Smell of dust inside. Smell of poverty mixed with rich arrogance outside. Beyond that a rocky land covered with shrubs. In unplanned colonies, obviously in not-gated ones, huge buildings are seen at the beginning of the alleys. As you go inside, the size of the buildings reduces and they end up shanties as if they were the frills of India’s fabric of mixed development or un-development. A curtain-less glass window gives me a full view of the other houses. Balconies flaunt washed clothes and from that one could even understand the taste of the occupants. People look like intoxicated with life; the life shown to them by television channels. Most of them look like characters coming out of these television boxes. Amidst these dreamscapes coal fired choolahs edge into the street, dirty children with unkempt mops move around, a harassed mother makes her plunge into something called a ‘day’. For her it seems, everyday is like any other day. I walk through these scenes as if I were an invisible man.
I walk into the Indira Gandhi National Open University premises. The government owned gated property with more than enough security men at gate, unusual for an early morning, allows the local people to use it as a jogging track. From the filth of mixed development din, one enters a different world. The main arterial road is spacious and is lined with carefully pruned flower plants. The joggers do not belong to the upper middle class. Most of the morning walkers here do it for medical reasons, it seems. A few youngsters jog vigorously in their track suits, expensive shoes and ears plugged with music. Fat women amble by, men with expansive paunches discuss politics. The huge campus of this open university does not show the arrogance of academics. In fact I do not see any professor or lecturer jogging by. I walk towards East as I know the direction from the rising sun. Even in the cruellest month of April there still a nip in the air. I receive the sunlight with gratitude.
From the arterial road, small roads branch out to either side, leading to department buildings. Every inch is filled with trees or flowering plants or well planned gardens. A few men do stretching exercises in one of these gardens. Identical men and women broom the road clean. They must be coming from the same community or family. They are well dressed and they seem to be very serious about what they are doing. The surroundings display their sincerity; every inch is clean. A peacock walks past me. It turns its neck and looks at me for a moment and then minds its business. My mind goes blank. After a few minutes of from the peacock, I start wondering why I am not thinking about words, as I usually do. May be the beautiful road, the calm university environment, the chirping of birds, the prattling of monkeys and many more small little things of this morning has filled in my mind. I do not need words to interpret what I see; this is just an experience, perhaps not to be expressed through words. But once I am back in my new place, I sit to recount that experience.
I thirst for a morning tea. Once out of the university campus, I look for a tea shop. The world has come too much alive or frantically alive by seven thirty in the morning. When I was walking into the campus the road was rather empty; world could change in moments. Push carts sell not tea but rice and dal, and I wonder why people eat rice and dal in the morning. The juice shops have become already active. People drink sugarcane juice and mosambi juice and go to their work places. The sugar in these drinks keeps them active. Dabas too are active. Most of the workers in these eateries are busy making bread pakoras. The way they make it is disgusting. I sit in one such shop and order for a cup of tea. While drinking tea, I see the man making bread pakoras asking another worker to change the newspaper spread on the tray. I see the oily newspaper. The other man looks for a sheet of newspaper and that is the last thing available in that shop. I once again see the oily spread and realize that it must have been there for at least a week.
I go back. I am going to live in this place. I am going to make unfamiliar into familiar. And I am sure I am going to succeed. The most important thing that comes to my mind is this: if one has peace of mind one feels time at his/her side. I have been awake for the last five hours doing things at my own leisure. One could do anything, if one could make space in mind.