It was late night and rainy – a perfect time to be out on the streets. There’s a time of the night when walking along Marol actually feels beautiful. Limpid light from the lamps, reasonably empty walkways, fruits and vegetables stacked on wooden carts and looking ornate in the soft, lantern glow. A few yards ahead, though, a huge crowd had converged. The traffic had started to build up. The next second, an auto sidled up to me and…well, the temptation of an empty auto was too much to resist. We zipped off to Bandra.
Fifteen seconds later, we were stuck in a traffic snarl. It was around eleven thirty. I love being in traffic at that time of the night. It’s comforting. Makes me feel that people are busy and everything’s all right with the world. It had started pouring heavily and the city seemed to be shrouded in this cold, gauzy mist – like those souvenirs that are wrapped in strips of silver nets.
We inched along, slowly but steadily. Up ahead, there was a basti to my left. People dressed in bright clothes and sequined shoes danced in a circle. It looked like a merry-go-round of pink zari dupattas, shiny, teal sherwanis, stacks of green and gold bangles, with maroon and silver dandiya sticks. They looked so festive. All that music, glitter, arclights, gusto – concentrated in the grim dampness of a slum – made that gathering look like a party for fairies…and everyone was invited.
Suddenly, the traffic had cleared up and people started revving their engines to forge ahead. I had my head stuck out of the auto like a dog. The rickshaw fellow turned around and asked me, “Ruk ke dekhnai hai, madam?”
I nodded. We pulled over and watched the happy, shiny people for some time. They were dancing with so much joy – it was palpable. That happiness moved through the cool night and heavy downpour in waves. A little girl in a wet, yellow ghagra looked at me and waved. I waved back.
A few metres away, people cursed the traffic some more.
There’s so much to see on the streets. So much to learn from. So much to live with.