Saturday, October 02, 2004

The language of the city

By Aishwariya Laxmi

The city can be cold and impersonal, where every person is cruelly reduced to a statistic- just one among the teeming population of settlers. I have often wondered what it would be like to live in a hill station. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, away from all the pollution-photochemical smog, blaring horns, and giant buses vrooming past, exhausting a swirl of soot and smoke.It was just recently that I voiced my idea to my parents and to my surprise they actually took me seriously. That night, I slept like a baby, lulled into dreams of romantic interludes by candlelight dinners with gentle and mysterious men. I woke up the next day to greet what I am sure was one of the most beautiful mornings in the history of time.

There was a slight nip in the air and the rain had washed the earth till everything was as God intended it to be. Lush and green. Unspoiled by technology. No noise of loud automotives to be heard-everything tranquil, belying the industrial nature of the city- It was as if the city was revealing to us a much hidden facet of it’s. Like a shy bride on her first night, it was giving us an indication of things to come. The gentle downpour had at once cooled the temperature around by a perceptible degree, and washed the entire land-the buildings, houses, trees, yards, roads and playgrounds, till they exuded an almost country air. The earth was giving a heady scent of freshness that was comparable with the best hillsides and the plains. Closing my eyes, I was transported to a land of red earth and pouring rain. Of megha and varsha-of women clad in red saris with straw baskets on their heads, walking through a thin causeway in the fields. That the city could conjure up such images was refreshing. Warm and rustic images in contrast to cold and urban ones. Of love and bonding- welcoming with open arms to cold and forbidding- shutting out-two separate poles.

It made me wonder about my desire to leave it. I was in a pensive frame of mind for a few days and then a transformation came over me. The city that used to talk to me earlier spoke in a cold and harsh tongue- in a language I could not follow-One that can be best exemplified by freezing winter bringing to mind chilly draughts of wind. Isolation. Like being trapped within an iceberg. But now I was beginning to comprehend the language of the city-, which was essentially the universal language of love and companionship. Of altruism and good nature-philanthropy and compassion.

A line extending from one heart to another-a line as vital to the functioning of the human being as the very arteries that pump blood from the heart. One that transcends borders-cultural, racial, economic, political and gets to the heart of the matter- to raw, exposed feelings, mangled cries in the night, tearful farewells of departed souls, human pain, deep suffering, extreme emotion, trauma and despondency. And helps dissipate some of it into a more manageable bundle, one that is not so heavy to bear, on the often frail human psyche. This is the language of the city. And we are its settlers. Sometimes complaining, sometimes cheerful, sometimes strong, and sometimes grateful. It is the same for every city in the world. We need to conduct a meaningful dialogue with it. Build up our social networks and live in man’s company rather than live in our own little cocoons that are safe but impregnable. Going out, meeting people, sharing ideas, information, joys, sorrows. Forming relationships. It is then that we can come full circle, and blossom into whole human beings.

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