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September 7th, 2005

7 th September 2005


This evening I was at Nariman Point. As soon as I crossed the road and landed at Kilachand Chowk, I found an old Parsi woman and I decided to sit next to her. For some strange, unknown reason, I felt that she was the person to watch today. She was also drawn to me. She observed me carefully, up to down, down to up. She was fidgety. She kept looking at her watch as if she is waiting for someone. She would then look here and there and mumble something to herself. She was wearing a bright blue frock and two red bangles on each wrist.

I felt like chatting up with her. But I could not bring myself to initiate the conversation. She looked with a faint smile sometimes, but could not express it fully. Finally, she got up to leave. At that time, I was talking with someone on my mobile phone. She got up and brushed her frock. She straightened her frock from the back and began looking around carefully to see if she hadn’t dropped anything or left behind anything. She smiled at me, as if saying, “I just want to be sure, you understand nah?” I responded with a reassuring smile. She then left to cross the road.

I have seen some elderly persons similar to the Parsi woman of today, in local trains. The space of the local trains is different from that of the promenade. It might be easy to label this Parsi woman as senile or ‘crack’! But then, what in this world is normal and what is abnormal? Is masking more normal than being oneself? What conditions plague people in the urban set-up?


I watched people on the promenade. There were lots of familiar faces. The hawkers, the old man walking fast with short steps, the leashed dogs, Mr. Thakker, etc. Yesterday, at the railway station, I was feeling a bit lost because there were no familiar faces. Today, at the promenade, I felt a bit reassured!


Activity on the promenade was easy today. This was because of the uncertainty of rains I guess. There was constant lightening and thundering today. But the showers seemed elusive. As I was sitting, I noticed the private security guard at Kilachand Chowk tourist chowky come over with his bamboo rod. He began shoving away a gram seller hawker who was sitting on the promenade wall. “Get up from here, go away!” he started shouting at the hawker. The hawker stood up and began to go. People watched. I wondered, ‘are some people’s rights to a space more than those of others?’ ‘Is a public space about egalitarianism?’ ‘How does equality and inequality manifest itself in a public space?’


I walked down the promenade. The question hitting my mind was ‘how do people maintain personal space in a public space? What is the experience of space in a public space like the Marine Drive promenade?’ As I walked with these thoughts, I saw two men collide into each other. One of them was walking a wee bit carelessly from one side and he hit into another old man coming from the other side. The latter was upset and shouted at the man, “Bastard! Can’t see or what?” The former also uttered a ‘bastard’ abuse and walked away. Still thinking … how is personal space preserved and maintained in public space? What is the experience of space in a public space?


Finally, as I treaded back home, I wondered whether people had forgotten the Marine Drive rape incident. Their practices of space seemed pretty ‘normal’ or at least mine were – all about memory, normality, crowds, abnormality, urbanity and people – CONDITIONS!



  1. September 8th, 2005 at 08:13 | #1

    Good thot –
    “But then, what in this world is normal and what is abnormal? Is masking more normal than being oneself?”