Same City Different Light

A few days back I went to my office for an implementation. I had to reach office at 6 am which meant I had to leave home at around 4:45. The cab driver woke me up at 4.10 am because he could not find my home and I ended up being his GPS for the next 15 minutes and choked on my toothbrush in the process.

As I sat in the car and covered the distance to my office in 1 hour which I usually cover in 2 hours during peak rush hour, I felt disoriented. Dawn looked like a struggle to me. I hadn’t experienced Delhi in this light. I was expecting at least a façade of calmness.

The streetlights were wrestling with the Sun to maintain their dominion over the roads. I saw them fight a losing battle as the Sun attacked the roads the streetlights had held with such élan all night. It was a clash the streetlights fought and lost every day but that never dissuaded them from putting up a worthy fight.

There were hoards of trucks on the roads, especially on the highway and the Ring road. The car looked like a petrified deer passing through a herd of elephants. The driver was doing his best to remain wide awake, popping out his eyes and alarmingly touching them to the windshield.

A tired truck driver stopped his truck in a corner of the road, stepped down and laid on the footpath. He covered himself with the quilt of the bright yellow glow of the streetlight. He could not bear the weariness anymore. He had to sleep before he could carry on with his nomadic life. I looked at him and thought – he must be bone tired. How else can someone sleep on a stone? I wished I could turn off the streetlight but the Sun was already winning the war.

Traffic policemen were stopping random trucks trying to collect money for the future of their children. There was no remorse – only the crunching sound of a bigger fish eating a smaller one. Morality looked like a fish bone stuck in their throat. They either had to spit it out or die. In a way, the truck driver and the policeman were like the streetlamp and the Sun – each one fighting a battle of their own.

Patches of men, women and children were sleeping on the footpaths, covered with dirty sheets of cloths and plastic, just like dead bodies pulled out of a train wreck. The fight will be delayed in winters. There will be times when the army of Sunrays would not bother to come and someone will give euthanasia to the tired streetlights much before the battle begins. The humans of the streets will have to find some more tattered pieces of clothes to cover themselves up, burn a worn out tyre, find a shed, cocoon each other.

The roads were near empty once we crossed the Ring road. I noticed the symmetry – the equally placed streetlights, the blob of lights passing through the windows of the car like a heartbeat on a monitor, the lane markings blurring into a single line. It was tranquil without the chaos of humans, without the display of their feeble egos, without their bodies lying on cold stones. But then, a monster bird flew over the car, hiding its wheels and the momentary serenity was broken by its deafening wail.  

My office stood like a morgue. The usual receptionist was replaced by a yawning man, ready to devour the phone. For once, the lift moved towards me on my command, not jostling to serve someone else before me. The flight to the 7th floor was effortless – a perfect cuboid being pulled away from Earth by pulleys without a halt. The floor was deserted; a sole tube light was taking its last breath.

I sat on my computer and did the implementation. In two hours, men and women started pouring in, filling the room with randomness. I looked out of the room. The city was recognizable now as the multitude churned in their chores. The Sun had won the war. The streetlights were picking up their wounded, getting ready for the battle in the evening. A battle they were destined to win. 

57 comments on “Same City Different Light

  1. ha ha…I went through this torture cum surprise few months ago.I just couldn’t believe that it is the same old Chennai which I saw before sleeping.The calmness of the city nearly overwhelmed me.It’s a joy which cannot be explained in mere words 🙂

    • Bhavia,
      Yes, parts of the city were calm but most of the roads were full of trucks. It was as if they were all on a secret mission. 🙂 And the yellow light from the streetlights made it more depressing.

    • I am usually in a floating state when someone wakes me up so early in the morning (I am a 5.30 am person) but yes it was a chance to see my city in a different light.

  2. What a great read.. I love the observation devoid of judgement. Also you must really be a morning person to take in all of this before 6 am. 🙂

    • I am. 🙂 I usually wake up at 5 am and go for jogging. Although 4 am is a bit too early for me but I can’t sleep in moving cars.
      Thanks for liking it Carvaka.

    • Yes, definitely. The ride was peaceful but only in parts. I was amazed that the world is up so early. The mornings which look peaceful from our terrace are actually full of people struggling to get ready for a new battle.

    • Thanks TGND. 🙂
      I think the ability to make such observations keep me calm. There is so much to life than running after things.
      Why don’t you do the post? It will be interesting. 🙂

  3. I don’t know why I was under the mistaken impression that you lived in Bangalore. And, so many times when I go really early in the morning for a drive or for some blood test or when we left early morning on the vacation, the streets are so different. There is a beauty to the road and then slowly the bustle begins. The newspaper fellow, school buses, milk vans etc. Early mornings are so charming!

  4. Remember going to school early in the morning? Especially winter mornings, they had such a wonderful feeling to them. Although I love my sleep, this post made me miss my school days…

  5. Few days back I had to go to work early & I boarded an absolutely empty metro. For me there have always been some pleasant surprises whenever I started the day early. You’ve described the morning avatar of saadi Delhi really well! 😀

    • Well, I do get up early at 5 and go for jogging but then that is something different. Going on the roads is a different experience. I realized how early the struggles of life start for the rest of the world.

  6. I can relate to how you feel. When I see a city in different light (literally!), I feel overwhelmed too. I love the new feel, a new emotion and watch the transition. My reaction towards it can sometimes be mixed. While I enjoy it usually, I feel a bit nostalgic and it can make me miss people I love.
    I loved what you have written. I thrive on such observations as well. Makes me think of “what is this life full of care, if there is no time to stand and stare” 🙂

    • Thanks Kismitoffeebar. What I really observed was that the roads are full of stories even when we are fast asleep. There are people out there who carry on with their lives during such unearthly hours.

  7. In a way, the truck driver and the policeman were like the streetlamp and the Sun – each one fighting a battle of their own.
    Where do you come up with such comparisons?! Awesome!!!

    Yeah I have once had to reach a client meeting venue by 7am or so (the meeting was to start by 8am and I had to arrange something early over there). So I had to set out from South Delhi by 6am to reach Gurgaon by 7am. While it wasn’t as unearthly as your timing, the roads were still empty…and vehicles were seen in bits and pieces in corners only. Seeing madly crowded city roads empty is an experience…

    • Yes, it is! And NH8 was relatively empty but parts of Ring Road were teaming with trucks and people trying to sleep under bridges. It was a terrible sight.
      Thanks Ash.

  8. Loved the analogy of the streetlamp-sun and the truck driver-policeman. I marvel at your power of observation even in your half sleepy state and your fantastic memory which helped you pen them down later.

  9. It is a lyrical description of the same city in the different light of dawn. The prose is full of evocative imagery; the petrified deer in a herd of elephants, quilt of streetlight, the bodies out of a train wreck. Beautiful piece.

  10. I have always found early mornings to be fresh and inspiring. Sad that you found it glum 😦

    Every city has its own story. In phases, you can see its faces 🙂

  11. Loved the lines very much….a battle they are destined to win….

    coming to think of it…why should it be called a battle? Can it not be called as an arrangement, hourly division of kingship between Sun and the Streetlights ? Just a thought 🙂

So, you were saying?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s