Not like i love rotis. I could live on rice all my existence – whether the accomplice is daal or fish alike. However, the occasional need to change taste and guilt of too much whatever bad it is that they say rice brings makes me walk around the Shahpurjat colony. Living alone has the perils of not making rotis as it is quite a ceremonial process compared to pressure cooking rice. Not that i know how to make them either. After a stroll-search of about 30 min in the neighborhood when i realized my only options were bhatura, puri or tandoor roti; reluctantly settled for the later. The community does not eat tawa roti!
Outside this stereotyping, i also saw the area at more leisure today and realized how close it is to my previous big city in this ability to merge 2 worlds. Shahpurjat has a front face which can be described in 2 words – boutique and artistic. Wall murals, interesting eateries and designer studios. You can buy a bread loaf from a bakery which can cost you 80 rupees. The back lanes are the what i call the utility lanes. When in time of real need and cash crunch on month ends, these come to the rescue. You can buy 4 tandoor rotis for 10 rupees or half plate chowmein for 20.
As my life oscillates between this dual, i ponder about the state of mind of the original inhabitat. In fact i do not even know if the ones who run all those utility shops are the actuals, but from most small talks i have made, it appears that they have been living here post independence and by the virtue of that become the actuals.
The corner shop lady the other day was marveling at my kurti (she must be surprised to see the otherwise clumsy pajama tshirt girl all decked up … it was Diwali day, was going to meet a friend and his family) and there was a similar awkwardness i saw which i have seen in my landlord’s 25 year old daughter when i climb back home with a male friend who she cannot place. A tribe of people who still have the customs of ghunghat which their own daughter-in-laws follow, but are having to rent out spaces to tenants who do not shy away from venturing out in their hot pants when frequenting the cafes on the front face of the colony on a lazy Sunday noon. The skimpily clad are also the ones who pay up for the quite steep rents in this area due to its prime positioning; and thus help the actuals cope up with their financial needs to survive in this city which is all around them. Also the tribe must be at the peek of confused cultural identity – their education expects them to be broad minded and accept this sharp adjustment and so in their attempt to appear ‘civilized’ and ‘into-it’ i have seen them trying hard to behave undazzled at the face of all this that surrounds them. This encroachment of space and mind – what must the actuals be thinking; it is anyone’s guess.
A displaced migrant then in essence is no different is experience to an actual whose world around is slipping at a pace he cannot keep up with.
And amidst all this, i had a mini discovery which will change my life here forever, when i found a local entrepreneur who runs a canteen. The guy supplies eggs, fish and meat to the front facing eateries. While his best pieces go away to them, he is left with perfectly edible but the ugly looking ‘disfigured eggs’, ‘peti piece of fish’, ‘neck piece of chicken’ and so on. What he turns around and does in one of the utility corners is cooks them up in a tasty gravy and serves with rice – a meal costing you anywhere between 20 to 40 rs. based on you choice of accomplice to parboiled rice from the above mentioned. The difference in culture and blah-bluh is perhaps a figment of only imagination of minds like mine … for him it is just about resourcefulness and he is doing that well!
From One 2-Faced City To Another
P.S.: I am a Bengali just turned 30; born and brought up in Bombay, and recently shifted to Delhi’s Shahpurjat area which was primarily because i like to fashionably believe that i am an art lover. Just in case the article did not screech enough of the stereotypes!