Saturday, 7 July 2007


I could not sleep that night. In that remote, impossibly beautiful place, with my head throbbing painfully every time I moved, cold, uncomfortable and overawed by the sheer scale of everything around me - the mountains, the sky, the silence - I walked slowly around camp, alone, (which is when I took the photo that accompanies this post, the only star in the sky) with my puny headlamp, thinking about a city I have never lived in.

I grew up in a medium sized industrial town in the underdeveloped interiors of the Deccan plateau where the roads are broad, the houses large, things are well spaced out and the people gentle - the very definition of respectable middle class suburbia. But the city I missed that day was not the city I knew so well and liked so much, it was a city I actively detested and avoided, like all those around me. The old town, with its tiny gullies and overcrowded, overflowing garish shops, the open drains, the thick smell of chaat, gutter, cowdung and sweat gathered over years and years, the food, the temples, the burquas and the chatter ! The vibrant, colourful, bustling city full of verve and dash and spirit and devoid of the antiseptic snobbery I have always practiced.

In that moment of cold loneliness I longed for the proximity to other human beings that the old town enforced, the impossibility of ignoring the outside world, it bombards every faculty one has with insults, invitations and paradoxes. From beautiful handiwork to the cheapest chinese goods, from the ultra conservative to the inextricably mixed up, it has everything. Cows and horses in houses smaller than my room off a street narrower than my bed, a colony of temple brahmins under the wall of a white mosque, a girl looking wistfully far away into the distance from a window overlooking 10 feet of road and a thousand people.

Uniformity is the curse of the modern world, the sheer life that one can feel coursing through the tiny unkempt streets of the old quarters of even the smallest towns cannot be matched by the myriads of sleek cars that whizz - in all their air conditioned arrogance - along the eight lane highways we are taught to be proud of.

I'll take some photos and see if I can convey what I mean, if I can capture some of the atmosphere on film. I'll try.


Radhika said...

Moving and beautiful. That photo captured the spirit of the old city so well, I could almost see everything you described. I've spent all day on a thoroughly antispetic campus, thinking of little other than tomorrow's classes but I'll go to sleep now with images in my head of the Malgudi sort. Busy people with many worries and yet enough time to ask after a neighbour who's not doing too well. Life that's not been over-simplified and relegated to machines.
I can't do justice to what I feel right now so I won't ruin it by trying. Suffice to say it's a warm, hopeful feeling.
Thank you!

Psmith said...

Thank you !

Anonymous said...

Poignant. And too close to nature. i hope the kind of things you have experienced that you have penned down so stay like this but i am afraid, i am reading the words of 2007 in some time between 2010. Whatever, its simply beautiful again. pleasure reading and coming across such piece of writting, which makes you believe that people can be this simple and true. hope you have lived this clean.

Anonymous said...

its a stoopid thought of mine, but would like to mention that somewhere across the globe has read it again in the same month of July. kudos