“Bihari, tomorrow I have to leave for Pune at 5.00 AM,” said Sujata Ramachandran Iyer to Mundu. She continued, “So keep coffee and biscuits ready at 4.30.”
The next day she left the house at 5.00 AM. Bihari was alone in the house. He did all the household work quickly. Then he felt bored. He thought he would go and check out the city.
He locked the door and started walking on the road. There was a Shiva temple on the way. He prayed and took charnamrit from the pandit, who was sitting on the veranda. The pandit knocked on the plate in front of him. This was the way he told Mundu that he wanted dakshina. Mundu did not understand and he also knocked on the plate. The priest uttered irritably, “Kutun aala aahe he namoona? (Where did this specimen come from? – Marathi)”
Bihari asked, “Kya namoona ji? Kis cheez ka namoona? (What specimen? – Hindi)”
Just then other devotees started to throng the place, so Bihari decided to leave.
He was leaving the temple on the footpath. He had been told by elders that while leaving a temple you should not show your back to the idol. He stepped back as advised by his elders, but bumped into a man, who had come to the temple.
The man shouted at Bihari, “Oh Bey, Ghochu! Tula mage pan dole pahije. (Oh, Dumb Fellow! You need eyes even behind you. – Marathi.”
Bihari had just started studying English and had only recently learnt the word “Obey”. Coming from this man, the words he said sounded like the word he had learnt and Bihari immediately stood arms crossed across his chest and bending a little forward like a student obeying his teacher. “Mafi ji, mera naam Bihari hai. Ghochu nahin. (Forgive me, my name is Bihari. Not Ghochu. – Hindi)”
The man mumbled to himself, “Kutun aala aahe? Kai mahiti? (Where has he come from? Who knows? – Marathi.”
And the man walked towards the shrine and Bihari also left.
At some distance further, he saw school-going children walking on the footpath with their escort. The man was saying, “Mulano baghun chala. (Children walk carefully – Marathi)”
To this, Bihari put in, “Kahan hai moola? (Where is moola or mooli – radish? – Hindi) You should not deceive the children like this. It is a bad habit.”
On hearing what Bihari just said, the man looked at the boy from head to foot and walked on.
This made Bihari lament, “Oh, what a city!”
Next he noticed a Shakhahari Bhojanalay (vegetarian restaurant). He went inside and sat at one of the available tables. One of the waiters came towards him and asked, “Kanda pao doon? (Can I serve onion and bread?)”
Bihari exclaimed, “Oh no!” and started to get up.
That’s when the server asked, “Batata pao doon? (Can I serve potato and bread?)”
Bihari was shocked. He placed a hand on his mouth and asked, “Arey shakahari bhojanalay likha hai. (It is written that this is a vegetarian restaurant.) Aur aap yahan kandhe ka pao aur Bhatji ke atta ka pao bechte ho? (And you are selling bread made of someone’s shoulders and you make bread from the powder of the priest?) This is a non-vegetarian hotel. You are cheaters and sinners!”
People sitting on other tables began laughing, so the waiter hurriedly explained to Bihari that all the dishes he had told him were vegetarian. Thus Bihari decided to have one potato pao with tea.
After eating, he paid the bill and was about to leave, when the server murmured, “Yeda kahin ka! (Mad fellow! – Marathi and Hindi mixed – it is called Bombaiya Hindi.)”
Bihari turned back and asked him, what he had said. Flustered, the waiter replied, “I just commented that you are new to this place.”
When Bihari left the place, he did not know which way to go, so he looked in this direction and that to find his way. One man saw him and asked, “Kai pahije? (What do you want? – Marathi)”
Bihari said, “Yeda kahin ka!”
The man slapped him and went his way.
Bihari placed a hand on his injured cheek, without even asking the reason why he had slapped him, left the place looking at the man.
Thus he stumbled over a boy, who was walking with his mother.
She shouted, “Kutria! Melia! (Dog! Dead man! – Marathi)”
He asked, “Kya kaha? (What did you say? – Hindi)”
“Maine bola, tu bahut acha hai (I said, you are a very good person – Hindi),” she replied.
Then he reached a pan (betal leaf) shop and purchased a meetha (sweet) pan and forgot to pick up the change. The panwala (the pan shop owner) called him back to take the change. Bihari returned to pick up the change and he uttered, “Kutria! Melia!”
The moment the panwala heard these words, he came out of his shop and started beating him, “Main tera paisa wapas kiya toh tu gali deta hai? (I returned your money and you call me names?)”
Being beaten was the worst thing that happened to him, he thought and walked further.
That moment he saw a woman being hit by a motorbike. As she fell on the road, she uttered, Bankey Bihari, main mari! (Bankey Bihari – one of the names of Lord Krishna- I die!)
When Bihari heard his name being called, he ran to the rescue of the woman, he first took her to the hospital for treatment in an auto-rickshaw and then dropped her at her home.
He was happy. At least this day did not end with only misadventures for him. Thus, he decided that he would learn Marathi language and returned home.
Wah, Mundu, wah!