It’s almost impossible to stand still without clutching to your belongings tightly enough to prevent pick pocketers. People push past nonchalantly, instead of walking in an orderly fashion. The early morning roads are packed with the iconic yellow taxi drivers honking hurriedly and typical rickshaw wallahs (tuk tuk drivers) forming a self-declared long row at one end of the pathway, impatiently waiting for customers so as to start charging their meter fares. Vendors in bazaar (markets) setting up the stalls a millionth time before the crowd goes crazy. Across the road, daily commuters and regular school-going children start crowding for the local bus. In just few minutes, the bus becomes over packed and occasionally a drunk passenger will start a tiff with the conductor of the bus for a free ride with a bribe. With each hour, slowly passing by and the heat becoming unbearable, it becomes a norm for people to mutter curse words under their breath as if the heavenly gods are punishing them for all their individual sins. Mornings are long and snappy.
Afternoons still remains to be the same, except the closest to being in luck will be a slight downpour in certain areas and very rarely will it be the place you are at. The streets of India can be mesmerizing, especially in the most crowded hour of the day. It never loses its old way of charming outsiders, travelers and ordinary citizens. If you try hard enough and notice the women in cotton sari’s with carefully done pleats, sometimes the ones with a more vibrant shade, something which the westerners would refer to as an awfully long shirt with a thigh slit on either side and paired up with a lighter shade of skinny jeans which mostly are color coordinated with the shirt or even the slightly bolder ones adorned with gold bangles and wearing a bit of the not-so-sickly perfume, rushing past amidst the forming crowd in a hurry to catch the late noon bus. Children holding their mother’s hands. Nearby, street vendors selling gola ganda’s (iced candies) in almost all possible flavors you could think of on a hot, sweltering noon. Despite the chaos, there still is time to converse with the chai wallah (person who sells tea) and sip on masala chai’s in small steel tumblers. The familiar sight of people crowding for all sorts of chaat (snacks). Young street vendors shouting in their monotonous tone selling gol gappa’s in small colorful plastic bowls, which are deep fried puri’s (deep fried bread) poked and filled exactly with handfuls of mashed potatoes, chickpeas, onions, chutney, red chilies and dipped in a sweet mint flavored water. Then there are the street magicians, cleverly pulling out white doves and rabbits from ordinary looking black hats and crowd dazed with their never-ending tricks. Sometimes when the crowd gets livelier than usual, hypnotizing them with the age-old rope magic. Stray cows wandering in every alley, and few lucky ones fed by kind hearted shop owners. Occasionally, a wandering cow will find itself right at the middle of traffic, but the drivers manage to maneuver around most of the time. On very rare days, if bad luck prolongs the situation, the poor cow lands on the news headlines for the next day’s morning paper, ‘Hindustani Times’.
Everyone leads their own individual life, each with some sort of hidden purposed backed up with motivation. Although the city comes alive, every morning it acts as a quest for survival for some. The divide between the rich and the poor is undeniably visible between the frenzy.
Evenings are extremely short, due to exhaustion but the following mornings are much longer. Pavements acts as makeshift homes. Children run around barefooted, keeping a fair distance with “outsiders” and intruders. Boys and girls are taught to live independently at a tender age, each taught to master the work they are supposedly assigned; cycling around with a rundown bicycle and delivering newspapers to rich estates, scraping metal and all other things precious from rubbish chutes, washing plates for roadside vendors, selling crafts made of cheap paper.
The sun casts its golden rays upon the clouds of billowing smoke, turning them into hues of orange mixed with reds. Old men whiling away their time by downing themselves in cheap liquor and the more experienced among them taking occasional puffs of cigarettes along with crunch of seeds, dried fruits, spices wrapped in betel leaves. Children eagerly counting their coins of their day’s hard earned earnings before the adults forcefully takes them away. For some, evenings are strangely colder than mornings and for the rest, the city sleeps soundly as ever, unaware of different lives which makes up the morning crowd.