AKBAR AMAR ANTHONY

The story about the presence of the railway gates in the town of Belgaum

The town has grown over the years, it had its share of communal concerns, and currently is becoming smart and converting itself into a city; but these brothers have held back, maintained their responsibility and performed their role of reminding the town of its native belonging. On one hand they are the performers, while on the other they uphold the idiosyncrasies of the town's behaviour. They, in fact have multiple guises - not by their own choice, but what the town chooses them to be.  Whatever they are, or they might be – one thing is for sure:

"When the brothers announce, “Anhoni ko honi karde, honi ko anhoni; Ek jagah jab jama ho teeno” (We make the impossible possible, and the possible impossible; When the three of us get together), the town is sent into a frenzy. Accompanied with a ringing noise of a bell, the brothers slowly start lowering their arms and with this gesture the theatrics of the town unveils itself. The speedometers of the vehicles suddenly reach a new high, the pace of the town at once attain its peak as everyone makes the final rush to get past the lowering arms. The silent town is suddenly disrupted with a crescendo of honking noises, rumbling sounds of engines and loud vocal calls in the local dialect.  

Near each of the brothers, on either side, the residents wait patiently with arms folded on their two-wheelers. Within which they manage to catch up with a college friend, nod towards a known face and even find space to stare at the girl from the nearby PU college. While some of the smart ones find out the possibility of making a sneaky last-minute escape under the brother’s arm.  Few enthusiasts, stoop and peep over the black and yellow sleeves only to make a judgement of how long the wait will be and hope that it isn't a goods train that is to pass. That would mean an extra few minutes of being held back within the cacophonical noise of the halted engines. 

This musical orchestrated by Akbar, Amar and Anthony is a performance that each resident, and even a temporary resident of the town have been a part of. It’s a performance that one doesn’t choose, but always ends up playing a part - due to the sheer power of presence of the three brothers - each day, a few times, religiously. It is a musical that underlines the tone of the town. As for the brothers, even when they are not performing a musical, they ascribe to become either landmarks, placeholders, meeting points, references and every other role around which allows a resident to orient themselves in the town. Instructions, discussions and references such as “1st gate war phula chan bastat, titech ghe” (Get the flowers from the lady next to 1st gate); “Mala 3rd gate kadun pick kar” (Pick me up from 3rd gate) and “2nd olandun right ghe” (Cross 2nd gate and then take a right) are the daily talking points of the town. Without the brothers, the town loses an identity to relate to their daily living. Due to their omnipresent nature they are not often given importance, but neither are they left ignored.  This granted presence, may be, is what makes the brothers one among the rest.

As the roar of the approaching train grows louder, the halted engines start to raise their decibels and soon make the move to squeeze themselves past to the opposite side at the earliest. Some wait slightly longer, to attempt to count the number of coaches in the train, while others continue to indulge in self-praise talks amidst the chaffing noise of the speeding train. As the crossover happens, the murmurs, the dialects, the discussions of time, train, navigation, chitter-chatter all just recede, and blend with the normalcy of the town; while the brothers repose to their usual posture of pointing their black and yellow sleeves up, towards the sky.

On the streets, while some raise their adrenaline, few others even choose to halt and finish some errands allowing the scene to unfold at its own pace. Murmurs in the town change to discuss the time of the day “it must be 7:30pm” some say while the others enforce the statement with experience: “Are! Aaj Chennamma Express time war nahi ali!” (Oh! today Rani Chenamma express has not arrived on time.)  Frequent/  visitors visiting others - either immediately get up from the sofa to leave leaving behind the half-finished chivada (snacks), or give themselves an extra fifteen minutes to gulp the Belgaum's special Kunda and some tea. The five minutes of the musical before the arms of the brothers drop down horizontal (read horijhontal in local lingo) to the ground – make the residents even bring out their expert navigational skills on advising detours, additional journey time, and even snack pit stops to make most of the time. 

