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Take a Walk

I walk out of the gates of my economy hotel and onto one-third of a sidewalk, or footpath as we like to call it here. Where pedestrians should be found on the remainder of it, I see rubble and debris dumped, sometimes garbage, and at others a human being, drunk, passed out, starving and homeless.

I walk by large gates of a fancy residential building with a French name, its parking lot adorned with a shiny BMW, a Mercedes Benz, an Audi A8. The compound of the building is spic and span, the little garden landscaped to perfection. A security guard stares at me with a piercing frown as I step off the sidewalk to avoid bumping into the huge, empty trash bin which revels in the squalor strewn around it.

I continue walking down the footpath only to find it inexplicably disappear from under my feet to make way for a roadside shop which has encroached upon it. “T-Shirt, denim pants, chaddi?” the nice shopkeeper asks me as I politely nod and continue walking. A motorcycle whizzes past my left at the speed of a Grand Prix racer, father driving, his young daughter clasping the handlebars, sitting on the fuel tank, while the mother sits at the back, one hand on her husband’s shoulder, the other holding on to a wailing toddler, none of them wearing a helmet.

A mother walks towards me at a distance, taking her son to school. A well-dressed man walking ahead of me, barely a few feet away from the pleasant lady and her son turns to the wall on the right, unzips his pants and relieves himself. The lady and child walk right past him, oblivious. They walk past me as I turn around to see the child finish his biscuit packet and hand the wrapper to his mother who casually crumples it and tosses it onto the road. The urinating gentleman zips up and turns towards me with pouted lips as I dodge the projectile red spit that is fired from his mouth, close to my feet, leaving a seemingly permanent design on the ground.

I stop at a tea shop where a boy no older than the one I had just seen takes my order. I finish the heavenly chai and continue walking down the road when it begins to drizzle. An injured, pregnant stray mongrel sprints into a makeshift parking lot on the right and settles down under a car. A driver throws pebbles at it, yelling abuses as he drives it out. I look across the traffic-jammed road to the left where a man sitting in a Lexus SUV rolls his window down and hurls the same abuses at a child begging outside his window.

The smell of hot, fried pakoras down the street excite me as I proceed to indulge myself. The rain subsides as I slowly finish my pakoras standing under the shed of “Ali’s Lunch Home”, the sun restoring some sanity to the chaos around. I pick up my last pakora from the newspaper that it was wrapped in to reveal a headline of drought-stricken farmers on a suicide spree in the western part of the country. I get a little sick in the stomach and continue walking, across a bridge that extends over a canal plagued by a pungent stench, lined by a slum where children play amidst the mosquitoes and women wash their clothes and vessels.

I continue following signs to the stadium only to be led in circles. After some assistance by a few nice people, I find myself on the edge of a foot-bridge overlooking a campus where I finally see the sign that reads, “Tickets Sold Here”.

Policemen with rifles and metal detectors scan every human being in sight, checking IDs. A few laborers carry a large, heavy wooden plank at a distance when they suddenly trip, dropping the plank to the ground with a loud thud. Instinctively, I huddle with all the people around me, as the policemen lift their weapons and stand alert. A few seconds later, the nerves calm and life continues.

I take another good look at the sign, turn around and walk on the same footpath back to my hotel in hope that more of my countrymen do the same.

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