Silhouettes of moulting pigeons on window sills and balcony walls. Disembodied voices and noises. Stray feathers underfoot. Welcome home.
The process of settling-in continues, and I walk quietly past the tiny groups of children playing in the pretend-garden- a decent size for a crowded city- and the area around it, in front of the board that prohibits playing in the vicinity. This is one ‘law’ I wouldn’t want upheld. Can they really advocate boxed-up, claustrophobic childhoods to save a few measly window-panes at the cost of the yellow sunshine and pleasantly stinging raindrops that they once indulged themselves with?
Yet another elevator. Very small, painted a dark glossy brown, four walls scratched with unremarkable graffiti and closed without a glimpse of the outside world. (Is this how they carted people to Auschwitz?) You might well be shooting into space or plunging down to Hades, not knowing if the earth stopped turning or a Cormac McCarthy-style apocalypse struck- safely suffocating in that narrow little box, you would develop a lifelong aversion for elevators. How different it is from the sky-canopied, peopled area outside.
The elderly sit out on the benches in the ‘garden’. Two young children run by. “Saku Behn! Kem chho?” calls out an old man in a blue T-shirt and green cap. The children run to him, giggling. The little boy ask for chocolates.
“Didn’t I give you two today? One for you, one for her?”
“Yes, only one chocolate per day.”
“So will you give us more chocolates tomorrow?”
“Not tomorrow, but the day after. I’ll have to go and buy the chocolates tomorrow, you see.”
The boy looks askance at the old man. “You need a whole day to buy chocolates?”
With the implicit trust and simplicity of childhood, the boy accepts the deal placidly, and runs off as his mother comes to take him home. The girl goes along.
Twilight clouds linger in the sky. Play time is almost over. The thrilled shrieks and the bicycle bells gradually cease as darkness envelopes the garden and tired parents come home, bent with the burden of responsibility, casting their overwhelmed shadows on the sunshiny happiness of ignorance and carefree childhoods. Parents who believe in advertisements that say, “Your child watches TV. Your neighbour’s child knows who invented the TV.” Stinging, cruel.
A few more hours, till Sleep weaves her magic and takes all her children into her dream-clad arms.