His other brother, however, Akbar, stays much in the heart of the city. Therefore, revered, called out and attended by all.  His nature and his place of staying is such that all groups of people from the town visit him. The mornings are marked by residents who come to buy vegetables. The evenings by the younger crowd who hang around him to indulge in some local food such as alipak, shev puri, pav bhaji, dahi puri .While almost at all times, due to the commercial shops located alongside him, he never finds himself short of company. Akbar quite enjoys the attention that he receives, and he has made himself accessible to the town - to the extent that he even interacts with the scenarios around him. Often seen indulging in playful musicals such as “Parda hai parda; Parde ke peeche pardanasheen hai” (There'a a veil; There's a woman behind the veil) when he witnesses the ladies of the town with scarfs around the face riding two wheelers or at the other extreme profoundly humming “Shirdi wale Sai Baba; Aaya hai tere dar pe sawali” (The Lord of Shirdi, Sai Baba; The one with a question has come at your door) due to the close proximity of the temple to his place.

"Aaisa toh aadmi life mein do-heech time bhaagta hai... Police ka case ho, ya Goa ki taraf race ho... Tum kaahe mein bhaagta hai bhai?” (A person runs like this only for two reasons in life... Either it is a police case or race to Goa… Why are you running brother?), says Anthony with his hands raised parallel, pointing upwards. Anthony allows people, mostly on two wheelers, pass by him, through underneath his raised arms. Among the three brothers - who are connected by a single blood line, in this case the railway track - Anthony is the one, who stays on the outskirts of the city living with not much company, except for mere onlookers. Which is why maybe he is at most times seen singing to himself “"Main duniya mein akela hoon... Dil bhi hai khali, Ghar bhi hai khali...” (I’m alone in this world... My heart and my home, both are empty).

The brothers were as old as the town itself and over these years made themselves an integral part as they stood right in between the two parts of the town. Avoiding them was not possible. No one in the town made an extra effort to even bypass them. Each brother’s solitary presence was not their way of being in the town. It was, when they came together, and performed a musical. The musical would be performed regularly - each day; at the same time; in almost the similar manner. This is when the town engaged with them, and had no way to ignore their presence; but were compelled to perform to their tune.

Unlike Akbar, who always appears energetic, playful and full of life, the third brother is the most poised one. Amar is the most responsible one -  who stays in between Anthony and Akbar.  May be the presence of institutional buildings, the police stations, the silent neighborhood and the dotting of a few religious structures around him have made him this way over the years. The brothers though distinct in their personal essence shared the same appearance -  two long arms with black and yellow painted sleeves, with a large button reading STOP on the elbow on both arms – with the railway track passing between them. Their appearance made the town merely refer to them as ‘gate’- the second name of the brothers. It was the town’s distinct habit - they they always refer people by their second name. The town has Kamats, Pais, Patils and Deshpandes as their identity marker and in similar lines ‘Gates’. So, Akbar, Amar and Anthony are fondly called 1st Gate, 2nd Gate and 3rd Gate, respectively. The numerical, is just to distinguish their locations with reference to the town, and not their character hierarchy.  

On one hand they are the performers, while on the other they uphold the idiosyncrasies of the town's behaviour. They, in fact have multiple guises - not by their own choice, but what the town chooses them to be. The only thing however that remains constant is their repute of finding their name quoted across all discussions among the residents of the town. 

Avoiding them was not possible. No one in the town made the extra effort to even bypass them. Each brother’s solitary presence was not their way of being in the town. It was, when they came together, and performed a musical.

Visitors in the houses - who are quite frequent either immediately get up the sofa leaving the half-finished chivada (snacks) on the plate or give themselves an extra fifteen minutes to help themselves to Belgaum special Kunda and tea.

“Ek, ek se bhale do, Do, do se bhale teen, Ek jagah jab jama ho teeno” (Two are better than one; Three are better than two; When the three of us get together in one place, we are) -  Akbar, Amar and Anthony.

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