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Life Of The Indian Footpath

Life Of The Indian Footpath

July 08, 2012
Vivek Iyer

In India, reserving a footpath solely for walking is a blasphemous idea. Instead, it’s a platform to showcase diverse talent.

In India, reserving a footpath (wherever existent) solely for walking is a blasphemous idea. Instead, it’s a platform to showcase diverse talent and hence serve a greater purpose. 

In an upscale locality, the rather premium red-tiled footpath begins service for the day by sole kissing expensive Nike trainers of the iPod-clipped-women-in-shorts kind, and their male equivalents. Their upscale dogs tugging along also exhibit status by intimidating the stray community – which rule the footpath after dark – to sheepishly withdraw dominance, at least for those few morning hours. Occasionally, verbal clashes between the two classes of dogs occur. Oh and yes, for the trees that stand by the sides, this is the time they’re blessed with some upscale dog nutrient.

Simultaneously in the neighborhood slum dwelling, one footpath forms the first line of control: between the slum and the upscale neighborhood. The slum is official residence for the back-office staff of wealthy Indian households – drivers, house helps et al. This wider footpath, formed by wear and tear of the ground, is where inhabitants primarily answer calls. First are mobile phone calls due to lack of signal penetration in their makeshift homes, and second (and more prominently), natures’ calls. I’ve often contemplated the possibility of huge deposits of crude directly underneath. By night, it becomes the slum’s official playground at one end, and casino at the other, both being lit very generously by street lights while they work, and stolen-electricity lamps when they don’t.

With all the above taken into account, we in India don’t intend to serve you by the side of our excretory deposits. That’s why we’ve put business on the other side of a different footpath adjoining the commercial zone, thus forming the second line of control. It branches out together with the streets into more footpaths, and as you hop and skip through, you’ll discover that amazing athlete in you. You’ll be struck by the vivacity of India’s greatest retail industry housed here. Divide their total income by the cumulative sum of space occupied, and you’ll be staggered by the revenue-per-square-foot; so much it just might surpass that of Apple’s retail division. From cosmetics to garments, cell phones to computer hardware, cutlery to cookware, and grocery to general household supplies – everything’s under a few (umbrella) roofs. To further pamper the shopping experience, after every few meters is a “cool bar” selling tea, soda, paan and cigarettes. Seasonally, there are hills of mangoes and grapes, among the more common fruits and vegetables. There is also a thriving services industry; shoe shiners, barbers, street jugglers, acrobats, musicians and the more exciting tarot readers. In case guilt encroaches your lavish spending there will be vagrants awaiting generosity.

Twined with all this commotion, product promotions – yelling out prices at best bargains – happen as enthusiastically as the owner/salesmen themselves. Retailers here also find innovative ways in raising capital e.g. by sale of “Ad space” on tree barks and lampposts beside their outlets. They assume that for some reason, you’ll want everything they have to sell. With customer-centric pricing in play, look upper class and you’re expected to pay more, unless you win the bargain game. On reaching a mutual agreement on the price, if you change your mind, prepare to get cursed!

Larger footpaths around the area double up as parking lots. In a rapidly developing India, construction sites are inevitable, and the owners have exclusive rights to use the footpaths around for storing gravel and construction equipment. If any of that is not present, at least be sure to find a cow lying on the footpath and chewing its cud like a boss.

Obviously, all this pressure takes its toll on the feebly built concrete blocks. If you’re lucky you may end up not slipping into a sewer through the fault lines.

Photo credit
: photos.nicolas-holzheu.com 

13 Comments

  • Britul
    By
    Britul
    19.07.12 03:32 PM
    Nice post.

    Unlike other commenters above, I don't feel like we should consciously highlight positive aspects of our country. After all, bloging is all about sharing what you feel from your within.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    10.07.12 12:35 AM
    @Harry,

    I don’t wish to continue my opinion about whatever twist you have to your comments. The first ever comments you made involving me were taken as tongue in cheek and my answer would have let you know that I laughed at it.

