Chapattis – drying ’em in thin air

When running on roads, one encounters various sights, smells and scenarios – some pleasant, some not so pleasant, some mundane, some thrilling, some disgusting. Reactions vary from surprise to disgust to indifference. One of the things that I have missed most after the move from Mumbai to Bangalore is the vibrancy of street life and the presence of crazy crowds on the roads at all times in the day. To begin a run at 7 AM in Mumbai is recipe for encountering a great deal of street activity, humdrum and buzz of people. Running at 7 AM in Bangalore means warming up to often pleasant weather and experiencing a lazy, sedentary mood where people are just about beginning to wake up to the morning and the city. Actually, people maybe already alive to the day even before 7. The issue is the invisibility of people, of activity and interactions on the streets and roads, an energy that is pervasive in Mumbai even if you disdainful of that energy. Maybe in Bangalore, people are more to blinded to the problems of traffic, almost all the time, to pay attention to what happens on the roads …

When running, I come across various sights. Couple of days ago, as I was completing my run, I happened to see a man sitting under a lean tree, at the corner of a lane. He was a vagabond, his clothes rugged, his hair regularly irregular, his belongings sparse. He had  removed the wad of chapattis from the plastic bag and was dusting them against the thin air that was in the air that morning. The chapattis must have been a day old, stored in the refrigerator of the city’s cool temperatures at night, stored away from dogs who may have sniffed ’em, leaving our vagabond deficient of his food supplies for a day or two. The chapattis, stored in the vast refrigerator of the night in a city, taken out in the morning, dusted in the thin air … Come to think of it, it seemed that the man was performing what may have been mundane to his life and person, his mundane which is un-normal, un-natural, ir-regular for us who dwell in the comforts of our settled homes and refrigerators.

The image of the vagabond dusting the chapattis in thin air has stayed with me for the last few days. It has stayed with me not because I was affected by what may appear to be the vagabond’s ‘poverty’. It has stayed because it has led me to think of abundance and of the city once again. If poverty is lack and abundance is plenty, can be there be plenty in what appears to be lacking? I have desired for the most part of my life to be a vagabond. I have successfully managed to be one for some days and months at a stretch in the past. I have never dusted chapattis stored in the chiller of the city next morning, but I have eaten from the hands and plates of people who already have less for themselves and yet, are abundant. Even when I have not eaten, I have been invited into their lives and given of their lives as abundantly as abundant could be. It is perhaps these relationships which I have often missed in Bangalore and these relationships which I no longer seek when I travel to other cities. Why this is so requires an altogether separate discussion and introspection. For now, the hero of the moment is our vagabond, seemingly alone, ir-regular, un-natural, lacking and simultaneously plentiful despite the despites. Dusting his chapattis in thin air, the vagabond is a metaphor for relationships that I have not sought, for the adventures I have not undertaken because the comfortable is too comforting and the strange is too strange, for the food of life I have not partaken, for the chapattis that I have not dusted yet in the thin air. The vagabond makes me mindful of the city where the vagabond is invisible despite visibility because my mind is too focused on wading through the traffic to keep the appointment or make it to a destination. The vagabond is symbolic of the sedentariness of journeys and of the fears of poverty that inhibit me from jumping off the cliffs and learning to fly.

To the vagabond and the unknown journeys – may there be more …

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About writerruns

I am lost in life. I now run to lose myself and to lose the handles I have been holding on to.
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