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Posts Tagged ‘place’

Strangers. Cacophony. Crowds. Making sense. Making space. Making place …

March 7th, 2008

Today started off as a mediocre day. But I have to post and therefore, here is the attempt (while listening to Art Company’s Suzanna, I’m crazy lovin’ you!).

So we were all waiting at the K. H. Road bus stop, waiting for our respective buses to arrive, so that we could reach our respective destinations. The 360 series buses were plenty. Two women at the bus stop were speaking in Kannada. Seemed like working women, belonging to middle working classes. I was watching them and assessing my own condition of immobility. These days, I have been largely at home, trying hopelessly to get somewhere with the Ph.D. The feeling of immobility strikes in these times when even with the desire of wanting to go out somewhere, I am unable to get myself to move. So here are these women, who are mobile everyday, who get out into the city to reach their places of work. Are they also immobile despite their ability and compulsion to move every single day? Are they mobile and simultaneously immobile, both conditions produced by routine? What kind of comforts does routine provide us? What securities does routine grant us? I found it interesting that I encounter these random strangers on the bus stop, for a few minutes, in that moment of all of us waiting for buses, and then I start trying to understand my situation vis-a-vis their situation. How often does that happen to all of us?

So here are these two women, waiting at the bus, for buses to arrive. They seem middle-class, workingwomen. Perhaps Bangloreans for a long time. And the buses that arrive are of the 360 series. All these buses are bound for Electronic City. One of the two of the women complains, “what is this? all these buses going to Electronics City? It is holiday season. Therefore there are fewer buses for our destination in the evenings.” Her irritation appeared as a matter of fact, as a matter of acceptance that work patterns and therefore routines in Bangalore have changed and some crowds will be serviced more than others owing to the economic changes in this city. I am entirely unsure if she was complaining of the distinction between IT and non-IT crowds, that distinction which is being emphasized off late in order to comprehend the pathologies of this city. Would it make a difference to our cognition of the city and its conditions if we view IT as just another economy? What is this IT imaginary? Why does it have to feature in our attempt to make sense of this city, its cacophony, its, spatiality and the place?

So here we are, the two workingwomen and myself (in addition to the others), waiting for our buses to arrive. Mine comes and I wonder if it is their’s too. But I could not bother to see. I got into number 13. I don’t know what became of those two women. But for that moment of waiting for the bus, I ended up entering their lives and achieving that moment of solidarity with them, sharing the same irritations (including the idiocy of a bus driver honking to glory at the bus before him, knowing fully well that there are passengers getting into that bus and there is no space on the road to maneuver).

Inside the bus was another world, another space. A woman conductor keen to ensure that all passengers had purchased tickets. The bus was jam packed. Two Muslim women were sitting in the absolute front seat. A blind man got into the bus and stood near the absolute front seat. The Muslim women were being persuaded to give up one of their seats for the blind man. The Muslim women fought back stating that the blind man should not have gotten into the ladies section. The blind man was blind to all this cacophony. He managed to make place to stand in a manner where he would face least hindrance and disturbance. The others continued the for and against argument for him. He had made his place.

After a point, I had also managed to make my place in the crowd. The bus got more crowded and then it became emptier. Women continued to stand at the door, out of a sense of insecurity that moving inside would mean locking themselves up with each other into a crowd and then making it impossible for themselves to get out when their stop arrives. That insecurity was also compelling me to stand near the door. But I could not afford to hold on there.

At Siddhapura, a woman entered the bus with her baby boy in one arm and her daughter by her side. The daughter must have been about 4 years old. The woman was trying to make her place. I felt very sorry for her, given the baby in her arms, the crowd in the bus and how was she managing to hold on despite all this madness? Her little girl stood in the middle. My stop was arriving. The conductor was right there. I asked the conductor to move so that I could get off. The conductor kept telling everyone, “swalpa jaaga kodi” but that was not making any difference. The crowds continued to stick there. I had to get off! I tried hard to manage my way without harming the little girl. Eventually, I had no choice but to crush her to make my way out. And then I had to shout at the women at the door to get off the bus so that I could get off.

I did not feel bad about crushing the girl after a point. This is not a survival in the city kind of narrative. It is just acknowledgment of the conditions that we live in from time to time. At some times, we enter into the lives of absolute strangers to feel some ground in the city. We enter their lives without their permission, through our minds and imaginations. And then, at some times, we navigate in aggressive and violent ways in order to make our own spaces. Sometimes we just end up making space, unknowingly

(And there is no end to this post)

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