I often walk around my neighbourhood. Each time, it’s like crossing a new frontier — one that has restitched the seams of my local landscape — Old City, Hyderabad. Besides, the world feels more tactile on foot.
First, I bought jamuns — soft, purple, cylindrical. I offered to pay cash but the lady requested a digital transaction. I walked on. Then, I paused a while to watch the traffic signal play with people’s patience — bones seized by the motion of birds at the blink of green. I felt stagnant witnessing the ceaseless flow of cars and bikes. So, I walked towards the railway station.
Suddenly, a huge rock rose before me. It was stained and wore an unbearable stench. In faded red, someone had painted on the rock: “do not pass urine here.” In front of the station was a ripe, old banyan tree — dogs, beggars, pilgrims slept under its cool shade. Bright red pulpy berries sprouted between glossy green leaves — souvenirs of a poem by Wallace Stevens.
Next, I went to a temple — barefoot on white marble; Hindu gods like krishna, shiva, hanuman were under one roof, including a few god-like politicians — their humongous posters occupied the temple sky. The priest offered me holy water. I collected my slippers, clean and intact from the ‘free slipper stands.’ Moments later, my feet sank in a mush of thick cow dung.
I could not care. Before me was an antique red house under the glowing green of a rain-fragrant gulmohar tree. She was a wrinkled bride waiting for her wedding night — perhaps like Miss Havisham. Garbage from the streets piled at her door. Her stillness made me sad.
In the waning light of the evening, the city began to sing. I felt safe. Not a single man bothered me — their heads remained buried in phones — our post-covid, incurable contagion. On my way back, I bought a string of jasmine blossoms — the sweetest musk of Indian summer.