Lata, who was killed in a road accident at the spot 15 years ago, but did she look like this?”

The familiarity of the question, tone and voice made both Rakesh and Mahesh turn towards it and there was Lata laughing at them and gazing with her same fiery eyes.

The author’s friend was a police sub-inspector at Khandala police station where the hysterical Rakesh came for help. Mahesh was found the next day on the steps of the Guesthouse. He had suffered a massive heart attached.

So, next time somebody says, “Aati Kya Khandala?” you know who waits for you there!

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