Solitude. Something that was abundant in childhood. Now I am helpless because it is hard to come by and twice as elusive if you wish to seek it. There are times and then there are places. We travel across them to find solace. But fellow travelers travel for reasons. For them travel is the mindless boredom till destination. Something to be filled with the routine of everyday. Mobile phone speakers blare out songs. Kids with their plastic mobiles that croaks the same tune no matter which button is depressed. Laptops with movies and movies with endless background scores. Life no longer a single track audio. Each track playing over another. Stacking noise, creating composite commotion.
Far away a field
blew across a lawn
implanted as a yard
cramming to survive
5th December, 2012. Mumbai.
Katti to katti, bara baje batti’. Kids, especially in Mumbai, could not have escaped this rhyme. Be it the local neighbourhood or school playground, it was too catchy to go unrecited. ‘Katti’ and ‘batti’ are terms indicative of the intent of affection towards a friend. Katti meant that it’s sour and declaring batti indicated all is well. An approximate translation of the rhyme in English would read ‘If sour be sour, come noon it be fine’. Relationships are that easy to manage for kids. Even in dour times, noon was the constant hour of hope.
Growing up escalates complications proportionately. Perspectives change gradually. While as kids the purpose of tarred roads were for riding bicycle or playing cricket or marbles now it’s a means to reach some place. Home was a shelter, now it’s treated as a sanctuary. Trains and buses were fun on wheels, now it’s a choice topic for gripe. Objects are perceived in significantly derivative and segregated purposes then their original intent. This is apparent in the story of any urban neighbourhood with a worthwhile history.
Dubai witnessed one of the craziest cash runs into it’s economy. Most of it went into real estate. Outlay out-dreamed demand. Reality mattered little when it came to realty. Desert, a place with nothing but land of sand with oil beneath and a 360 degree horizon, was being transformed into a Manhattan or Shanghai. In the past a large water body attracted settlements in deserts. Now it’s structures of steel, concrete and glimmering glass facades. Even desert land was shamed by this appetite. Sea was claimed, tamed and landscaped. “If you build it, he will come” was the premise of the Hollywood film Field of Dreams. An Iowa farmer hears voices instructing to build a baseball field in his farm to invite ghosts of legends past to play. The film ends happily for it can choose to end where it wants. Dubai has to endure the 2008 credit market crash.
If you build it, they will come.
Mumbai beaches are a repugnant sight after high tide. The receding sea litters the beach with another sea of rubbish. The waves of cash crashing into the Dubai economy has left behind a similar metaphorical litter on it’s exit trail. The facade is still pretty but the skeletons of unfinished and forgotten highrises will perhaps be preserved for ages as monuments to our era of excesses. History had Pharaohs and their pyramids, we have our politician-financier nexus and their highrises.