Riding my creaky steed – a slow-sputtering scooter – with my daughter clutching me from behind - I putter through a cross-road at 6.50 every morning.
In the grey monsoonal dawn, the two roads are dotted with clusters of people. Before shuttered shop fronts they stand. Here a milk vendor with his plastic rain-hat is adjusting bags of milk on his bicycle. There a group of men scan the morning headlines at the newspaper-wallah’s plastic-covered table. At the corner of the crossing fifteen-odd office goers – tightly-curled umbrellas and mobiles in hand – fidget and look for an autorickshaw to take them away.
As our scooter crosses the intersection, an autorickshaw appears. The people who were studiously ignoring each other now cluster desperately around the auto – shouting hopefully at the driver that they want a ride to the station.
We are through. The odd car honks its horn while grey pigeons flutter down to be fed by early risers. We ride ahead through a shady road, past freshly uniformed children walking towards the same destination, shepherded by the odd parent.
Half an earth-spin later I return to the intersection. I am now coming out of the shady lane. It is almost 7 pm and my son in his hot rumpled uniform is sitting in front of me. We ride the same battered scooter. He wears his bright green school-bag in front. His little black helmet occasionally clatters with my red one as we are headed for home.
The small rickety shops at the crossing’s corner – which have sprung up after the latest demolition drive – are now overflowing with people. I don’t register the bicyle-repair-wallah who sits near the two banana carts, who in turn share space with two florists and a chicken shop. My eyes are focussed on the snarl of traffic just ahead of me.
The cross-roads are now a mass of metal. Bumper-to-bumper cars, and autorickshaws, with scooters and motorcycles trying to squeeze into any open space. The groans of a large bus mingle with a jangling chorus of horns. In the middle of this motorised mess a lone policeman tries to push the traffic around.
Into this crush we push. A small space opens up between a car and an auto and our black scooter darts in. To the deafening honking we add the bleet of our Honda Activa. A turn here, a twist there, and we are through. The intersection will continue to be a heaving flow of horn-blowing metal till some hour of the night, but we only have 30 meters of road ahead of us. A left turn and we are home.
Written as an exercise at the just concluded EMFI writers workshop