Saturday, December 19, 2009

The river desert

My school was next to the Sabarmati until the fourth standard. We must have thought we should explore ideas other than the ones around the potty and slipping on slush when we came up with the 'joke', sabarmati desert. It would crack us up as our school bus went over the bridge.

It was a lovely river to gaze at. There was hardly any water for most of the year so the river bed was home to activities, occupations and preoccupations that were constantly shifting. It was home to communities too, as seasonal as the river.

So many years later I am back at the riverside. The waters are full and rapid.Straight lines and sharp turns of concrete stretching across many many miles have pushed the waters all the way from the Narmada.

Thousands of homes along the Narmada were submerged to bring the water here. The people rooted to the river bed here have also gone.

Yesterday, I walked along the river at day break. Amongst hundreds of concrete cubes. A bit like a giant grey legoland.

The river does not rise only during the few months that it rains. It flows, full and swollen, all year through. So it must be contained and not allowed to spill over into the homes of the poor who cling to its banks. And while we announce that we will build homes for the poor, high above the river, we might as well throw in a golf course, amusement parks, some shopping centres too. The grey legoland will get its colours, probably painted in primary colours , very soon. The earth pullers and pushers are working tirelessly.

The river front will soon resemble a shiny, shimmering economic zone- entry is restricted and questions about what goes on inside cannot be asked.

There is no space anymore for the ebb and flow of waters, people, and imagination.


Aneela Z said...

i see an interesting parallel with Manto's "Nigar Palika" where the actual "pioneers" of a colony continue to be moved by gate keepers to accommodate a misguided notion of morality for one, ideas of (selective) economic prosperity for another..

Space Bar said...

sigh. how depressing.

dipali said...

Depressing indeed:(

farinaz said...

I, too, would stare down from the bridge every time we visited my fui in Amdavad, fascinated by all that went on in that slushy cracked-mud expanse by the varying river!
Can't imagine grey-lego land in its place. Freezing another memory in my mind lest it slip away!
Putting it next to the peacocks among the cashewrina trees in porbandar, which are also no more.

SUR NOTES said...

Aneela, I am not familiar with this story,I must find it. Thanks

Spacebar, dipali: it is disorienting. and depressing.

F'naz: Images to be frozen and stored. The crazy crazy extaordinary birds still circle the river bed.I did not see them then, I am able to notice them now.