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Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Walking Perspective

In the span of my thus far short life, I have been a resident of three cities. From a distant, dispassionate perspective, every city is about the same as any other... give or take a few characteristics. They all have people, crowds to be precise, and crowds are the same everywhere, they're all made up of people, to quote Harper Lee. All cities have some measure of rhythm, routine, noise, dirt, interesting sights, interesting people. But of course, no two cities are the same, even so called twin cities. The attitudes, fashion sense, pace of life and much more vary with each city. But what really defines any city is perhaps its residential outlay. The way the skyline appears when you scout the horizon. The perspective of which is best perceived when one takes a walk.

For example, Mysore where I lived for 11 years of my life has residential areas which are, to be kind to the planning, unplanned. Land goes up for sale, people buy them and cconstruct majestic (or even small but cosy) architectured marvels in whatever design and colour they very well please. God forbid one day the government decides to run a road through the area where your house is ( Thank You, Douglas Adams) you stand to receive compensation from the said authorities, only to buy land elsewhere and continue with your fantasies of housebuilding yet again*. The skyline is uninterrupted by tall buildings and one can see for miles, albeit there's little green now and more of a concrete jungle, but look up and you can trace the hemisphere of the planet with your eyes with absolute ease.

Not so with Mumbai. Mumbai is, kindly put, planning hell. Whatever planning took place ages ago has long since been abandoned with high rises everywhere and the little alleys that run between them full of small little shacks. Paint the entire city in a stunning shade and it's skyline would still be an eyesore. Make the mistake of trying to trace the skyline and your eyes shall be met by balconies and the tops of high rises while your foot most likely has landed in some gooey mush. The sky is like the little bit of the soap that is aired between numerous ad breaks. It's a chaotic city. I have nothing against it really.

London on the other hand is something I haven't quite been able to describe properly, yet. It does have a fast paced life, but way slower than Mumbai's. It is dirty, but I've seen dirtier. It's quiet, but Mysore is quieter. And the skyline... granted London has it's high rises, but one can still blessedly catch a whole lot of sky if one bothers to look up. A blue blue sky with feathery wisps over it (or not depending on the undependable weather). It has huge lavish parks to stroll about and loll about in. And the residential areas?? They're so... well ordered. Boringly similar semi-detached and detached brick houses which don't look any different from any street... give or take something in size. All similar in colour.

I love walking. It offers me the opportunity to look around and let my mind garner things to mull about. I especially treasure walking in residential areas... they offer the opportunity of a sneak peek into the domestic lives of absolute strangers... a guilty pleasure, outside looking in, longing to belong to the welcoming warmth of whatever hearth that is seen through the window in a glance. I've been chastised for this 'intrusion into the private lives of others' but it's a habit that I rather enjoy indulging. The moment's stolen look, at the way the room looks, people going about chores, even emptiness is one I love catching a glimpse of. A writer's search for ideas and stories perhaps... strange romantic notion at any rate.

* Said incident actually took place where we live in Mysore. The entire populace that owned farmland along a certain route where there is now a spanking new ring road received huge compensations from the authorities for giving up the land in the name of progress. Said compensation has thus been invested, spent, retained and squandered in varying degrees by all concerned parties.


  1. Even I am guilty of peeking into domestic lives... specially my neighbor, the blond chick, who never draws the bathroom curtains when she showers!

  2. So, what brand shampoo and shower gel, facewash, scrub et al does she use?? What colour is her bathrobe/towel??