I saw them in an obscured corner, behind the scrapped car; sitting quietly on the road-side in the rain-hit afternoon yesterday. Finding out the old places after so many years was daunting, to say the least. New flyovers, shining office buildings masked in imported glasses, and the expeditiously growing up apartments refused to give my memories any chance whatsoever. I found myself gasping over the changes that happened to the city, I thought, I knew so well; once as it was.
Meet ali and rao – two unremarkable figures, who stared hard at me as I approached hesitantly. It’s obvious, i said to myself. The surroundings were bit too gauche for a person dressed in suave denim and turtle shirt. The place was redolent with stinking smell of a sewage nearby, it’s inhabitants often referred as slum-dwellers. Ignoring the apprehension, I moved a little closer to the sitting men, as they tried to hide the ‘chillum‘ in a hurry. The very sight of it was evocative of the long gone memories of those wild college days. I knew it was beckoning me once again. I could feel the smell; the drips of ‘sin’ were quite evident. Yet it was irresistible. The problem was to assure them that I was no undercover ‘filthy’ agent in a deceptive wrap. And after an exhaustive persuasion they agreed to allow me a few puffs. In exchange, I offered them the ‘money‘ that they wouldn’t refuse. Soon we became buddies, strange it might seem to be. The on goers looked bewildered as they probably couldn’t imagine a ‘distinguished’ posh figure sitting comfortably in their dingy neighborhood, smoking a ‘chillum’ . Damn them, I cared little. For me, eons after, it was a chanced moment to get away from the demonic life that bloodied the soul. Hours passed by as I glued to their stories, their sorrow, hunger and disdain to the society that loves to forget their existence, and how the giant IT parks and ostentatious malls have snubbed out their places under the sun. The tales were harrowing. Though inebriated, the experiences were too real for comfort.
As I headed back home, i felt dazed, yet in a way happy to shed the inhibition of embracing the ‘untouchables’…