Street is where life moves; a public space that goes beyond means of mobility of any urban fabric. It transpires life in a way that is complex and crude. Displays and echoes realities irrefutable.
When asked what is it that you look forward to when you travel to a new city, Jeet Thayil, a distinguished poet and one-time journalist, said, “It’s the rhythm of a city. That feeling you get when you walk on the streets of a strange city”.
Of course, walking down the street, you hear it. Singing the situation. It tells the story. Of place and people. The strange faces, the strange facades. And the strange culture that seems to reflect certain similarity and several differences.
Besides, the street is a manifestation of both blatant and clandestine facts of any place. From westernized aroma to traditional smell, the street displays the binary picture. From bustling markets and malls to the guarded fringes, the city puts on view the uneasy peace as well as the undercurrent of violence.
The street indicates that fear runs parallel to tranquility. The concord is conditional to conflict. The politicians are conceited and corrupt. The civil groups are both complacent and confused. And above all, common masses are the fodder of any political industry.
The street also shows the empathy with vast majority of poor illiterates and miniscule educated elite. The life is varied and living is divergent. Yet, the street accommodates the both.
Further, the street echoes that it is the strong battleground of ideologies. There is always a war going upon it. It is usually ruthless and inhumane, but at times it is also silently powerful. Both rebellions and revolutions emanate out of it.
Street is also a witness to betrayals of history. To breaking of public mind and making of an otherwise nation. To covert conspiracies that bounce back and bring an ugly storm. To disowning of allegiances and pledges. That’s why street is a turf of tortures, visible and invisible. Of tyranny, heard and unheard. Of marches, violent and peaceful. Of killings, mystified and mourned.
The street has lost its charm. It’s value. It’s essence. It’s spirit. It’s God. Now it is lifeless. The street boys and girls have left out many things. The thinking class has put out many critical things off their mind.
Ghosts of the street’s history haunt it. A strange eerie envelops its skies. It is overshadowed by bloodbath and brutality. Perhaps streets too hit a dead end!
And most importantly, the street is a reminder of the fall, the smashing down of a great dream that sow the seed of its existence. Blood bleeds over it. Tears roll over it. And, an outsider moans over it— Hum Teray Shehar Mein Aaye Hain Musafir Ki Tarah……
Bottomline: Jeet Thayil talked about the rhythm of a city. The rhythm is there, but it’s fabricated and deceptive. The sound is shrill. The sense is shallow. Perhaps when street becomes a noisy playground, where multiple players try their fortune, and wreak havoc for their vested interests, the land trembles and shakes. The Bard of East is shocked. Nothing memorable remains to be taken back by a traveler except a mental montage of betrayal, bitterness and bereavement—
Hee Lay Chalain,
Aaye Hain Is Gali Main
To Pather Hee Lay Chalain…