Sunday, March 04, 2012


Can't say what I felt when I made my way through the maze of narrow alleys between three to four (?) storey high, but otherwise puny houses on either side. The houses on the ground floor opened straight on to the roads. The entrances to the ones above was through dingy, narrow corridors that opened into a big atrium  which was mostly used as parking of scooters and motorcycles, and on one side, the narrow staircase with iron railings. Some houses were cleaner than the others. I saw a guy standing in the balcony above realized that he could shake hands with another guy standing in the balcony across the street; this is how narrow the alley was, no matter how clean. Most houses were clean too but the alley was also intermittently dotted with a wretched shack or two. I glanced at the inside of one while passing it. Phew! I saw a dirty shelf with a dirty gas stove and lots of dirty boxes, a very dirty bed, lots of dirty jackets hanging from pegs on the dirty wall, dozens of gunny sacks from which vegetables peeped out possibly in futile attempt to get a breath of fresh air blowing a few inches away in the alley, and then I saw a man sitting inside covered in a bunch of rags for winter clothes looking outside with a poker face. Unlike the rest of the place, spring season surely hadn’t arrived inside that shack.
  Above me, I saw cascades and networks of live wires feeding electricity to the homes. Some of bare joints of these high tension wires looked ominous. I felt the place was much cooler, possibly owing to the lack of sunlight penetrating the closely spaced houses that sure appeared like sky-scrapers on either side as one walked through them. The quiet alley meandered on for a while and led me to a bustling market place with shops for almost everything under the sun, even a halal meat shop. The place smelled nice, of incense or myrrh, even the meat shops didn't stink. In fact, not once did I come across a foul odor in my 10-15 minute walk through this maze, something that I'd expect if I were to see a still or a video of this place. I noticed that at least some of the businesses, of different communities, were flourishing. Some barber shops, general store and few others were bigger than most others and almost impressive. 
Suddenly I noticed that every eye, whether that of a man or a woman, was locked on to something moving somewhere ahead of me, the former in distinct lechery and the latter in amused mockery. When I looked I saw a girl walking wearing harem-pants and a casual tee. I walked my way and was glad that I wasn’t a girl in a non-conservative attire. This place didn’t seem safe for a girl that did not look like the others there but what’s surprising about that anyway?

 I came across some construction work going on in full swing. This building, with its modular construction, looked out of place in that area. These were a handful of flats, possibly being constructed for the well-to-do of the area who wished better accommodation within this realm; real-estate business is a money black-hole. However no matter how pretty and modern, inside them, you’d probably have to keep your curtains drawn to not let the reality of the view outside be framed in the pretty windows. This building stood out as abhorrently pretty, tarnishing the humble reality of the place. I don’t know why I described it so much, for I only took a glimpse of it and walked by in a matter of seconds but I did, a deluge of thoughts clogged my near-hypnotized mind. I wondered if living inside those flats would be like wearing beautiful shoes and walking into mud-slush. If one were to ever derive some earthy pleasure out of it, one would need to enter barefoot.

I was relying on my otherwise unreliable internal-compass to lead me out of this universe. I don’t know why I entered it, maybe the cool air from the alley that brushed past my feet—it’s kinda cold to be wearing slippers but I had a reason—made me curious while I was walking on the main road that I do visit once in a while to get the odd job done. It was like a journey through the cross-section of the earth; I entered through the recognizable outside, went into a place stranger than I could’ve imagined and came out on the other side, the recognizable outside again. Somehow, all the turns I took were right and I landed up outside at the spot where I thought I should have been by then. I left the strange little world behind and didn’t care to look back. Maybe I had peeped into those alleys before but I was never tempted to check them out. I wasn’t tempted today either, I was just curious; at times I wonder if they’re flip-sides of the same coin.

I was glad to have come out of that place but I wasn’t unhappy about the ephemeral glide through it either. I snapped out and the reality returned to my veins in a gush, the reality of home, parents and a would-be wife that was awfully busy today in her sister’s ladies-sangeet arrangements…hey where’d I park my bike? It took a whole big second to recall where. I had come this place looking for something and hadn’t found it, I found something else; food for a starved thought. 

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