The traffic was snailing ahead. The road divider was wet, the bright yellow and black looking like cabs waiting for passengers. Almost all the planters meant to ‘decorate’ it lay flat, heavy with mud, the leaves dead, stems curled. Among them were cigarette butts, scrunched-up paper, plastic toffee wrappers.
I looked up. A film star wearing a one-shoulder dress in soft pink was showing off her skin. Lux soap was magical.
Bheema, the symbol of power, was holding up a weapon. Mahabharata will be on our TV screens soon.
A cellphone company was telling children to get Rs 10 worth talk time free; they were dressed in school uniforms.
A small shop had two faux antique chairs facing the road. It was cheap wood with curvy legs and arched backs. And they stood there looking at the onlookers. Who was the buyer?
The paanwallah was applying choona in swift movements with a scalpel-like thing over a beetle-nut leaf. Another customer was stuffing his mouth and almost immediately let out a spray of red spit, some of it at the edge of his lips, trailing down the chin.
Children were playing in what is now a reclaimed part of the sea. I find this whole reclamation thing disturbing and fascinating. Suddenly water is filled up. Water that is supposed to flow into forever can now be walked on. The sea is now shortened; there is sand and stones and kids are running barefoot. A lone boat is standing in a corner. Is it anchored or a remnant or a useless piece of nothing?
A raddi shop comes into view. The owner is squatting and the string of his pyjama is hanging down. I catch his eye. He yawns but keeps looking. Old magazines are stacked high, almost as high as the ceiling. How old are they? If people buy them, what do they look for? There are a few on what looks like a clothesline. Beguiling women in trendy clothes. Anachronistically, there is a jerry can hanging from the same line. It obviously does not have petrol or kerosene in it. But the thought does strike me that if it were to tilt and had it been full and had someone lit a matchstick, then it would destroy Man’s World. I smile to myself. The owner thinks I am smiling at him, so he smiles back, stifling another yawn.
The planters are still lying flat. What did I think? The rains have fallen in equal measure along the length. I am about to give up and suddenly I see stretches of grass between those dividers. Light green giving way to dark…even the dirt and filth thrown in it seem to mesh.
That’s the beauty. To plant something you have to water each and make sure they are embedded; grass grows from the soil and stretches far, as far as you will let it. You can place a hose pipe and it will all turn wet and get nourished.
I reach home feeling good. About grass and about the bigger picture and about things that can go on…yes, you can stamp on it but crushed grass does not look as crushed as a crushed plant.- - -
Gulon mein rang bharey - Mehdi Hassan