My interviewee is a person I share much with - a biology education, a stint at TIFR with K S Krishnan, a love of nature and now haikai literature. Though his association has been much older and much richer than mine, to emerge over time as one of India's leading haiku and
As he describes himself, "Johannes Manjrekar grew up mostly in Mysore, South India. Childhood love for mucking around with insects and birds eventually led to a PhD in molecular biology. Has been teaching at the Microbiology Department and Biotechnology Centre of Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda for many years. Speaks six Indian languages (counting English!) and one non-Indian. In addition to haikai style writing, very enthusiastic about photography."
Interspersed with the questions are Johannes' haiku and haibun (reproduced with his kind permission).
The loo stinks, the tap runs and can't be closed. The risk of dying of a urinary tract infection or asphyxiation is still the same. The sole policeman visible, young and unarmed, is ostensibly guarding the ladies' first class. The rather bright lights are a change though, but they seem to make the place seem a wee bit less crowded. Seem. There are people sitting on the platform, waiting for their trains. Many in their Sunday best. Popcorn-sellers, peanut-sellers, kulfi-sellers are trying to get me to shed some money towards them, even as I wait for the samosa-seller.
the old woman sweeps up
It's getting on eight (time for the Titwala Fast to leave), and last-minute boarders are jumping in. The popcorn-seller is taking his last chances before he moves to the 8:13 Khopoli Slow. I don't know how many of the guys around me are pass-holders or even bothered to buy tickets. I do know the police didn't fr…
The grubby boy washes out the steps of the half-closed eatery. A dog stands by; tail a-wag in expectation. In the next shop, a light peeps from beneath a nearly closed shutter. The butcher's shop is still open where a gaunt attendant scrubs a knife. Blood mixes with grime as it flows out to the gutter, only to be dammed by cabbage and mango leaves.
The marigold and jasmine seller cries out to the hurrying passers-by, “Three for the price of one.” So does the vegetable woman, her head half-covered, as her voice shears the silence. Eloquent and persuasive, the cadences rise and fall as she plies her rehearsed pitch.
A shutter closes with a clang, followed closely by a motorcycle roar that soon groans away into the darkness. The clock-tower rings and I quicken my pace. I can hear the hum of the last bus' engine, and the whines of the drunk I shoved and sent swerving across the street. Elbows clash as I run through the customers of the busy, busy cigarette shop, but the bus has b…