Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just Another Day:

The din persists throughout the day, from the crack of dawn till well into the night. People, cars, autos and even trucks….going and coming non-stop like an ever shifting kaleidoscope. The old man drags his basket of bananas to a particular spot right outside the small temple. He insists on giving everybody a plastic bag. Couple of hours later, he’s gone unlike the middle aged woman sitting next to him, selling spices and what appear to be seeds in various containers spread around her.

A man comes with his cart, full of garlic and stands at a vantage point at the corner of a narrow lane. Not much sales today and in a few hours his place is empty….soon taken over by another cart full of colourful plastic toys. Suddenly he’s surrounded by eager mothers in ‘nighties’ rummaging through the cart. A couple of boys are talking and laughing at the ‘Xerox’ centre nearby comfortable in the chaos around.

The clouds suddenly let go and the strong winds make the raindrops fall at a thirty degree angle. The click of the umbrellas opening sound like somebody’s checking his drum-sticks before hitting the drums. Everybody’s umbrella is slanted at the same angle to shield themselves from the oncoming rain.

The day slows down to evening, and the shift in the wind direction unfurls the MNS flag which had wound itself around the flagpole in the daytime. The approaching night envelops everything in its darkness, cloaking all real life details in its mysterious fold. In the distance the twinkling lights of the airport bursts through, shimmering in the cold wetness around. An airplane slowly comes to a halt, its taillight still blinking red. A different world leaps out from that horizon, drawing you like a magnet….to the world of gloss, wealth, distant lands, important meetings and eagerly waiting families.

The lilting sound of a wind-chime floats out from somewhere. You can hear the wind blow. Then all is quiet.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

City Traits:

After almost two years, I have finally mastered the art of that imperceptible nod that everybody uses here to say a yes or a no. A quick nod by the autowallah or the taxi driver tells you whether you should get in or not. As a new comer I could barely notice the nod leave alone understand its meaning, asking them twice and staring at their faces to get an audible yes or no. The same nod is used by the people travelling on a local, to indicate whether she/he would be getting off at the next station or not. I smiled to myself the other day, when I caught myself nodding to a fellow passenger without even looking her way.

A year back, while trying desperately to hail a taxi after work, I was given a ride home by a stranger who was also waiting for a cab and who got it before I did. At first I was surprised, then scared and then strangely touched by the gesture. Later noticing around, I realized it was not too big a deal here. Now-a-days, I share my auto with strangers going the same direction and they do the same for me.

The third thing I have mastered, is the art of finding my space in a crowded train compartment without stepping over other people, hitting them with my bag or getting in their way. Nobody tells you these codes of conduct…(of how to stand/sit so that your feet are not sticking out, how to hold your purse so that it doesn’t poke the other person)….you watch the people around you and you just get to know.

And in this entire crowded milieu, what I love to do is to eavesdrop on other people’s phone conversations… imagine their lives and match their faces and looks to their voices and their stories.