One of the remarkable things about slums is that they do develop their own social organization and economy and even culture that is, on some cases, remarkably resilient. This is what that goes unnoticed most of the time.
Not one but two shotguns, with eight of us sitting (actually, squeezing) behind. The driver actually doesn’t seem to like waiting. He wasn’t angry; but wore a sardonic smile. This might be the 100th time we are on the same vehicle; not certain though; I have not seen his face to the extent where, I can recognize him the next time.
‘Should I climb 8 floors… or take the lift?’ ‘Oh my! It rains only when I wear white’; ‘Would there be anyone in the reception to open the door… they should give me an Identity card as well’ my active brain was picking up speed. I hardly could see any of myself; both my adjacent commuter’s limbs and, arms splayed on me. Quickly and unexpectedly, sparks flied as friction’ upshot; sound of two metal surfaces thwacking and rubbing against each other reverberated; I swiftly realized I wasn’t thinking of Vin Diesel and Johnny strong when I was almost on top of the person to my right and quickly bounced back to my position. A middle-aged woman in front of me gnashed her teeth, while the six men around us refused to react; while I heard the driver snigger and smirk in triumph. The two metals that made the thudding sound were: the share-auto I was in and the metal sheet placed by the public works department to locate and, point out the on-going construction of the proposed metro line.
Junctions where I could see vehicles speeding up in all directions, no matter what light it is in the traffic semaphores. Actually, most of the nodes don’t have one. Seldom does any of the commuters notice who is transiting them to their destinations. In the industrial sectors of Noida, it is ordinarily an under-18 driver; unlicensed, goes without saying. Usually a minor who, knowingly or unknowingly competes with an ambulance, not letting it get ahead of his vehicle. Sitting by the corner in these wide-backed three-wheelers, gazing the hustle-bustle of the city can make u discern a lot of things than what you could possibly imagine.
Food that is made on the pavements with some pollution and masala sprinkled on it, as to garnish. The should-be school going guy who is instead scouring a huge, hard-stained drum of a close by fast- food joint on the road; the guy who takes off his shirt on the middle of the road, to polish the footwear of two-wheeler riders, beseeching them for some money which is lesser than the amount I pay these share-auto drivers for a trip. The man who, spat his pan masala every 2 minutes from the moving auto; gave me a scornful look and, was generously blasphemous for asking him to not do that. The insouciant shrugs of these minor, should not-be drivers gets us head-to-head with the hard-hitting reality of urban slums.
My workplace is located on the 8th floor of a posh corporate building in an industrial sector. There have been lunch breaks when I had walked to the glass panel near the elevator; standing there, looking down at the cars; pressing my fingers against the glass panel, trying to measure them with my pinkie like a kid, only until that day. That day, when I was walking via the car parking; just out of the share-auto hassles; blistering heat; I looked up and, saw something vacillating on the facade, near the same eighth floor of a different tower. This scene, dimmed the sunlight; coruscated right into my eyes. It was a man who was suspended using a rope, with a wiper in his hand, cleaning the glass panels, one by one, like shown in some Saint-Gobian commercials.
Every time I’m in Noida, I realize how easily these actualities get hidden under the superficial city lights and how powerfully ostensible these city lights are!
Having spent all my life, so far in metro cities, with all the luxuries overshadowing the other end, this place shifted my spotlight from where it was to where it should have rather been. The place where, I stopped making the glass dirty(maybe not); learnt the art of walking to my office, while the sun’ shining bright without grumbling, bleating like a sheep; learned to switch sides and gaze the same city lights through their eyes- the care taker of my apartment, the guy who delivered the box that my parents had sent, the share-auto fellows who commute me every other day, my 50-year-old colleague who cleans the office and, had condemned me for the only time I had left the coffee cup on the table.
All of us, who had thought and still think, the discrepancies in the rural areas are India’s Achilles heel, Alas…