I put on the electric kettle, pull a chair to the balcony and settle down, ritualistically waiting for the whistle. Like always, I covet this five-minutes interlude before yielding to the pragmatic compulsions of living. The routine of living, I have always felt, Life betrays living, and these few unaccounted moments have always offered some compensation.
I try to decipher the morning sun through the smoky vomit of the factories of the suburbs. The sun looks pale and seems to be disparately trying to disentangle itself from the shadows of industrialization. In one of my pagan moods, I have often found it embarrassed and ill-at-ease about its waning glory. When my progenies grow up, I reflect philosophically, their reality of the sun would be different from mine. I think about generation-specific experiences, and the creation of conditioned meaning by the forces of history.
Down below are the slums, the dwellings of people who are less equal than the others. According to the census, these people live below poverty line. In terms of my reality, they live below my balcony, across the road, and their quality of life eludes the economists' charts, graphs and numbers. I wonder about these people's experience of life and its meaning. Or maybe for them, the necessities of living have altogether done away the concepts of meaning and purpose. Perhaps, it is too painful and humiliating for them to ponder over the purposes and meanings while living amidst the starving squalor of the slums.
I shudder and guiltily escape by looking at the aged, retired morning-walkers on the street. They look tragically serious in their morning drill, moving with purposeful strides, as if trying to keep pace with life that keeps slipping away. I feel that these people do not actually like walking. They do not enjoy the cool morning breeze, the tranquil loneliness of the roads, the gradual, almost mythological awakening of life and humanity in the city. Rather, they walk because they are, by nature, consumers, and want to barter health and longevity for their morning exercises…
The kettle whistles me back to the mediocrity of the routines. I get up to mechanically have my tea while shaving, and glancing through the newspaper. Then I'll get ready, and go through the programmed actions of catching the bus, reaching the office and so on…. till the bedside alarm once again wakes me up tomorrow morning.
- Sometime in 1980-81, Bhopal