During my last five years of stay away from home, I have changed neighborhoods many times and realized that every neighborhood has its unique characteristics and although they feel disturbingly novel initially, as time goes on, the unique traits become part of your small world, giving a flavor of earthy familiarity – that you fondly miss when you have made a new locality your home.
I moved into my current residence one and half years ago. As time went on, the unique features of the place started emerging. The neighborhood is host to commercial and residential establishments. You have modern apartments and even villas coexisting with shops of varied sizes and interests. You can also find people of all stations – the rich, the poor and the ones between them.
The locality is home to a thick population of street dogs. They have divided the area into spheres of influence and each time a canine strays into a foreign territory, quarrels break out with ear-splitting howls. They bare their teeth menacingly and leap onto the transgressors digging their nails into the fleece. But, as a well-fed domesticated dog strays out on the road with its manicured fleece bouncing up and down, the street canines keeping their territorial conflicts aside gang up and bark from a distance. There are many ways in which dogs are similar to humans.
There is more to my neighborhood – a homeless man you can spot every now and then. He earns his leaving cleaning shops and also doubles up as rag picker. His real duality lies else where, though. While sweeping the porch of the shop opposite my building, he suddenly stands straight, lifts the broom and starts hitting the air angrily, shouting profanities vigorously. Then with his other hand positioned at waist height, he indicates an imaginary kid and his face breaks into a mock piteous bawl.
Repeating these actions, he goes across the road. A little further up, he stops, turns about, walks to the porch and resumes sweeping. As if the intervening moments didn’t exist. The other workers of the shop, tired as they are seeing this everyday, see in boredom and return to their work.
Completely oblivious to the goings on in the area, there is a miniscule flock of bovines seen grazing the weeds and small patches of green here and there. The absolute laidbackness with which they go about their lives makes me envious.
In a few months, I might leave Bangalore to return to Calcutta for good. I will miss my neighborhood.