    You simply don’t know me and I don’t know you. I don’t make friends with people I don’t know. You try to continue with sarcasm, then the choice of words and then tongue in cheek.

    The moment you try to get personal, I like to cut it short straight away before you try to the exceed tolerable limits.

    If you keep your comment simply about any article on NRI in question it won’t leave any bad taste in my tongue.

    Just enjoy taking your kids for a ride and not me.
  • Anju
    By
    Anju
    09.07.12 10:49 PM
    This piece brought back memories of my time in Mumbai. I walked for about half an hour daily to and from work. The descriptions in this post vaguely resemble my experience walking on the footpath.

    I was constantly looking at the ground as I walked that stretch from Colaba to Nariman Point every morning. There was everything from the slums; people using it to answer 'calls'; cows chewing cud (there were people who actually made a living out of selling food for these cows that the passersby could buy and feed the cow with!); piles of gravel, mortar and what-nots; the bowel wastes of dogs that the dog-walker of the rich, conveniently ignores to pick after the dog; and the rows of street-shops on Colaba Street are 'world famous' in Mumbai. But guess what, I miss that! Every square foot of the footpaths that I had to tread to reach my office!

    My only complaint about this post then, would be its very last sentence; the fact that these feebly constructed concrete blocks withstand all this is the greatest marvel of all!
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    09.07.12 09:20 PM
    @ Rajpriya

    The post I wrote was in no way meant to cause any upset. This was only tongue in cheek and I thought you will get it, but you my friend, taking everything too seriously. The thing I said are in no way under mans control that was the clue.

    I thought we will have good laugh about this, but you seem to think that, I am hell bent on picking on you. Let me put this straight today, I am not picking on you, but trying to laugh with you, but you seem to think that I am picking on you.

    We as people will only talk and write about negativity, but never about any thing good that happens to us. This is our true nature. So when Amrut said in her post that NRI only publishes articles that are full of negativity about India. Thus I had no choice and write the post, which I know and you know is not true.

    We only write about our experiences, which are mainly good and bad, but I think the bad are bit more then good in this case. This is showing in the reflection more, but you can't hold this against the writers who are writing for NRI. You can't just write anything that pleases people about India which is not true, because you and I and the writers have duty on this platform, to tell the truth no matter how bitter it is.

    I am hoping that by showing all the negativity about India will inspire positive change and will make our motherland a great country that one can be proud of, and I hope that all you NRI's feel the same.

    Rajpriya, once a somebody told me that, no matter how we dress or where we live, we will always be Indian by heart, and that will never change for any of us. If this hold true, then we will always have respect for our fellow Indian and others, regardless of our differences. That's our nature.

    For your question, I am a taxi, but only for my kids and nobody elses.

    HARRY
  • Shalu Sharma
    By
    Shalu Sharma
    09.07.12 05:24 PM
    There is no doubt that India has shamed itself. 60+ years of independence and people of India are still living like people in Africa. You walk in any city or town in India, you will see rampant poverty, hunger and destitution.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    09.07.12 02:55 AM
    If I am put next to Aamir Khan I am a nonentity. I cannot negatively influence even my own mother about India. I have never watched Satyameva Jayathe because it’s never broadcast on German TV.

    I don't know if it is broadcast in UK. When I am in UK I have hardly any time to watch TV. It is through Indian newspapers and an article in the bbc.co.uk last week I read about AK and SJ.

    NRI is relatively unknown abroad for it to have any negative influencing of foreigners. But if you have not noticed the few foreigners who are living in India or have lived have written articles on negativities of India. Why do Indians and NRI's go soft on them or even pamper them o say I love your articles.

    It is an Indian weakness to find fault with its own people for opposing the fraudulent practices. There was this U.S. Vice Consul Maureen Chao in August last year regretted having used the words `dark and dirty' to describe Tamils in the course of her speech at a private university at suburban Kattankulathur, S. India.

