For many of us, Sundays mark freedom from routine and work-related to-do lists. Even so, the lack of routine shouldn’t imply an absence of ritual. It could be simple acts like not bathing until noon, oiling your hair, eating a particular food item for lunch, cleaning your room and the likes.
Since the last two Sundays I have enjoyed soaking the last of the winter sun here in Chandigarh along with a gargantuan reading list – gargantuan, at least for a novice reader such as me. Newspapers and media portals reserve some of their best features for Sundays, and I aim to read through them – as some of you may know, a short attention span is inversely proportional to an immersive reading session.
Sunday reading lists are a pleasant break from mainstream news of ranting politicians and policy analysis. Mind you though, the attempt to indulge in reading these is not selfless – the aim is to ideate and stumble upon a thought one can build upon and perhaps discuss with peers and family.
And such thoughts and ideas are always a surprise. I’ll confess that I don’t always start reading a story with the intention of completing it. This morning I stumbled upon one such story on page 13 of The Hindu. This story by Ruchir Joshi is about peculiar acts of the people of a city that when witnessed first hand, give an onlooker a slight idea and a deeper insight “about the people there and their particular environment”. He has beautifully explained what he means by it. I’ll lift an example from his piece to illustrate it to you. This is what the writer witnessed in Calcutta’s local market:
“A bus stops, a middle-class man alights and unhesitatingly walks over to the blue-and-white painted railing and the tree beyond that creates a gap between the stalls. There, in the morning rush hour, people milling around not far away, he relieves himself before walking away. This may happen all over India, but in this exact way it only happens in my city.”
It’s obvious to what I am coming to. Reading the story made me wonder about unique acts undertaken by citizens of Chandigarh. Almost effortlessly I thought about Sukhna lake – the place where young and old, the fit and unfit, the city’s middle-class and well-to-do converge to get their nature fix.
During several evenings when I have visited the lake to attempt a run, I witnessed couples, huddled together in corners receiving the least amount of light. I have never caught anyone doing what they are not supposed to in such an obviously public space, but I have often seen them walking together at a snail’s pace, or sharing silence while looking onto the finite lake waters. Often, I have admired their attention to detail – on more than one occasion I noticed girls dressed up in elaborate outfits, complete with the right pair of shoes. When I pant past them, I often feel out of place – which is an odd feeling, after all, a running/walking track is meant to be run down upon!
I try to refrain from passing judgments on them and other groups of marauding teenagers who seem to be leisurely strolling away their boredom. Chandigarh is a small city, the population is ever growing and places to spend time meaningfully are ever decreasing. It is also not the most progressive and open-minded city in the country – people’s gazes are often brutal and they don’t hesitate from forming an idea about the other, however incomplete. Add to this the fact that many young people live with their parents. Hence, there are few outlets where one can escape being spotted by familiar faces. Therefore, rather ironically, it is in an otherwise bustling public place’s darkest corners that one can hope for privacy and quiet.
You may rightfully point out that love-struck couples in parks are not uncommon in the rest of India. However, in my defence, I’d say, “In this exact way it only happens in my city”.