Friday, September 21, 2012

A Day in Bhangel

I do not remember when and how I adapted myself to this little village. I was scared of crossing the road because I'd been hit twice by people coming from the wrong side on a one-way road. Today, I just have to anticipate the speed at which the cars/bikes must be approaching me from around the bend. I raise my hand without even looking up at the vehicle and cross like it's cake walk. Cake walk in two ways, the figurative one and the literal one where you step on the cake the cow decided to leave on the side walk.

The cattle will find you anywhere. Most of the time when you're wondering why there's a traffic jam on a one-way road, it's a cow or a buffalo who just planned to take a little break, chewing endlessly on some imaginary gum, ignorant to the incessant honking behind her. The cattle here are cool like that. I guess they have the Gujjar blood running at 87263920139437238 kmph in their veins.

The Gujjars are both cute and absurd. Cute, because I've seen young married couples holding hands and strolling happily. You almost want to ignore the man's white shirt gone dusty-brown with a collar that's probably been sewn a dozen times so that it stays like that for another few months. His chappals may be covered in dust, but he never leaves his wife's hand. The wife is all colour-coordinated in red and bling! More bling and red that's just so red that it could hurt your eyes. She smiles all the way. You naturally end up appreciating the couple because he doesn't seem like the man who'd beat her up unlike the rich Indian doctors settled in US who turn into wife-beaters because they weren't paid enough to wed. She doesn't seem like those women who'd even have the hots for another man.

The really absurd Gujjars are the ones who travel with me in the bus. They'd fight with the conductor because they want to pay just 5 bucks for 15 kms. Absurd. Then they also manipulate the conductor's words and turn him into the culprit, get into a fist fight and end up breaking their skulls over 5 bucks. Absurd. Though there are a few nasty conductors, but I'm partial to them because they never misbehave with me. They always give me this cute smile and I always get my change before the others. They're my friends.

Amazingly, all this doesn't bother me any more. They could be the best or the worst people, I give a damn. The fact that none of those men make dirty passes at me in local buses as opposed to Delhi is more than comforting. There are Audis, and then there are cart pullers, there are HIG apartments, and then there are little tents right outside your building that houses a family of 15. I had never lived in a place full of paradoxes in my life, ever!

While I was in school, I was picked up by my father's army jeep. My college has been stereotyped as the house of the posh, bitchy, elite women who travel in nothing less than the Delhi Metro. And here I am, travelling in a broken, local bus, listening to Snow Patrol on my phone while most others are probably still stuck to Pardesi, Pardesi jana nahin.. My co-passengers never finish a sentence without using expletives. They'd probably hold your collar faster than lightning could strike you. A lot of these instances have put me off the materialistic pleasures of owning a cool laptop or a smartphone because I'm trying to be a part of this crowd. They don't look like they cheat on their women, though they might cheat on their Workshop owner or wherever they work. They'll fight for every penny because they know how hard it is to earn to be able to afford a one-way travel worth 10 bucks. I might not have liked this place at all initially, but I wouldn't be wrong to say that it has indeed taught me to remain closer to reality.