Yesterday I was far too knocked out by the migraine, but this morning, I did wake up in time to leave for my walk by 5.45 am. It was the lovely “ushat kAlam” ..the pre-dawn darkness slowly glowing into ambient light.
I went down the stairs…and it was dark enough that after a few floors, I had to go back to the lift and take that down to the ground floor. Out I walked, and with the tall buildings looming on every side, I walked along, being careful to get my various co-ordinates so that I would be able to find my way back through the Redwood Sequioas of Gurgaon.
Several things caught my eye. One thinks, perhaps, that each building is a compact “village”…but that is not so…most people living in the apartments are strangers to each other…they just share the cocoon, and the sense of camaraderie is pretty fragile. After I got no response to my third or fourth “good morning”, I stopped wishing anyone.
I went out of the apartment building I was staying in, and walked out to the “downmarket” area that I could see from the 19th floor balcony…from which the maid, who works in the apartment, comes. The area is divided by a “nullah” (sewage canal), with all sorts of filth in it, in which several huge-looking pigs (some actually having back-bristles like boars) were rooting around. What a difference between economic strata, separated by a road and a ditch! And yet, the residents of the building depend deeply on the denizens of this “pocket sector” (as one of Anjana’s banker friends in this area described it) meant for the “EWS” (Economically Weaker Sections). The drivers, the maids, the “ironwallahs”, the many domestic and menial services provided to the residents…they come from these “pockets”.
I noticed the early morning services in operation. Milk, in plastic sachets that were stacked in hard plastic crates, was being unstacked after being unloaded from the vans, and being delivered. Newspaper vendors sat in groups, with the day’s several papers in front of them, folding deftly, and inserting the various leaflets that make them a few extra rupees every morning, as well as the supplements of each newspaper. Maids and servants were walking to work, some with a shawl over their torsos, against the early morning’s slight nip. I was cheered to see some maids (yes) on cycles. In fact, at one place, I found several cycles, and the security told me that I could borrow a cycle if I wished, and return it after going around. That made me very happy!
I came back from the open road, and decided to walk along the buildings themselves. Between the high-rises were some even more opulent “low rises”…in this region of high real estate values, to have a bungalow or a low-rise building with just two or three floors must mean sky-high cost!
The spaces between the buildings were plentifully planted with trees and plants…and I was happy to see that not all of them were stunted and pruned to human domination…there were quite a few trees that supported a lot of squirrels, and birds…and as the sun rose, butterflies flitted along, too, as (did dragonflies. There were assigned walking paths, but I could walk along the entrances of the various grand apartments, and look up at the incredible variety of the architecture…some of which was pleasing to the eye, and some of which was…otherwise (“Neo-Gurgainyya”sums it up best for me.) The anonmyity of living in such apartments is, I suppose, both a comfort and a discomfort sometimes…but the greenery helps one in adjusting to this kind of city life.
I watched Bulbuls, Sunbirds, Pigeons and Wagtails; in the ditch, Lapwings looked incuriously at me; I saw a few Flowerpeckers in the Bottle-Brush trees, and did my chanting (108 names of Anjaneya, kanakadhArA stOtram, and some more slOkA), meditated in peace, watched some ladies doing yoga…by this time nearly two hours had elapsed.
The weather was just warming up by now, but I climbed the 19 floors to the terrace with ease, and was only slightly huffy and puffy when I reached the front door. I was happy with my morning walk, climb, observations and thoughts…
I walked into the apartment to greet everyone, especially the two children who are now the center of my universe. They ran to me and hugged me; the younger one showed his two teeth in a happy grin; the elder had some anecdote to relate….I was back in my present world..and I left behind the world of Gurgaon, the High-rise Village.