Not being a frequent bus traveller, I had forgotten that there are still seats reserved for women. The elderly gentleman who got up to offer the seat was easily twice my age and more. Touched, I declined with much embarrassment. He beamed at me and gave me the Bangalore bus stop sweet smile. The ‘Lets exchange our deepest and most secret family details’ look. Not that old Bangalore had any conception of secret. None of these modern notions of privacy and reserve. The average bus stop companion would, at his height, tell you everything about himself including the house mortgage, his brother in law’s financial shenanigans and son’s trouble with maths, and be hurt and insulted if you didn’t trade in equally intimate sounding stories from your side. I was just thinking with a slight twinge of regret for lost colour that people don’t do that anymore, when the elderly gentleman coughed.
EG: You are working or studying?
Me: Studying..(expectant look)..doing a PhD in Molecular Biology..(I had learnt to tag on the ‘molecular’ after a couple of chidings from my mother-‘Why cant you say it when thats what you re doing? Always inhibited!’ and in response to my protest that there was no need to sound unnecessarily fancy, ‘Thats what I mean’! ).
EG (beaming): Verry good! How many years course it is?
Me: Its meant to be 5, but varies..because its hard to define how much is enough, and depends on your professor also
EG (sympathetic and surprised): From 5 years you are doing high energy work??
Me (lost): No, I don’t do any high energy work. And its not been 5 yet..but Why..?
EG: Thats the fashion no? Like that I read in newspaper!
Me: umm..not in biology i think..
EG (not paying attention): you are a nice girl, you listen me, how much they pay you??
Me (getting more and more lost): What?
EG (dismissively): Anyway wont be much. All the money in this city goes to these software engineers (our bus stopped in some eternal small jam) see! This also is because of them only! I have told my son, you study and gain knowledge, no working in a software company!
Me (impressed): thats nice, I m sure not too many people take that attitude!
EG (confidentially): Thats why I am asking you, Saturday Sunday 11 to 1! Or 4 to 6 is also ok. We re not rich people, but we want our son to do a phd. His grandfathers dream..he again beamed, possibly from memory.
Me: Thats very nice, but what do you want me to do??
EG (a little exasperated at my denseness): Come and take physics tutions! You are nice girl and You are doctor of physics no?? My son is very bad at physics (shook his head)..how much we are telling him study properly, always playing cricket, football, like this only!
Me (enlightened) : Oh! No I m very sorry but I m studying Biology like I said.. (and maybe the poor boy should be allowed to play)
EG (pushing aside an irrelevant detail): So what , PhD means you re becoming doctor of physics finally no??
Me ( now figuring the new full form of PhD): Ah. Unfortunately no, thats Doctor of philosophy! But i m sure your son will be fine sir, let him enjoy his school days (who knows, might help the poor guy!)..
And i added a v kannada line ‘aamele idde ide’ loosely meaning later anyway he has to face things. The line registered atleast. He sighed.
Then, cheering up, ‘So you study philosophy’??
That was around when my stop came, so I couldn’t figure out who needed philosophy tuitions but it was a nice touch of old Bangalore after quite a while!:))