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June 14th, 2017

What happens AFTER a VIP visit

If you read this blog on Saturday – and thank you for so doing, or, if not, why not?! – so yes, if you read my blog, you may remember that I was made to feel a stranger in my own dear local park, which had been totally sanitised for a VIP inauguration.  Here you go, for those of you who skipped reading on Saturday – the link to a post about what happens when a Delhi VIP inaugurates something.

I haven’t been to the Aravali Biodiversity Park since, so it was with some degree of trepidation that I set off at 5.30 this hot Delhi morning, to go for a trot there.

I knew that the streets would’ve returned to their normal self – I mean, how long can you keep tuk-tuks and cars off a public road?  I was right.

I was also sure the awning installed to cover up all the construction site mess would’ve gone.  I was right.

This was all disguised by an awning on Saturday, remember…

But selfishly, I was also worried that those signs dotted around my beloved park, randomly designating a place “Jackal Point” or Blue Bull Point” would become permanent fixtures, serving only to taunt those who look in vain for jackals, when all we regulars know they live further down the track.

But lo & behold.  All gone.

 

 

<- Saturday & back to normal this morning->

In Saturday’s post, I’d shared with you a sign declaring a patch of the park to be “Blue Bull Point” – to which my Mumbai friend Madhusudan had wryly suggested there should also be a Bullshit Point.

Well, in what was quite deliciously ironic, there were cows inside the park this morning – usually they’re on the streets outside, but this lot must’ve come in from the neighbouring bastis (slums) for breakfast.  And just look who was at the former Blue Bull Point:

Yes, you’re right – this photo would’ve actually been far better had the Blue Bull sign still been there  😛

Anyway, the main thing is that nearly all of the signs had gone.

Still w-a-y too many signs at the flowerbeds…

And one of those daft signs warning the police drivers protecting our VIP was still nailed to a tree, but I am sure it, too, will soon be gone.  Don’t miss the cows…

And so, by and large, my park was back to its usual early morning self.

It was super hot this morning, even though I’d set off early.  There isn’t a lot of shade, since this is a park that has been created out of what was a neglected, mined area, so the tree cover is still sparse, but it is growing exponentially every year, and soon we will have lovely shady tracks.

But for now…wow, it was hot, even at 6 o’clock, on the open dusty track that I privately call “Peacock Alley”.

Why?

Well, because there are ALWAYS peacocks there.  Always.  No need of official signs, trust me.

There are also usually villagers from the basti (slum) that abuts the park.  Further down the track – a section I am circumspect about taking, depending on the time of day –  the men from the slum use the area as an open toilet, so it’s pretty graphic and unpleasant.  But in the peacock-y stretch of the track, any villagers I meet are either exercising or, like this morning, feeding the birds and insects.

Had a lovely chat with a bloke feeding the peacocks, and calling out to them “Ao, Ao” (Come, come) and in as much as wild birds follow orders, as soon as he had moved a few feet away, they did indeed come, dashing over for breakfast.

The man was ahead of me on the track, scattering feed as he walked along, and I noticed he’d stopped and was watching something in the bushes.  Then he called out “Madam, aiye” (Madam, come) and there was a peacock dancing his little heart out, with just the gentle villager and yours truly for company.

We walked together for a while and chatted, and he told me that he feeds the peacocks a mixture of rice and bajra (millet), and that yes, after so many years of feeding them every day, he does think the birds recognise him.

Since he was obviously a nature lover, I asked him something that has often perplexed me.  Why no monkeys ? (Not that I want them, I assure you)

Nothing for them to eat, was the reply.

Has he seen leopard in the park?

Oh yes, but only at night.

We parted affably, as he walked slowly “Ao Ao”-ing the peacocks, and I trotted off.

When I left the park, I stopped to chat to the lovely lady who runs the chai-stall and who was missing on Saturday, the place where she always is, day in day out,  looking like this:

She had a tale of woe to tell, poor dear.

The “MCD-wale” (the men from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi) had confiscated her stall, and it cost her Rs3000 to get it back.

Now I happen to know, from previous chats, that she lives in the slum next to the park, and that she doesn’t have a mobile phone, so she obviously lives a very simple, very poor life, and I also know that she works from before sun-up to about 10pm every day.  A poor woman trying to make an honest living, in other words.

Rs 3ooo will have been a fortune for her, poor dear.  She’s such a cheerful soul, and even while recounting this saga was not whining or bitter.

Too bad the wretched MCD people couldn’t have left her there and – hey, out of the box thinking – let her serve tea to the VIP.  How about that for a bit of poverty alleviation?

But no, confiscation and fining is the way to go.

Oh please – don’t tell me she is an illegal vendor.

I know she is.

But the city depends on people like her.

She provides tea and snacks to all the drivers and rickshaw-walas and construction workers.

And the area around her tea stall is always spotless.  You can see the bag for rubbish hanging from her barrow, and that smile is a permanent fixture.

The rubbish skips were back, as is the man who operates a barber shop from one chair with a mirror stuck on a nail.

The tuk-tuks were back, the family who do people’s ironing on the street were back…

Normality regained.

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