Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Looking through windows

A dusty new yellow skywalk winds from Bandra station, past IMG, and across the bumpy Western highway before turning abruptly and terminating in the lap of Matoshree. Before the wide path swings by the glass tower of the event management agency, and the swamp and endless asphalt that follow, it presents a rare opportunity to stop and look through windows.

At the bottom of a building constructed entirely of curling planks of plywood and nails, preparations are on for a shop's opening. Directly above it, on a wooden ledge on more than two feet wide, a perched carpenter accepts a hammer and nails from his adviser, currently balancing himself on a white paint-stained ladder. The carpenter places a rust colored corrugated iron sheet on the ledge, and discovers it isn't the right size. A measuring tape is brought out, the ledge is measured, and a discussion commences. The helper descends gingerly and disappears inside the shop. The carpenter is still now, apart from the odd sniffle. After a while he wipes his leaky nose on his right sleeve. With his left, he holds on to a wooden plank at the base of a window where two attentive young boys keep his hammer handy. A third child emerges from behind a yellow curtain and asks to hold the hammer in exchange for a screwdriver. The request is denied.

The next store is empty, but for a single telephone orphaned on a desk and the balding proprietor behind it. Above them, tattered floral prints sway gently to reveal and conceal tailors and their sewing machines sitting on the floor. One tailor's mouth is swollen with tobacco, and he communicates with expressive head shakes, never quite unsealing his lips.

Now the carpenter climbs through the window, and tiny heads bob up to evaluate his work. In seconds they are bored of this. One chokes the other, and the victim falls down dead. Immediately two hands clad in bangles close around the boys' ears and drag them in to deliver instant justice. The yellow curtain pauses a moment to take in their absence before settling down.

Beyond the building is an MNS flag nailed to the side of a ramshackle kitchen on the second floor of a firetrap. And even further is another flagpole holding up what looks like a giant rubber horn.

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