Vijay Phanshikar :
From a third-floor balcony, the fine curve of the road below -- a lane in a locality -- appears so different now during the lock-down. Cars appear permanently parked on both sides, as if frozen in their respective places. A few -- very few -- people stray out of homes to fetch things that they can’t avoid doing. Dogs bark intermittently, giving evidence of both, their restlessness or of their waking up from the slumber. Police patrol cars move about at regular intervals, sometimes alerting people with their shrill sirens. The cops standing at street corners pierce the afternoon calm with their sharp whistles, asking those who have strayed out, to return to their homes. Temple bells are quiet, so are the shouts of youngsters playing cricket or football on the two grounds nearby.
Nothing in this scene matches with the regular experience of a noisy urban locality in which cars and two-wheelers whiz past blowing horns, people walking along in groups engaged in loud conversations, street-corner shops bustling with customers, school kids walking to schools and making it back home in groups, shouting, running around, arguing, occasionally fighting ...! As if these are two different worlds, or one world in two different times.
It is hard to testify which one is better -- or worse. For, the quiet lane below, and all the web of lanes in the locality, pass a rather deafening signal. This silence is beyond comprehension. In that moment, the mind perhaps longs for the noisy neighbourhood that one has been used to be living in. This quiet, this calm surrounding is actually so disturbing, so to say! Though one knows why, one still asks an inadvertent question: Why are people not moving about? Why are there no usual urban noises that occupy one’s mindset all along? Why are not cars moving now as they did previously?
Though one knows why, one’s mind does long for the return of the beautiful urban chaos one has been so used to for all the life. The locality in which one has grown up for the past sixty years, through childhood and youth to the current age and stage, has had a definite and definitive persona -- with the playgrounds, with the temples, with the Yogabhyasi Mandal, with the lake, with so much of socialising. But everything now looks as if from picture-postcards -- all quiet, almost lifeless, cleaned up and decked up for the photograph, very orderly. One, then, starts missing the disorderliness of regular life.
One longs for the urban jostle and rustle and bustle. From the third-floor balcony, life now appears altogether in a different mould -- or appears as if it has broken out of its traditional cast and is stumbling and fumbling around in an unarticulated and uncharacteristic quiet, almost in the mode and manner of a little chicken that has just broken free from the egg all bewildered. This is certainly not the scene that matches with any part of memory! -- one tells self. Yet, in the past few days, a new habit, too, is getting formed, one realises. This quietness is as if growing on one’s mind. And, one admits, that’s not a bad feeling, after all! n