Spice of life: Down memory lane with Sohan Tonga Walla
Sohan with his tonga was there at the village chowk every morning without fail. All college students depended on him to take them to Ajitwal on time.punjab Updated: Mar 15, 2018 21:51 IST
A few days ago, I got a call from a school friend now settled in Canada. After talking about other friends and his family, he asked me, “How is Sohan Tonga Walla doing these days?” I was surprised that he still remembered Sohan who used to take us on his tonga from our village to the main road during our college days.
The call revived my memories of the good old days at the village. The nearest motorable road linked Moga to Ludhiana and it was two-and-a-half km from our village. Buses plied only on that road so if anybody wanted to go to Moga or Ludhiana or any other town, the preferred mode of transport to take us to the road was the tonga.
There was only one tonga and Sohan was its owner and driver. He was a humble man. His day started at 7am. To reach our college at Jagraon in time, we had to catch the bus from Ajitwal at 8am. Sohan with his tonga was there at the village chowk every morning without fail. All college students depended on him to take them to Ajitwal on time.
There were six seats in the tonga that were usually given to women and the elderly. Youngsters like me were accommodated on the fringes and sometimes on the front bamboo of the tonga. To keep our balance during the half an hour bumpy journey was a task in itself.
I never saw Sohan hitting his horse with a cane or whip. He always patted him. The horse understood the gestures of his owner well. As Sohan lived in my neighbourhood, I knew that he took good care of his horse in the evening, gave him fodder, a massage and a bath .
The years at college passed by quickly but all of us are grateful to Sohan for being there for us when we needed it.
Some three-wheelers (tempos) had started plying on the route in the early ’80s but villagers still preferred to travel with Sohan even if it took more time to reach Ajitwal as they thought of him as their own. The advent of mini buses and increasing number of two-wheelers in the village came as a death knell for Sohan’s business. He had also grown old and was not keeping good health. He hung up his boots. Whenever I visited village after that, I always missed his tonga at Ajitwal or at the village chowk.
Some friends settled in Canada came home a few years ago. They enquired about Sohan. They chatted with him about the good old days and helped him financially so that he could have a decent retired life. Now when my friend asked me, “How is Sohan?” I told him that I had not visited our village for the past five years.
I planned a visit the next weekend. I found things had changed a lot over the years. There is a motorable road but there are no tongas or tempos now. The mini buses and personal vehicles of villagers zoomed past me on the busy road.
When I stopped at the village chowk, I asked about Sohan Tonga Walla. Someone told me that he had passed away last year. I came back with a heavy heart. He played a significant role in our path of progress from being village boys to have a status in society. How can we forget his sweet personality and caring nature?
The writer is a Ludhiana-based freelance contributor