Saturday, 2 February 2008

Asaf Ali Road

I have always thought of Asaf Ali Road as a kind of picket line, groaning under the strain of keeping the absolute chaos of the Old City from spilling over into the broad avenues of New Delhi.

Even as far back as in 1982, it was a losing battle.

The road is a mess. Permanently gridlocked with every conceivable vehicle battling for space. There are contract buses, old Ambassador taxis, autorickshaws, two wheelers, hand carts. You get down from your rickshaw, cautiously negotiating the puddles of dirty water and the two wheelers parked haphazardly by the kerb and you are hit by a melange of sounds and smells. Drivers shouting, diesel exhausts, samosa frying, hawkers' cries, unwashed bodies, stray dogs.

Finally, you are in front of the dilapidated Delite Cinema with its peeling plaster walls and huge billboards of Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha locked in a sultry embrace. You climb up the stairs to the first floor to reach the office. But the narrow passageway leading upto the stairwell is stinking of urine and vomit. Obviously, some of the viewers of yesterday's late night show of Mr. Natwarlal have been using it as a toilet.

The office is out of a 1950's movie. Old wooden desks piled high with dusty files. Sad looking men sipping chai and reading the newspaper. Unsmiling women tapping away on old Remingtons.

You plonk down on a chair and are grateful for the cup of tea offered by Krishnan. Only when you go to take a leak half an hour later, do you notice that the pantry is located virtually inside the gents' toilet.

Ah! Well!


meena said...

Great sense of place. Can almost smell it! Good going!

Hemant said...

Nice narrative describing the surroundings in its exactness... Good Radha add more to it. It is a lovely excercise to place records of places at convenient place like this blog....

Velayudhan said...

I was reminded of the 'brisk effervescence' some time back in Mumbai. keep going kuttetta.

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.