IF YOU feel for the downtrodden, you might feel for me.
I am not sure if you know me, though you see me often. But I know you from an angle even you don’t know yourself – feet up.
Rest assured. I look the other way when you walk across in a sari, skirt, sarong or lungi.
A bit of voyeurism, though, could have given me a break from the drudgery of being trod upon. But my masters are cruel; they make me to break me. I guess that’s the disadvantage of being laid, and re-laid.
I, footpath, knew I was born to be trampled. I did not mind because those who sired me had assured me that I would on any given day record more footfalls than the most desirable event on earth. They also told me I would set an example as a cover-up operation.
When I realized I was concealing Guwahati’s gooey filth, it was too late to refuse. And it drained my happiness forever.
My sorrow grew when I saw on Nat Geo – I do get to watch TV on this showroom display window beside – how footpaths are taken care of elsewhere. They even give my foreign counterparts fancy names – causeway, boardwalk, bridleway, walkway…
What’s in a name, you might ask. And a footpath by any other name would smell just as rotten, you might tell yourself. I am not sure if Shakespeare would have agreed.
Pardon my litterary outburst. This is the outcome of imagining things, such as those who plan, fund and execute me would feel for me. But they seldom use me to find out how I am, and those who do are too harried to really care.
I knew my time would come. All I had to do was sabotage the flow of the filth in my belly. My well-wishers helped by feeding me with everything from polythene to the biodegradables while my municipal masters let me be, perhaps inspired by the Bengali chartbuster Aamake aamaar mato thaakte dao (Let me live the way I am). Great guys, they anticipated I would suffocate from all the clogging within. So they left me uncovered in patches to help me breathe easy.
I saved my best – worst, if you may – for a rainy day, transforming into a man-eater as soon as I went undercover… oops… underwater. I thought getting even with those who squash me with missiles (footwear are weapons these days, aren’t they?) would be fun. Trust me, swallowing people wasn’t what I wanted to do.
Today, I miss the kiss of your shoes and sandals and the prick of your stilettos. I know you avoid me because I have tarnished my image. But I tell you I am not all that bad; you can ask any of the vendors who have made my unblemished portions their trade centers.
Sometimes I feel like yelling cavity… oops again… caveat emptor. But I am a dumb footpath that uses its many mouths to gulp waste or those destined to be wasted. And to think I was led to believe a roofed gutter could be guttural!
I presume in a place with a rebellious history, being holed up is more in fashion than picking holes. That’s why I am what I am – a fissured footpath that blames no one for being forced to deviate from its fundamental duty.
This, then, is my (w)hole story. But before signing off, I would like to tell you there are a few positives to my state of being. For instance, open drains no longer mock me for being elitist – the class divide has been removed. And like them, I have begun to offer my viscous bed to anyone who’s too intoxicated to go home.