Walking on Mumbai Foot-paths

empty roads early morning mumbai
Roads are largely empty in the mornings, Malabar Hills, Mumbai

Every morning, at around 6:30 am, I walk to a jogging- park. At this time, the roads are bereft of vehicles and people. The foot-paths though, are coming to life at this time, as the city gets up, with small business owners setting up their tea-stalls, sweeping the roads, pulling up shutters, opening the diary shops, spreading out newspapers for the daily commuters to buy. Because in the mornings, the people are so few, and the air is so clean, and the city is so quiet, for some dreamy minutes I am pulled into the present and I feel life is so beautiful, till my reverie is broken by the sight of a dog answering nature’s call.

I love dogs. A dog has to poop. I get that. What I don’t understand is the insolent shrieking away from community responsibility by the rich educated enterprising people who live around me. It is a bit ironic isn’t it, that people who have built zebra crossings for the handicapped, parks for grandparents, a park by the sea just for recreation; that people who have now and then planted trees and shared dog-adoption pictures; that people who have invariably spent a summer or a winter in a first world country; that such people cannot, will not, carry bags and plastics to clean up after their dogs.

Dog-shit is the most irksome part of my morning walks in this part of the city. In other parts, one hardly bothers about it unless one happens to directly step, into it or cow dung or any other kind of yuck-dirt. But even after you have gotten your feet and feet-wear muddied, it doesn’t matter, life goes on, as you move with the crowd, or the crowd forces you to move, making it virtually impossible to catch a break, to stop, to look around. No one stops in this city of dreams.

a bike parked on a footpath in mumbai
A bike parked on a footpath

Foot-paths in Mumbai, or for that fact, in every populated area, are multi-utilitarian. They double for walking and pooping, for sitting and sleeping, for shops and stands, for living and dying. In the central, northern and western parts of the city, during peak times, one cannot see where the road ends and the foot-walk begins. That line blurs.

I walk back home on that blurry line back home, carefully avoiding mothers and children, waiting for school buses. I rarely see a father or a brother or an elder sister. Don’t worry, this is not going to turn into an anti-patriarchal rant. Such inequalities do not bother me in the mornings. I think instead of how while solving a system of equations, one has to take into account the number of variables and their relationships with each other. It is easier in smaller societies, for ideas – good or bad or stupid, to spread amongst its mostly one-dimensional inhabitants. But when the number of variables become too many, lines blur, relationships fail, chaos arises. In such a system, one doesn’t mind the dog-shit as long as one has a park to run in by the sea.

Author: pecsbowen


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