The warmth of the Indian streets

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The warmth of the Indian streets

If you want to see life at its very best, then visit any town in India. From this humble realisation, I now know that in the Gulf we live a very different life.

By Akif Abdulamir

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Published: Sun 17 Jun 2012, 1:08 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 11:52 AM

I also realise that we don’t need half what we think we need. In India, half of the time you don’t have a choice but you make do, quite gladly, what you have in your hand. It toughens you up and puts you in direct contact with the essence of life, the way it should be. India offers you no false promises. You need to lift both feet and feel the bones in your body crunching to get anything worthwhile.

After a few days, I found refreshing to see bulls on the roads competing with drivers with a suicide mission or an old lady gently tapping you on the shoulder asking for a rupee. Sweating street vendors spend hours under the sun but yet ask no favours to sell you something. There is always another day if they don’t make enough. That spirit never deserts them, very much in contrast the way we moan on trivial issues.

There is never a dull moment while you walk in the packed streets. I was up 5:30 in the morning when the sun was just peeping from the horizon and I was already negotiating the right of way with people going about their businesses. It looks like hard life but later I realised they wouldn’t have it any other way. That what makes them tick. I also realised the people on the streets get all they need, most importantly, with a smile on their faces. While leaning on a lamp post and pausing for a drink, I wished I were a filmmaker right there and then. From where I stood, I could see enough to make an hour documentary to fascinate any viewer in the world. I watched a monkey stealing a banana from one stall while a squirrel stood on its hind legs on a tree branch planning a robbery of its own. A donkey was refusing to budge even though he was getting beaten from its master and a few metres away, a bull decided to halt the traffic by resting on the middle of the road, just for the hell of it.

A guru, in saffron clothing, taking advantage of the chaos, decided to use the divine powers to remove the animal from the road. What he did, it appeared, amazed only me but not hundreds of other people. He touched the big bull on the head, and with his closed eyes, murmured something. The beast simply got up and followed the wise, old religious man to the street opposite. I refrained from clapping because perhaps I would have raised a few eyebrows from people who probably saw it before.

You need to stay a few days to know that the Indian streets also have a heart. I realised that only the next day when I carelessly left my money in my hospital room. With a bottle of water in my hand, it was embarrassing to explain to the shopkeeper that I had nothing in my pocket. When I did, he snatched it away from my hands. A security guard from an ATM machine came to my rescue and placed a 20 rupee note on the counter. With a sharp jerk of his head, he ordered the shopkeeper to give me back the bottle.

All I could say to him was “thank you a thousand times” and he offered back a smart salute. He was a true testimony to the warmth of the Indian street extended to a traveller who had been stupid enough to wander off without his wallet. It was perhaps poetic that the 20 rupee I had given to the beggar a day earlier was given back from someone who grew up from the same environment. In a way, the streets of India, owe nothing to anybody.

Akif Abdulamir is an Oman-based writer

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