The city takes away my words. I become a shadow writer.
Unable to write- unable to come to terms that there seems to be nothing remotely worthwhile to say.
The deep green cover of wild vegetation, the blue inverted bowl of the sky, the dawn and the chorus of birdsong at the unearthly hour of four am and nightfall at the equally unearthly hour of five pm, the Drongos, Oriental Magpie Robins and even the earsplitting screeching of cicadas from another life at the north eastern corner of the country have become memories. There are no longer snakes or menacing monitor lizards where we live now. The newspaper does not report of cannabis crops being destroyed by police. Memories are fading slowly in colour, sound and sight.
I take those memories out once in a while, dust them off and play “do you remember” with my son.
The city has turned his head a bit. The little boy who was an enthusiastic birder has grown up. The parking space of the huge shopping mall, near where we live, is crammed with expensive cars belonging to rich Gujarati businessmen. His classmates routinely holiday abroad and are heirs to Audis, Mercs and BMWs; they wear sneakers which cost a small fortune to class. He is a bit embarrassed of his ordinary, middle class parents and our rattling old Hyundai Santro. He asks me when I plan to buy the iPhone X; I retort that I may need to list my kidney for sale on OLX.
The city also teaches him that the world he inhabits in his imagination is not the only reality of India.
Near the ultra posh mall, right in front of the Apple store, each evening a man stands, dark skinned and emancipated, making music on his primitive fiddle. Mostly people walk by without a second glance. He is resigned to it. Some hand him money. He is poor but not a beggar; he is an auto rickshaw driver by day, musician by night, to augment his meagre income. He sends his music out to the city- haunting melodies of songs from old Hindi films. Sometimes it is folk music that I do not recognise. He is a migrant to the city from neighbouring Rajasthan. I am one too, though not from Rajasthan; For a moment we are kindred souls.
Children younger than my son, sell multicoloured balloons and cheap plastic toys outside the mall.
This is also India- I tell him. There is a whole spectrum of financial inequality out there. There are children just like you but growing up in villages, lean and hungry, with fire in their bellies. Dreaming not of iPhone X but of food and decent clothes and perhaps of books and education.
Remember you are blessed, I tell him, trying to sound non-preachy.
Maybe someday he will understand.