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March 15th, 2005

One Sunday in One City

6th March 2005

This morning …

Today is a Sunday. And there is a public meeting today. The public meeting is about the Supreme Court Judgment on the hawkers, the hearing of which is likely to take place in April. CitiSpace has organized the meeting and the ‘public’ has been invited to attend.

At the meeting, we are being thanked for sacrificing our Sunday and for coming to the meeting. The ‘public’ consists of people holding residences in the Western Suburbs and who are completely fed up with the hawkers. We are each being educated about our rights as ‘citizens’. And while there is a lot of talk about rights and awareness, I think about the rights of hawkers and whether they are citizens at all. How did citizenship first emerge? Who are considered citizens and who are not citizens? Why are citizens call citizens and not nationzens of statezens?

Ms. Punj, one of the convenors of CitiSpace addresses the issue of hawkers. “They threaten us. They encroach on our compound walls and a wall is private property. They are a nuisance.” The term nuisance is a prominent term in urban talk. Everybody complains of the nuisance that hakwers are, squatters are, beggars are, street children are – N for Nuisance! We are told of how public space is being encroached by hawkers and how we must protect our public spaces.

While the meeting is proceeding and Frequently Asked Questions about rights, hawkers and property are being addressed for the benefit of all, I start to look around and analyze the virtuous public that has sacrificed its Sunday and come to this meeting. Around me are some familiar faces and some unknown. While the organizers are spreading awareness and talking about rights, men and women in the crowds are socializing with each other. This appears to be an upper middle class crowd. As I watch people mingle and exchange “Oh hello’s” and “Hey, hi’s”, I think that Page 3 is not a phenomenon of just the rich, famous and glamorous. It pervades practically all of the middle class. Page 3, to me, is ‘socializing’, ‘networking’, and ‘making contacts’, with economic and political connotations. Being an ‘active citizen’ is a part of the package of Page 3 – the aware citizen and the citizen who participates in the politics of the locality and cleans it up.

The meeting ends after a while. We have been asked to photograph hawkers near our homes. Photographs are strong proofs which shall be presented in the courts in favour of eviction of hawkers.

As I walk out of the meeting, I think about ‘democracy’, the problematic notions of ‘public space’ and ‘representation’. CitiSpace is soon becoming a ‘representative’ of the publics, a protector of ‘public spaces’. What are the criteria to be representative of publics? Can a representative represent all of the diverse publics?


This evening …

This evening, just like yesterday, I am writing down the people who I see at Nariman Point.

Two security guards

One boy trying hard to kiss his girl

One guy trying hard to photograph his girl

Two girl friends

Three men – dressed in Western casuals

Two men in Maharashtrian casuals

One womanish girl with a manly man

One simple-ly dressed boy with rubber chappals

Three ‘gujju’ chokras (Gujrati boys)

One chana jor garam seller

One regular tea-coffee seller

One huge crane lifting rocks and stones and throwing them in the sea

One man, looking lost, walking slowly and lazily

One couple – man pensive, woman contented

One man

Two men

Two men

One elderly man

One elderly couple, walking at a distance from each other and the coming together

One youngish mother with her son

One old man in shorts, walking

One man with a large blue plastic bag

Two heavy busted and hipped women

A flurry of ‘worker-like’ men

One man with his two children by his side and his wife, sindoor-clad, walking behind

One burkha clad woman with her man

One Oriental looking man walking

There are seven-eight pages of records of people I saw at the promenade today. But an interesting thing that happened while I was making these notes was that a young boy and young girl were walking around the promenade. The boy had a camera in hand and he would approach people, say something to them, ask to stand against the sun and then the girl would ask some questions. I thought they were video-shooting for something, maybe a student film or some such thing. They approached me and asked if I would talk with them. I asked, “Who are you? What are you doing?” “We are researching here,” the boy said to me, adding, “We are doing a survey for the State Bank of India and asking people about their views on the bank.” I asked again, “Why here?” He responded, “Because you get all kinds of people here – a cross section.” He then went on to interview and ask me about the bank.

As he finished, I started to ask myself does a public space have a single homogenous use? Does public who must use the space be defined? What kind of a public space is Nariman Point?

As I walked ahead, the Sunday crowd was all over. They come from all parts of the city and also all parts of the country. I walked backwards, from where I had started. The duo were still doing their filming. They sat down after a while I spoke with them and told them how I was researching Nariman Point. The boy said to me, “This place gives me serenity. I feel calm here. Come here once in a month or so.” What does the promenade mean to him?

Limmerick of the Day

The day was long and went on and on. Ultimately, along with some friends, I sat down at the Chowpatty beach. A hawker was selling paan. He talked a lot and we asked him where he came from and how he feels at the beach. “I am from Madhya Pradesh,” he replied, adding, ” hafta kills. Everybody must be paid hafta .” And then he went on to say his limmerick which is:

Pheri ka dhanda hai

Phansi ka fanda hai

Har jagah dekho

Sab taraf hafta hi hafta hai!

i.e. Business of hawking,

Like a noose in the neck

Look around everywhere,

Its all about bribery!


  1. March 16th, 2005 at 05:42 | #1

    ah ha! i was at the promenade too.. theres a group of three men with blackshirts+bkackpants+briefcases to match that walk by 7:15ish in teh morning and six thirty back.. for some reason (meaning coz i’ve a sense of humour thats decidedly juvenile) it ALWAYS cracks me up loud 😀 😀 (got them on film even) okay not that it would be any interest but had to tell you!

    heres a limerick that has absolutely no connection to your solemn one. and in keeping with me, its extremely silly childish.. enjoi!

    whaat iz thees
    kombdi ka pees
    gaadi ka number char sau bees
    ghar mein jaa ke masala pees

    😀 aargh! never mind!

  2. March 17th, 2005 at 00:08 | #2


    liked ever word u wrote,was fun reading it,wasent childish had a sence of sadness and a story to be told in its own quite way



  3. March 17th, 2005 at 09:16 | #3

    lol @ the observations