For the last two weeks, I’ve had a long, nagging list of random things to purchase without which settling down again is not an option. Not even for two months. (For some reason I can find all my utensils except spoons, which, as anyone who orders in regularly knows, are the only utensil worth having). I scheduled my little shopping expedition for today, and instead of taking the usual three-wheeler, I decided to save myself some money (and feel good about it) by walking all the way down to the nearest marketplace.
Now, if there’s any complaint that I had with Jouy-en-Josas, it is that we were so far away from civilization. You had to (I’m not exaggerating) trek down for a mile through a temperate forest in order to get anything more than the basic supermarket stuff. There was a *bus* which came at appointed times on Saturdays to take us to the nearest shopping mall which was located some 20 km away.
As it happens, now that I’m back, it appears that my complaint has reversed. The proverbial viridification of grass etc. has occurred and I caught myself thinking whether we are not *too* close to civilization. Once outside the gates of the college I passed a shanty town, a low-end but thriving market, a huge mall and a Hyatt hotel, all within 1.5 kms. Such is the glory that
was is India.
The street also made me wonder if “walking” in a large city isn’t analogous to the lifestyle and societal pressures that you may expect to find there. When you walk, you are pressed between the big guys (the major traffic, which will run you down without a thought, given a chance) and the not so fortunate persons (who regard you, both literally and metaphorically, as though you’ve dropped from another planet, and why don’t you just get back where you belong ?). You have to be eternally aware lest you get run off the road by someone or the other with a tremendous vehicle or ego or both. It’s safest to simply follow the guy walking in front of you, instead of looking too much to the left or right or trying to carve your own path through this environment because OOOPS there is a Toyota driver yelling at me now,he just missed me by an inch. (Even though the path that that guy, and you, are following may be extremely narrow.)
As long as you can prevent the dirt and muck from actually *showing* up on your clothes you’re fine, no one asks you how your walk was because in India, we don’t walk to enjoy ourselves. Who does that ? We walk to get from place A to place B (place B usually being a mall; wherein, today, I succumbed to the “sales psychology” and became the unfortunate possessor of an extraordinarily ugly red sweater, but that is another story).
I’m not sure whether this analogy really works. Does it ?
PS: Also, get a car. So that you can be the one doing the scaring-other-people-out-of-their-lives thing.
PPS: I got the spoons. Still miss my hot plate, saucepan, and sundry other items though