[Issue 13 / 1 May 15]
i. “The question is this: do we deserve the city, or does it deserve us?”
The green teary-eyed plant is dropping low, lower, and mayflies buzz around the peanut shells dropped near its dead roots, making onlookers turn their noses up to the skies where the air is only more suffocating than earlier and reminds me of an unhygienic sense of home—for home is the crumbling pavements of Delhi adorned with slimy mud and anthills too numerous to count, for home is the perpetually smoky atmosphere of my city—smothering me in its folds, the way mother hugs me when we sleep at night amid the 3am car horns and shivering silences. While I step down softly, my body like a condensed water bottle, hair a mess of hair, the almost monochrome leaves of the plant seem to bow down to my figure, reigning, silent. Next to it is the shop of the chaiwala—where no number of rickshaws are ever enough—as his son dumps another carton full of peanut shells onto the decaying ground, a sickly smell of burning petrol overcomes my senses and I turn my nose towards the grey, dead sky above.
ii. “The mind is so near itself—it cannot see distinctly.”
Striding under shades which remind me of dog days and green leaves in their prime and nests full of little chickens too shy to fly away, the street takes on a perspective which is a whole shade darker than the one that preceded, and as the eyes of the people bear into mine, I cannot but wonder whether all of us are pall-bearers, carrying the weight of the soil upon our blue shoulders. A raggedy man with a mane too dishevelled to be one of a civilised person spits on the ground, his black hands clasped together, twisted into a self-tied knot under the pressure of which he exists and flourishes—it is his room for growth and room for being, the fragile knot whose force he will not counter even though he might want to. Right, left, right again—while I cross the empty road, its grey gives me the warmth I have desired for, and cars zoom by—yet the emptiness is too fundamental, too essential to be contradicted. Its essence is in the fact that it lays there, for days on end and years infinite, and while animals dance and swirl over it, it does not seem to care. This is an attitude we all long for.
iii. “The city is a ruined artefact and in it, we rejoice.”
The iron bars of the gates of my apartment are scorching in a fashion too brutal to embrace—while I walk the most peaceful part of my journey, stepping over dirty stairs and knocking on the ostentatiously furnished door of my home. As the image of eternally buzzing mayflies and a plant whose leaves turn to powder once touched and the man who will be spitting on anthills as long as he exists comes to mind—a single two syllable word knocks and wrings through all: Listen. Wandering like pilgrims towards our deliverance, our holy arms mutter one word and all is decided: Listen. Coroners stuck in the cycle of burying and un-burying and burying and un-burying corpses that have long turned to dust: Listen. Nomads of the sand carrying around their naked camels: Listen. The city is a ruined artefact, and in it, we rejoice.