Since my father’s death, I have been leaving the comforts of my home to travel and do quite a bit of town and city shopping or eating out within Pune. Prior to my father’s arrival too, I rarely left home and its immediate neighbourhood due to my late wife needing my presence at home.
Among the things that fascinate me now when I go into cities is the idea that a great deal of people are outside their homes doing things all the time. The streets and roads are centers of activity, much more than of just movement, a center of commerce and sociability, of nonstop human drama, of endless surprises and interesting observations. There is a certain rhythm to the activities and one can sense groups who are regulars at places doing things that they do regularly and vary onlookers who have seen a great deal and who seem to constantly expect trouble.
Traffic lights are also places to watch humanity at its best with impatient drivers and law breakers looking to see if policemen are around before they dart out despite red lights being on. Honkers who seem to honk even when they red light is on and so on. One can also see other interesting human foibles like using the rear view mirror to admire oneself, comb one’s hair and so on and also the ever present curious motorcyclist who wants to see what is going on inside every vehicle stopped at the signals.
At multiplexes and malls I see a lot of young people spending money and wonder how they can afford such a life. But they seem to be totally indifferent to people like me who are there to watch rather than shop and the noise of the chattering in food courts is to be heard to be believed.
When I watch people coming into the park where I go every evening, I find a change in their expressions when they come into the open air and the green lawns and see the trees everywhere. I think that it is a sense of freedom compared to lives lived in small flats and being cooped up. Children particularly start running as soon as they hit the lawns and it is always a treat to watch them do that. It must be like coming out of a claustrophobic environment to come to that huge open space!
When I try to explain this fascination to others, I usually receive a blank stare implying that I have lost my marbles. Is that your reaction too?