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.