It’s difficult to go for a walk these days. Yes. You think you are control of a situation, but, actually you aren’t. What I am going to describe left me sadly disillusioned. It happened thusly. Sundays, I go for a walk with my friend Henry in the environs of the dam, which is, alas, dry now. There is a slum by the side of the dam which was nurtured as a vote bank by the local politician. It has given refuge all kind of unwanted and fugitive elements, about which we couldn’t do anything. The slum has grown to occupy a huge area and is still growing, like all slums in New Bombay. When the politician is in league with the police, you can’t do much.
As I said, I and Henry were on our evening constitutional when we met a youth from the slum, riding a bike which was making a huge, deafening roar. Obviously he had disabled the silencer and, he was finding it a way to attract attention to him. As people with anti-social feelings often do, he was enjoying himself, being obnoxious. There is a hospital in the area, many aged people reside there, even many patients. So, we stopped him to give him a piece of advice. He got down from his bike in a menacing manner. He was only about twenty, his left ear was pierced and I think he was drunk.
- Why is your bike making so much noise?
- What goes of your father? It’s my bike?
- Don’t talk like that. We are of your father’s age.
- Then talk like old people.
- We are saying there are sick and old people. There is a hospital in the locality. (In fact, we were standing in front of the hospital.)
- What do I care? It’s my wish. (“Meri marzi” is a Bollywood song lyric that had become famous some time ago.)
- But you should get it repaired.
- I told you it’s my bike, didn’t I? Is it your father’s road?”
- Don’t take my father’s name.
Till now Henry was leading the conversation. He had become upset about the boy mentioning his father’s name. The young man was truculent and had no respect for age. (But that’s the norm these days.) I interceded and took a flustered Henry away from the spot and asked the youth to leave. By this time some people had gathered, but they didn’t help, or, involve themselves, though, it was their problem, too. I knew I could phone the police station, but that would be taking matters too further. I fear going to the police station, because then there would be revenge from the boy and his gang.
Belapur is a small place. Everyone knows everyone, but it vexes me that this happened. Most of the people living around the area is known to me and greet me on my daily perambulation. Then I remember the incident of Dr. Pankaj Narang, beaten to death because of an argument. This happened in Delhi, it could happen in Bombay too. Economic disparities have enraged poor people and we may be the target of their anger. I told the boy to go away, the onlookers, and those looking from their balconies dispersed after they saw the tamasha, some were smiling and laughing. Laughing? About what? Humiliation of Henry, who is a senior citizen, and I (soon to be one). They don’t know they could be in such a situation tomorrow.