Friday, June 09, 2006

Open Window 3

Thick, black cables stretch heavily across the span between two of the street lamps which flank my window. They are TV and broadband internet cables and at least two of them connect to my house. In the mornings avian life squats there, waking me. Raucous and intelligent crows, ever on the lookout for a morsel; chattering sparrows, hyperactive and temporal. In Bangla we call them shalik, I guess the English word for them is mynah, but I'm not sure. These brown, black and white birds with red beaks had a little ditty associated with their sighting when I was a kid: “one for sorrow, two for joy, three for letter, four for toy, five for diamond, six for gold, seven for...”. I can't remember the rest of it! They are a noisy lot as well, but kind of musical compared to the previous two. And of course there are the pigeons which roost in crevices, atop ACs and other wall furniture of my building and the one adjacent to it. Their muted warbling and gurgling is comforting. A pair which nest on top of an air conditioner shaded by a ledge in the adjoining building have just had a pair of chicks and they are extremely protective of their offspring.

The traffic island as a roundabout for vehicles, can confuse an unaware pedestrian. I find many of them randomly trying to cross diagonally to or from the island to get to the other side. What results is a scary wait for minutes on end as drivers race by, unmindful of these jaywalkers. The trick is to walk the circumference of the junction, to cross a single street at a time and get to the other side. Longer yes, but safer and less strenuous. I've often wanted to shout this suggestion out, especially to senior citizens and those carrying children in their arms, but they may get distracted and perhaps cause an unfortunate accident.

Vagrants and the mentally unstable or unsound abound at this junction. This morning I saw three of them. A grey bearded waif of a man sat on a curb, ignoring the traffic that rushed inches past his toes. Her head completely shaven, dressed in someone's discarded blue printed kaftan, a mentally unsound woman roamed for an hour or so under my window, giving unasked for directions to auto rickshaws which halt here to disgorge passengers. The third, an almost naked man, black with dirt and grime, lay supine on the narrow pavement which encircles the island, walking away only when it rained.

The addicts skulk in a corner of the junction that has overgrown bushes and stunted Ashoka trees. They are all rag pickers and from my vantage point, I get glimpses of them 'chasing the dragon'. Sometimes they get chased away by the shopkeepers nearby, and sometimes they get picked up at night by policemen acting on complaints of petty theft. They steal almost anything to support their brown sugar habit, and we have small metal grills over drains and concrete manhole covers missing from our driveway every now and then.

There's a man who carries clay matkas twice a week and wisely follows the circumference of the junction to get to the other side. One day, the largish clay pots clustered in a wide cane basket resting on a wooden board with castors, is wheeled along by him. On the other day, in a different sort of cane basket, he carries clay hundis or what might be called 'piggy banks' on his head. Both times he heads in the same direction and I wonder who his customers are who need such large quantities of clay pots every week.

This open window lets me look out on to a world that is as distanced from me as it is an integral part of my life. Sights, sounds, smells abound. I may not be able to touch, but they touch me... places I can't reach?


Prerona said...

wow! u gave me the idea for a post :)

patrix said...

i suppose i feel honoured to be your muse in little ways!