Monday, 7 March 2011

Old times, forgotten places

Being indoors was killing me. I'm not usually an outdoorsy-adventurous kind of person; but I like my share of hiking, football, walks and travelling (more so commuting). So, after three days of studying efforts, I decided it has high time I took a little walk, nothing too fancy; just around the neighbourhood.
It's a funny world we live in. Normally, I'm a bit of a social recluse, preferring to be out when people arrive, and being in when the rest of the clan pushes off to someplace. But, while walking down the road in front of my house, I felt there was a method to my madness.

Eight-thirty in the night is not exactly a respectable time for an evening walk, especially in respectable neighbourhoods.
It was a Monday night, so as it stands to reason, most of the people were tired after a hard day's work. The houses were quiet, with the permissible TV, of course; switching between news and soap-operas. Even the strays seemed tired. Maybe, I thought, that was the mass mood; or perhaps, it was the caffeine in my system.
I took a turn and entered a cul de sac, the alley obstructed by trees and foliage, with a 50 foot drop beyond that. Thankfully, there was a streetlight.
An old man lived there, many years back; and died there too. I don't remember what his name was, but he had a dog, a ferocious one. Bingo, I think his name was. Yes, I was afraid  to cycle here; almost got bitten once. The house still existed, now consumed by dust and trees and reptiles; nature claiming what was once it’s.
Poor Bingo. I wonder what happened to that ferocious son-of-a-bitch.

The street parallel to ours had changed. A lot.
I could see at least three new buildings, one housed a coaching class; but there was a building, which is as old as I am; probably older. A constant in a changing world.
I walked further.

I had a friend who lived there once, nice chap. He lived with his grandmother and cousins, in a lovely bungalow; my mother once said it was very Goan. Yes, even I thought so.
We friends used to climb over the walls, enter the neighbouring buildings; it was our sport, a retreat. Sort of like a Quest World, you know. We used to get yelled at, barked at; once chased, too. But heck. We were kids. That's what kids were supposed to do.

Today a lavish building complex stood there, still under construction, right where the Goan bungalow once stood. Not even a coconut tree remained. So much for a Goan experience, I suppose.
Where he and his family are right now, I don't know. Until this moment, I don't think I even cared.
They're probably at a congested flat somewhere in Thane, or a MHADA colony. Or, if fortunate, a Goan bungalow somewhere in the outskirts of Bombay; I mean, further away from where I am right now.
The walls of the buildings were there where used to be. My hands itched, I could feel the cement scraping under my palms, the heavy breathing, the sweaty clothes. And the people yelling behind us. Just a little hop and a skip, that's all. No chance; the walls have been raised and now have barbed wire fences. A classic case of ''good fences make good neighbours'' I guess.
Besides, I'd probably end up spooking an old couple. Not cool.

A motorbike entered the alley, and a man disembarked. I could hear the sound of the TV from his humble chawl-like house; a 70s Amitabh Bachchan film, I think.
God, they still air those movies? And people still watch them?

He was looking at me rather suspiciously. I didn't know him; he is new around here, maybe. That's why I think he didn't know me. Oh, damn. How will he? Where do I ever socialize?
He was still suspicious. Darn, I know why: there was a spate of break-in attempts here a few weeks back. A teenager in a black shirt and jeans, unshaven: a likely suspect on a reconnaissance mission. It’s weird how they suspect good people in their neighbourhoods.
Then again, I don't quite fit the bill of a good 'neighbour' now, do I?
I quickened my pace and left for home. No point in spooking people. Last thing they (and I) want is to raise an alarm, only to discover a loner minding his business, at nine in the night. Right.

Ah, home. Dinner was ready, but I wasn't hungry. Just thought of a blog post. I entered the gate, the strays gave a warm and welcoming look, the first one in the last half hour. I latched the gates and checked the locks once again.
Good fences, after all, make good neighbours, don't they?

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