The hills are alive
With the sound of music,
With songs they have sung
For a thousand years...
…sang Maria in the opening scenes of the evergreen Sound of Music. But the song reverberating through the Bhimtal hills these days has just been around for the last five years or so and goes something like this:
Dekh, dekh, dekh, tu yahan vahan na fek .. Dekh, dekh, dekh, tu yahan vahan na fek .. Dekh phailegi bimaari, hoga sabka bura haal .. Toh ka karein bhaiya ? Gadi wala aaya, ghar se kachra nikal .. Gadi wala aya, ghar se kachra nikal ..
Originally written and sung by Shyam Bairagi, this peppy number has spread all the way from his hometown in Mandala, MP to Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Bihar, UP, Goa, Maharashtra, and Uttarakhand. Nagar palikas in all these states have adopted this song to be played on loudspeakers atop their garbage pickup vans, as they go around collecting garbage from houses. The song has acquired almost a cult status, with YouTube offering many versions of the song , including PUBG and Bollywood. The Bollywood version alone has more than 11 million views.
In Bhimtal, the ‘Gadi’ or Garbage Van comes around once in two days. It rattles on along the tal and then makes its way to the houses and villages on the Bhimtal-Naukchiatal road, going up and down each hillock. The van driver prefers that you dump the garbage while he is coming downhill rather then when he is going up the hill. So it is usual to see groups of people hanging around at different forks on the road, garbage pails by their side.
The twisty turvy hill roads and the fact that our house is open from three sides make it difficult to determine whether the song is playing somewhere down the hill, up the hill, on a parallel hillock, or right outside. To add spice to the situation, there is no fixed time for the garbage van – we have seen it come around as early as 7:30 in the morning and as late as 4 pm in the evening. If you miss the van one day, you have to wait another two days for a chance to get rid of your garbage. So I guess it is only natural that as soon as we start hearing the first strains of the song, one of us dashes out to the balcony or the the stairs, trying to determine where the sound is coming from.
Last week, the Gadi Wala didn’t turn up on the expected day. Did we all miss the song? Maybe it came at daybreak before we got up. Shish! Two days pass. Still no sign of the Gadi Wala. The garbage pail (a big, slightly cracked plastic bucket) is three-fourths full by this time. Maybe the Gadi Wala’s sound system is out of order, suggests my husband. It has happened before.
For the next two days, my mom spends the entire morning in the balcony on the lookout. I too shift my laptop to the balcony and work from there wherever possible. But no luck. The Gadi Wala still eludes us. We check with our neighbors – can you give us a ring when the Gadi Wala comes? Oh, we haven’t seen him too, they say. They are not as anxious as us. They have a huge garden where they can dispose of the wet waste, so there is nothing to stink up their kitchen.
On widening our field of inquiries, we learn that the garbage collectors are on strike! The situation has become desperate. The overflowing bucket now has smaller polybags for company. We decide to risk it one more day. If not…we eye an unused plot at the foot of our building. Perhaps we can dig a hole there and lay down GB (the garbage’s been with us so long, it seemed only right to name it) to rest.
The next day, it rains heavily since dawn. There is neither hope that the Gadi wala will turn up, nor a chance for us to start digging. We have resigned ourselves to living with GB for another day.
I’m in the bathroom when I think I hear the strains of the Gadi wala song from the bathroom window. It’s around two in the afternoon and still raining heavily. I call out to my husband to go out and check, and rush through my bath. My hubby reports that he can neither see any sign of the van nor hear any song. We step out to the stairs, looking out from the window in the corridor. I again think I can hear a faint note or two coming from somewhere up the hill. Possibly just your imagination, says my husband, who can only hear the downpour. Still we both remain there, looking hopefully.
A few minutes later, sure enough, we both hear the strains of Gadi wala aaaya. Stay here and keep your eye on the road, I tell my husband. I rush in to get the bucket and the bags. He carries everything down, and waits by the shelter of a Moringa tree. About five minutes later, the much awaited Gadi Wala materializes around the bend of our road. My husband efficiently dumps GB & sons into the Gadi and returns triumphantly. I continue to watch the Gadi, as some people come rushing out of houses in the rain to make their own contribution.
Thank God for the Gadi Wala! I hum “Gadi wala aaya, ghar se kachra nikal” throughout the rest of the day.
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