'There is something about this place! I will take the Rs.500 trip.' he said with the animated tone that I have heard a million times before. That's how my friend Gopi is. There is a strange affinity between crowded market places, religious centers and restaurants with the sketch book in Gopi's hands. At the same moment the silent boat man seized his opportunity to impress us with his knowledge about the confluence. When he opened his mouth to say something I couldn't help but stare at his mouth. A red juice flowing ingeniously from the corners of his mouth.
'Saab, we are riding over the river Ganga now. Ganga Matha (mother) protects all of us from sins we commit. This place is no ordinary one Saab, it's the holy Prayag where three rivers - Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswathi meet. That's why Saab it's also called Triveni Sangam. I will take you around and show you the whole place' he paused to spit in to the water of the sacred Ganges. I continued to stare in dis-belief. Gopi was not interested in the 'guide cum boatwallah'. He was busy drawing sketches. Tired of staring at the red juice which the boatwallah continuously spitted out, I peeped into the book.
Though I was never convinced with the places of choice I seldom disagree that Gopi is an artist of great caliber. His fingers clutched around the pencil moved majestically covering the white paper with life through his images. He was now sketching, a boatwallah feeding the birds. His eyes traveled from the subject to the paper at quick intervals. Our neighbor at first didn't notice anything at all. Then when the distances between the boats reduced he began to express slight curiosity. He grew restless and inquired with our boatwallah 'Saab is boating officer? What he is writing in the book about me?' in Hindi with a heavy Bhojpuri accent. Gopi becomes dumb and deaf while sketching. I ignored the growing tensions and decided to wait and watch.
I examined 'Gopi the officer'. spectacles, dressed in formals, of course there was no tie, a medium sized bag containing sketch books, pencils, erasers, threads, charcoal pieces and what not. Yes, he may pass for an officer. And me, his assistant?. Our boatwallah examined us now in the new light thrown upon by his friend and looked doubtfully at us. Within no time both men started apologizing, falling to Gopi's feet for not having realized the 'facts' earlier. Gopi's face grew pale. He looked at me and I was laughing uncontrollably. I had to let go at this time so I cleared the whole thing saying 'Saab is making a picture of you thats all'. Gopi showed him the completed sketch and the old man smiled gratefully. I volunteered to take the picture of the sketch and the old man.
The two boatwallahs exchanged words in an unknown language. I continued to look around for more interesting things while Gopi was searching for the next target.