Monday, July 04, 2005
You are walking. It is 10 p.m., and the shops are just starting to close up. Go along the street. When the street ends, take another street, and then another. Look around you. Go on till it is almost midnight; your eyes start getting bleary, your knees start losing their sense of balance, and your calves are a beat away from screaming at you. Then turn around. Go back the way you came. And see the change.
When you were walking this way, you were watching people moving around – going home, or going out. The roadside restaurants were just starting to bustle, and once or twice, watching their delicacies, you even felt like stopping at one of them, even though you weren’t really hungry. The vegetable vendors were chatting with each other while gathering up the jute sacks on which they were sitting. You saw they were tired from sitting in the same place for hours and hours, and they were pleased to finally be going home, although they knew tomorrow was going to be the same.
As you went along, you arrived at a main road. The traffic was dulling out now, with no traffic policemen to blow their whistles at drivers who cheerfully disregarded every red signal they saw. Some signals were already closed up, and you watched, amused, as each driver competed to get her/his right of way over the others. Many shops were already closed up, and some streets were starting to take on a desolate look.
You moved into smaller alleys, where the sounds of technology were minimal, and you listened to the insects chirping at you from the bushes and the trees around you. Life was going to sleep.
Now, as you go back home, you pass the same streets, the same shops, the same restaurants that you saw on your way here. Every one of these is closed up, the shutters pulled down and the locks secured. The owners and workers of some of the roadside places are sleeping right in front of the source of their own food. You realise you are seeing a wholly different kind of life. The vegetable vendors are nowhere to be seen, and all that you can see in their place are treaded and half-rotten tomatoes and cabbages, for which a few stray dogs are fighting each other. You notice everything from the garbage bins, which you never saw during the day, to trees with their leaves drooping – already asleep. The only people you now see are those who sleep on the footpath, and those who are hurrying home before they have to. The city has calmed down, and you realise how different it is.
You come home. First you take a long drink of water, and then you sit on the sofa massaging your legs trying to sooth the aching muscles. And as you relax, you think about what you saw. You realise that sometimes you can see more in the night than you possibly could in the day. You smile. You tell yourself that you should do this more often.