"Daamanna jumped into the neighbour’s well last night!" Devappa announced, and released a long jet of saliva shaded scarlet red by the ‘bachhire‘ he was chewing, above my head as I was entering Narayana’s Saloon for a haircut.
Aghast, I jumped off to a side but the jet straight away went and landed in the garbage bin by the footpath!
Excellent aim, I exclaimed.
"Not quite, compared to my aim 5years ago" Devappa replied with a smile of disapproval.
"It is the adultration in sunna (lime) that’s the culprit. No power in it at all! Betel leaf tastes like paper. Absolutely useless! I have decided to switch over to jarda, even if I die of cancer!" He looked firm in his decision.
I reassured him that Mangaloreans don’t die of cancer eating jarda or paan. I also tried to quote him a dozen examples.
"What happened to that Daamanna’s story?" asked Narayana, as he ran his hair machine at amazing speed over the head of a rather skinny chap in his 40’s.
"Daamanna was drunk to the nose and he wanted his wife to serve him ‘thorake pulimunchi’ for supper. His wife got angry and beat him with the broom.?
He threatened her to kill himself and she shouted – ‘Poyaa be…si! Nikk moonk mutta pari bokka thorake ijjande unas kanteld jeppuji athaa?! Yer….ninna amme deethenaa kaasda gant, thorake kanayere? Po sayyla….!‘
And she tossed the broom at his head! Now Daamanna got very angry and he straight away jumped over the compound wall of the neighbour’s house and took a dive into the well."
"Che Che Che! Paapa yaarigoo inthaa saavu barabaaradu…!" whispered the skinny in pure Kannada.
"Neevu solpa summane koothkolli Battre! Entaa kebi pittaale maraayre! Nimage yaaru aelidaru Daamanna sattharu endu? Nimage gotthilladiddare summane koothkollbeku adhika maathanaadabaaradu!" Devappa shouted.
Skinny Battre sank in his seat, and Narayana suddenly missed his haircutting rhythm and snipped off a small portion of Battre’s left ear lobe!
"Ayyayyao…! Ammaaaa…!Satthe…..!" Battre saw blood trickling down his chin and yelled in panic.
Two customers engrossed in reading last month’s ‘Screen’ slowly slipped the paper under the corner poy and slipped out of the Saloon, much faster and slicker than Mercury! They must have witnessed a murder before and must have been used as police witnesses too.
Narayana was cool and he slowly opened the overhead cabinet, downloaded the emergency medical kit and opened it to examine what was available for immediate attention!
I was reminded of the typical F.A. BOX in any service bus, almost empty or mostly containing remains of private papers and soiled yellow flannel wiping cloth owned by the bus conductor!
He turned around and called his assistant Yenkatesa.
Yenkatesa was outside the shop, happily nodding his head to the popular song from "Janwar" playing at Palke Krishnachar Hall – ‘Laal chhadi maidan chadi…..!’
"Yenkatesaa…! Volu saithambe………..maga!"(It is not decent enough to produce the exact words here!)
Yenkatesa entered the shop, looking like Narasimharaju in a typical Raj Kumar movie, still singing – "…maiddaann chaddi…kya koob laddi kya koob laddi!"
‘Wah..re Yenkatesa, Mohammed Rafi saab must be dying to listen to this!’, I thought!
Narayana dragged Yenkatesa to his private room, and I don’t know what happened there but I think, I heard some gasping sound for a while!
After two minutes, they both re-appeared and I saw Yenkatesa with red face, his eyes popped out like a malnourished child I had seen in ‘Jammiyavara Liver Cure’ ad in Chandamaama and his voice sounded like air coming out of a kitchen tap after three day’s cut in water supply!
Narayana, inspite of his killer instinct gave him yet another chance to live, I was relieved!
Yenkatesa slowly dragged his feet out of the saloon and disappeared into the ‘baitha moote’ behind Narayan’s saloon.
Devappa suddenly opened his sunna box, dipped his index finger in it, and took a generous knob of sunna and applied it to the wound on the left ear lobe of Battre.
"Innu nimage sanni kooda taagudilla! Naanu rama baana muttisiddene Battre. yeradu divasadalli nimage vosa kivi baradiddare nannannu eege kariyiri…..!" Devappa clicked his thumb against his middle finger to output a peculiar familiar sound like the one we do when we put forth a challenge to someone or when we call a waiter or a pet dog sometimes!
I wondered for what Battre will need that third new ear for, as long as he is restricted to use his original equipments!
Devappa continued the story of Daamanna – "As soon as Babyakka heard the sound of something big falling into the well, she got scared, and she came running to me, at Pakeeranna’s gadang, and she said – ‘ Enna pettha kaande poathini nanalaa pirau baijji Devappanna! Enku podige volandla avu guvelug laagindaa pand! Ora bale Devappanna.…’ She almost fainted, but I solaced her and went with her near the well."
"Nanthara neevu garuda paathaala haakidri allave?!" Battre curiously asked.
"Neevu kooda entha pedambu maraayre! Nimage solpa mathi iddare adhika maathaadabedi Battare…!" Devappa blasted out!
Battre shrugged his shoulders, and Narayana lost his concentration.
He said – "Neevu sari koothkolladidre innu illige baruvudu beda! Nanna mele kole aapaadane horisuva thanaka nimage nidde barudilla allave Battre?"
Battre sat straight and Narayana pushed his head and made him bow like a guilty boy caught red handed by his mother for stealing jaggery!
Devappa got back to his talk on Daamanna’s suicide attempt.