    I don’t think anyone condemned this comment more than me forgetting that her own president was none other than Barack Obama. Most Indians sincerely want India to change for the better if not the best.
  • Amrut
    By
    Amrut
    09.07.12 01:41 AM
    I am always open to feedback, be it feedback on me or India or anything, for I believe a good feedback lays the foundation for success.

    'Satyamev Jayate' probably is one of the most ruthless TV shows that I am aware which highlights the many follies that exist in the country, and I don't miss a single show as I am aware that this itself is the "format" of the show.

    My only concern is if one goes by the 'About' section of NRI, it states - ' We will bring you news from India to forge a closer understanding between Resident and Non Resident Indians and create a greater cultural awareness amongst those who want to reconnect with their Indian roots.' Certainly topics like footpaths or funny taxi drivers of Mumbai won't be helpful in 'creating cultural awareness'.

    Now don't get me wrong. I don't mean to question the write-ups but have a request to showcase the +ves of this great nation as well. May be you have, in the past when I hadn't subscribed or may be one is scheduled to be published tomorrow that I am not aware.

    Nevertheless, I enjoy the quality of writing and its honesty. Keep writing.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    09.07.12 12:45 AM
    Dear Harry,

    I am a very proud Indian. I am really very sorry what goes on in India. I have enough foreigners asking me about negativities of India. They often question me about corruption, women being treated bad by men, killing baby girls, high rate of rapes and numerous other things that disturbs me and to get these information from them is worse and to find them all to be true is unbearable.

    Do you really think that I was responsible for advertising negativities in the western world? If I had my wish coming true I would cause enough floods and tsunami to wipe out the all the corrupt politicians in one go and distribute all their black money to the poor to live in better places than those places that are affected by floods and tsunami.

    It’s a well-known fact that you have an extra special kind of liking to pick on me and I only hope I could change your mind someday and make you feel I am a normal guy who is terribly horrified about all that is wrong in India and helpless in making the change and feel hopeless about it.

    I am used to getting strong email but my answers are very effective to soften their strength. I have in my professional life met some of the toughest of customers and when they really come to know me they stop writing to me because they know I could sort out their problems. You simply have to give me an opportunity to prove that I am man who keeps his words.

    Do you drive taxis in Manchester?
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    08.07.12 11:35 PM
    @ Amrut

    We here in the west like to showcase all the negativity about India to inspire positive change but instead, I think we are all being white washed by Amar, don't ask me who that is, because I don't now who that is, but I always blame him and Vivek and also Rajpriya.

    All the famine, floods, hunger and tsunami is caused by these guys, but I would blame all the tsunami on Rajpriya because he is that sort of guy and I don't like him sometimes but only sometimes, but rest of the times, he's ok. If I were you, I would write them a very strong email at NRI. That's the only way to resolve this issue. And good luck.
  • aativas
    By
    aativas
    08.07.12 08:10 PM
    Footpath is a world of and for many. It is vibrant with life. And the rich exist because some are forced to stay on footpath - the logic is simple and clear.
  • Amrut
    By
    Amrut
    08.07.12 04:31 PM
    Good luck to you. Hope you do find few positives albeit, I feel, one need not try that hard as there are many wonderful stories about Indians that can be shared with the world. Anyways, appreciate your honest opinion.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    08.07.12 04:22 PM
    In fact I am trying for a long time now to write about the positive side of India. But the negatives out number the positives.

    But I live hoping one day I would have enough to write one. In the meant time I see the positive side of the negatives.

    With India having the second largest population to gat the necessary two third majority for change seems quite a task.
  • Amrut
    By
    Amrut
    08.07.12 03:26 PM
    I have been following articles on this website via subscription for sometime now and must confess that the editors are hell-bent to show the negative side of this country. Not sure"NRIs" would like to know only about the drawbacks of India. I am sure there are "some" good things happening here as well. Anyways, the points that are raised are well put and make a good read. Hope they do publish positive stuff as well in near future.

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