Crossing The Road

Crossing The Road

4 mins 25.2K 4 mins 25.2K

“Rasta cross karate kya?” he asked in his vanishing little voice. Amidst the maddening yelp of the traffic and the incessant bark of the sun, I dismissed his half-heard appeal, thinking it to be an attempt to inveigle money from me. Ignoring him, I walked past. But the shock of recognition made me turn back. “That scrawny little guttersnipe, was he really the city of Nizam”, I asked myself. In his flimsy and thin hair I could make out a strand or two of the nights when Musi’s rage had over flown her banks. Somewhere far and distant into his eyes I could catch an evanescent glimmer of moonlight reflected from the chowmahalla palace. From his cloud-capped eyes occasionally rained tiny tinkles of feminine laughter. Perhaps he was reminiscing the time spent at his harem. His clothes though all torn and tattered, were held together by the intricately woven saracenic arches. In warps of the threads I could perceive the curlicues of quranic phrases. The weft belied the intricacies of muqarnas which would held up his pride in the hey days.

Scores of such thoughts galloped through my mind and my innards gnawed with questions like: If this was the city of Nizam why did he seem lost in his own body? Why was he masquerading as a child? Why couldn’t he cross the road and where would he go after he had crossed on to the other side. Tremors of these ruminations must have been contorting my visage for some time and before long I hear him say “help me and I will answer your questions.” Now I was absolutely sure that he was indeed the city of Nizam for only a city could read the mind of his inhabitants. But I was already wallowing in the depths of my morbid curiosity and I retorted, “Answer my questions first and then only will I help you cross the road.” Throwing a desperate look of fear around him, as if his very existence was in peril, he acceded.

“I hadn’t seen it coming,” he began, “it had all been a part of me. Distant, uninhabited, barren and rocky fields which were the very fringes of my being got infected with the cancer of modernization. In a matter of months my body was covered with lesions of glass and concrete. Like tumors these lesions grew and coalesced to form a monster, a city without a city, a soulless body within my soul. A whoremaster without parallel, its malls plied their businesses on every street corner. With their wares on display they seduced all and sundry. Every desire could be tried on, fondled a little before some other took its place. And with every trial my inhabitants exposed a bit of their souls to the monster. In its brightly lit homes, offices and restaurants there was no place for the self that sought the dimness of contemplation. The soul was driven out of the body to be trapped in the streets of glass. Then the monster turned on a part of itself, me. With its weapons of light and glass it lay waste the tombs, forts and lakes. This snarling and yelping traffic you see is one more of its weapons sent to seek and destroy me. I had to go into hiding to escape its wrath. I underwent infinite transformations, at times I disguised myself as a bangle seller in lad bazaar and at others a sari seller in sultan bazaar. I have been a shayar at times, an imam at others and through many tortuous routes am I now the owner of this body. Hoping to conceal the scent of ages, of conflicts and vicissitudes, of triumphs and beauty unparalleled under the skin of a child I chose this body. On the other side of the road lies my salvation, a sanctuary, a mausoleum of my own making where I will rest my world wearied spirit. And those are the answers to all your questions. ”

“Now please help me cross the road,” saying that he slipped his scrawny little arm into my hand. The feel of his skin on mine dislodged the memories of narrow cul-de-sacs drenched in the smell of cooking biryani with a strong undertone of the smell of effluvium from public toilets. Snapping back into reality we started crossing the road. Keeping the growling beast of the traffic at bay I reached the other end of the road only to realize that the city of Nizam was lost in the din of traffic.

 


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