January 18, 2020
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A Tata In Tana

A Tata In Tana
As a child, my mother tells me, I didn't know when words ended. We were D'Souzazas, I pronounced; and it was a jimpapa I wore to sleep after downing my nightly bananana. I remembered those words in mellifluously-named Antananarivo. Or is it Antanananarivo? Mercifully, the capital of Madagascar is just "Tana" to all. And Tana's buses are Tatas (not Tatatas). Yes, they are made by India's own Tata: they are also actually called that. "Take the Tata into town," the man at the Auberge de Cheval Blanc suggested, "you'll see what the city looks like." So I barrelled in every morning-past electric green paddy, up steep hills, through suddenly narrow streets, into the heart of Tana: a great milling conglomeration of Tatas. The main bus stand.

In Tana's Tatas, men are invariably chivalrous. One sleepy morning, I got a needlessly rude reminder of that. I was dozing in my seat. Woke because I felt my face being steadily, insistently, kicked. Kicked! I looked up-at a young mother and her baby. She was swinging his little feet-alternately, deliberately-at my face. As our eyes met, she raised an eyebrow, as if to say: "Well? Are you going to let me sit or shall my baby kick your face in?"

I stood quickly.

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