Streets Sing Silently

Walking down the street, you hear it. Singing the situation. It tells the story.
Kids play cricket in the streets of Habba Kadal in Srinagar. [Representational Image]
Kids play cricket in the streets of Habba Kadal in Srinagar. [Representational Image]File: Haseeb Ibn Hameed

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 similarities 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 empathy with the vast majority of poor illiterates and minuscule educated elite. Life is varied and living is divergent. Yet, the street accommodates 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 break the public mind and make an otherwise nation. To covert conspiracies that bounce back and bring an ugly storm. To disowning allegiances and pledges. That’s why the street is a turf of torture, visible and invisible. Of tyranny, heard and unheard. Of marches, violent and peaceful. Of killings, mystified and mourned.

The street has lost its charm. Its value. Its essence. Its spirit. Its God. Now it is lifeless. The people of the street 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 battle and brutality. Of ideas and interests. Perhaps streets too hit a dead end!

The streets host life. Life as it is. No smokescreens and no masks, only pure reality. The small tea shop with bells ringing. One sees young men drinking tea and playing video-games on their smartphones. A mother carrying her child trying to jay-walk across the cars. That’s what street is. Where people hang their clothes to dry and the power lines make it difficult to look at the sky.

Street shows stories of men and women going or coming back from work. To provide for, maybe, their children or old parents. Where youngsters chill and roam around on their motorbikes at night.

Where there are no lanes and cars get stuck. Hundreds of people have walked upon the street, many dead, many alive.

Some great rulers have passed the streets or some notorious outlaws. It will take ages to wholly feel and understand the story of every street.

And most importantly, the street is a reminder of the fall, the smashing down of a great dream that sowed the seed of its existence. Blood bleeds over it. Tears roll over it. And, an outsider moans over it— how streets change, how histories get rewritten and crowds walk amidst, unthinking and unmoved.

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 the 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—

Kuch Yaadagaar-e-Shehar-e-Sitamagar

Hee Lay Chalain,

Aaye Hain Is Gali Main

To Pather Hee Lay Chalain…..

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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