Print Edition - 2017-08-12  |  On Saturday

A transient affair

  • Tower blocks force you to look inwards and nowhere else. And that extended to our relationships to people too. Soon, we became the tower blocks ourselves, with empty vacuums in between
- Irina Giri
As I walk in the evenings around my neighbourhood, I spot plots of land. They are often cordoned by boundaries of low walls. But inside the boundaries, these plots of land are raging. They are raging with a green, voluptuous wilderness

Aug 12, 2017-

I am a city dweller, I suppose. In the sense that I look to the city I live in to stir me, whether it is through  certain spots that catch my eye, or certain smells and sounds that I can attach with a certain place.

I’d often choose to walk and take the long way home in the evenings, when the sun would filter itself through clouds of white and grey, and I would look at the hue it left around me, that of a subdued gold as it wrapped around leaves, windows, hills. But now, I am beginning to realise I had taken that thick, floating freedom for granted. 

For a person who thrives in the city, often times, it is because the city feels like a bigger home. A home that feels it is offering you spaces and sights, a sense of ownership you share with people around you. It is at once intimately yours, but it is equally intriguing because it belongs to a different story, and just the mere knowledge of that is enough to expand oneself in all directions. But I am staying home a lot more these days. I think that has a lot to do with an overwhelming change sweeping around me, its pace and vision almost hostile to the city dweller, the 21st century flaneur. 

I am trying to come to terms with these changes. And in this process I have noticed a rebel of a pattern. I am allied with it, but it is sadly, a transient affair. 

As I look out the window (on days I am fortunate to get the window seat on the bus), or as I walk in the evenings around my neighbourhood, I spot plots of land. They are often cordoned by boundaries of low walls. At other instances, the boundaries are invisible but the plot is distinctly square, or rectangular. But inside the boundaries, these plots of land are raging. They are raging with a green, voluptuous wilderness.

I fell in love with this contradiction—that such wilderness can grow in such square lands. 

Sometimes the boundaries rebel too and complement their wild occupiers by letting cracks open up to what grows inside—green forests, blossoming, bursting out of the lands, as though they are squeezing through any and every pore they can find in the soil. I let  out a breath too, when I see them. 

They carve the empty space into a home for themselves and they do it beautifully. These are my forests in limbo, spatially and temporally. They stir my mind to go beyond the often fickle dimensions of my thought.

 They are far removed from their neighbours, who range from residential houses, to old tall buildings, to a site of construction, or to a newly erected tower block ready to take people in, accumulate the stench and dirt of public bathrooms, chipped paints, cobwebs, gossip, sweat. They are distinct, my little orphan wilds.  

These green patches of square forests linger with a mystery. They emanate a private history of climbers, overgrown grasses and shrubs, which are magnetic enough to pull me out of my urban mayhem into imaginations and sensations brought forth by a majestic, rich wilderness, bold in its self-assured, ravaged beauty. 

I know their fate. It is like watching a movie where you know the person you like is going to die, whether the person in the film knows it or not. And I know that the shared fate of these rebels is that of decimation. An overwhelming replacement, directed by forces I will never see, forces I feel hopelessly powerless to. They will be eaten up, shoved away, and in their place will be structures of concrete, that are often self-cantered and want to have nothing to do with those it cannot benefit from.

These plots mark to me what I will inevitably lose. This strange, green, wild anomaly is a precursor to an erect, closed off, blocks of concrete structures trying to soar as high as money and labour allow.

And in my mind, it is a generous precursor. It invites my eyes to its world. It keeps me curious, keeps the subtle high of illegible imaginations alive. I have a feeling it won’t be the same once it is gone. I will be left with buildings, too unwelcoming for my eyes to meet them.

I wait with these rationed natural ecosystems. I wait as they take each day as an opportunity to grow and weave and support each other, all the while doing it with a dark, wise grace. But I dread their end as much as I wait for it to come. I don’t have the same grace.

I have already seen one shaved clean, with the only remnants being the sporadic short grasses, like a badly shaved head. You can still see which direction the blade cut its leaves.

And so it ends. The square patch of my forest is replaced by a house, a building, a complex of some sort, that I am determined to hate, because I know it will no longer be friendly to my eyes and soul. Instead it will bounce back my glances into myself, it will swallow my sights and become a prey to my buzzing thoughts again. 

I remember a daydream where I could see people unconsciously sucking their sights in, because all that lay around them were tower blocks, carrying with it the pressure of privacy and an impervious nature, enough to force you to look inwards, and nowhere else. And that extended to our relationships to people too, because it became an instinctual thing to do. We became the tower blocks ourselves, with empty vacuums in between.

Published: 12-08-2017 08:01

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