"We all searched for the cow and I have this three cell eveready battery light, which I purchased in last year’s Dassara eximission at Central Maidan! It is so powerful, that I use it to inspect my coconut trees in the night. I have spotted not less than 10 BERUs (Wild Cats) drinking bonda, by using this battery light! Some people are so impressed with it, that last year Jaimini Circus manager was asking me if I am interested in selling it. He said, it is more powerful than his search light, and he can use it in place of the out-dated one! Yaan korpuji pande! Aar onji saara rupai korndalaa yaan koraye!"
Devappa continued – "Anyhow, with the help of this battery light we found a man struggling for survival and I think, he had gone up and down twice already. Before he went down for the final round, I made up my mind and motivated Thimma to jump and save that drowning poor chap. Thimma obeyed me and within 10 minutes, he came up with the man hanging on his right shoulder. Then we realised that it is Daamanna! Still strong smell of country was coming out of his mouth and he was murmuring something like – ‘Ammere sorga samaana…Ajjere sorga samaana..!.
"Yaan Damannana kepthandeg onji kaith koriye…! Aa jana mathik batthini maathra atth, enna kaarg boordu bulipere shuru malthund!"
"He must have regretted what he attempted!" I asked.
"No no no! He did not regret it! He was sad about coming back to normal, and he was in a state of shock and he was nervous! He pleaded me to sponsor him another 160 country, but I refused and told him – ‘Thula Daamanna…Nikk eddenthini shokuda budedi, radd porluda baalelullaa. Daayeg akleg kashta korpaa…? Onthe theriyonlaa…!‘ for which Devaki, Daamanna’s wife said – ‘This is another drama. I have seen enough of it. Next time if he jumps again, I request you all…Dammayya imben mith deppodchi… Sayyere budle! Apaga maathra enkleg manokk samadaana!‘"
Suddenly there was grave silence all over, and all we could hear was the snipping sound of Narayana’s scissors.
I think, I heard the sound of a bus coming to a halt in front of the saloon.
"Kuloor…Panamboor…Surathkal….Kalavaaru…Mangalapete..Bajape…! Yereg povod….bega baley! Misquith bus itthe popundu!" announced Yenkatesa in his unmistakable croaked voice.
Before we all could wink, Battre jumped off the seat, threw away the cloth enveloping his bust, hurriedly placed 8 annas into Narayana’s hand and shot out like a bullet to catch the bus!
"Battreg popi kaala!" – Devappa said.
"They all must go one day, my dear friend! No one can stop anyone..!" – Father Albert D’Sa crossed his heart sadly and tried to console Devappa.
I declared – "I think, Battre has left his glasses on the counter!"
Narayana suddenly got confused, and shouted – "Yenkatesa…! Come fast and give Battre’s glasses back."
Yenkatesa was busy, admiring the beauty of Misquith Motors hybrid bus and he didn’t seem to hear what Narayana said!
"Balambe Yenkatesa….! Ee daane banjig thiandilekka boorondaa! Battrena Kannadaka koruya nayda maga!"
I admired Narayana for his excellent proficiency in gropming people. I decided to take training on ‘How to Handle Morons’ from Narayana!
Yenkatesa, after watching the bus disappear in the horizon somewhere near Lalbagh bus stop, looked in and asked – "Did you call me dhani?"
Narayana was spraying water on the head of a sobbing six year old child, while trying to console the child that ‘Everything’s going to be alright!’
He almost threw the sprayer bottle at Yenkatesa’s face, but realising that his uncle who was a Barber in Germany had presented the bottle to him 10 years ago, he calmed down and told Yenkatesa to disappear from this Bhooloka, and not to come back for the next century!
Yenkatesa looked disappointed, but he grinned and told me – "Maatha bussed aaji tyre aanda Misquit Bassed naaley!"
"Nadappuyaa pidai….!" – Narayana shouted, and Yenkatesa disappeared.
Narayana was more or less relaxed, when the small boy he was trying to give a "Crof", started yelling like hell and Narayana got panicky. He placed the trimming machine in my hand, asked Devappa to turn the fan regulator knob to high, and went down the stairs to reach Drawing Master’s shop across the road.
The child was howling like a starving African baby in an Indian News Reel that I had seen at Balaji Talkies last week!
Father of the child got up from the seat and started telling him not to cry. He complained that these Barbers are like butchers, and they don’t take care of small little babies and that they use the same old rusted machine that they use for adults, on babies as well!
Nobody observed that the baby had put its fingers below the seat and got them stuck between the height adjustment gear wheels!
I did! I removed his hand from the danger spot and gently patted him on the head.
He went on howling, and at least three people including Devappa started acting and singing songs such as ‘Beda Krishna Ranginaata Seere nenevudoo…’ and ‘Nanhe munne bacche teri mutthi mein kya hai…!’
Some elderly man suddenly got up, and started singing ‘Singaara Paati Nalla Paati Padka Dummaa…!’ while Narayana hurriedly entered and put a limbe peppermint in the child’s mouth.
The child looked at the old man singing ‘Singaara…’ and started to smile and say – ‘Dumma…Dumma..!’
The old man repeated – ‘Dumma…Dumma…Paati Padka Dumma!’
The child giggled and finally ended up laughing with joy! The old man lifted the child from the seat and placed him on the shoulders and went on dancing singing the song.
Devappa and other two guys joined him and I slowly moved out of the place, grumbliing, ‘It never fails! Last Sunday, Sunday before last…!’
Narayana reassured me – "Aithaara bale rayare! Eerena crof…, paast…malpuve!"
They say, there’s a new Saloon come up in Mannagudda called Hollywood Hair Dressers.
I prefer to stay with Narayana just for the simple reason that I can’t see all these great entertainers like Devappa, Battre, Yenkatesa, Singaara Paati and of course, Narayana!
Most of all…. Misquith Motors bus doesn’t go via Mannagudda!
Author: Rajanikanth Shenoy- India