The Place

If you stand on the staircase landing on the side facing the Versova metro station, you would find a big piece of vacant land just across the road from the hospital. The land is huge, almost 7 acres and vacant only from perspective of a city dweller like me. If you ask Ruskin Bond, he would have looked at the same and said that the place is full of life. The place is crowded with trees that include palm, mango, gulmohor, karanj, jamun, neem and ten others whose name I don’t know. It is a pleasant site to have in the middle of a busy city but the owner has barricaded the place by huge tin sheets from all sides, thus confining its beauty only to the occupants of the place and also to someone like me who could look at it from a window as high as the one on 16th Floor; and I am sure that there are many like me.
But those who occupy the place includes two teenage boys who stay in a well-built but modest concrete structure. Apart from the two boys, the place is accessible to 3 dogs, a few hawks and hundreds of parrots, pigeons, crows and a good number of other birds, incest and reptiles - that I am unaware and uneducated about. I almost mourn my ignorance of nature but I can’t blame myself for it. I usually blame it on my circumstances that made me grow up in a city and then onto my lack of time for not being able to learn more about the soil, the flowers, the trees and the animals. But my limited knowledge has not stopped me from noticing that the place is sans the sparrows, the once ubiquitous companion of my childhood in town. I wonder where the sparrows have gone and I look intently at the place to find them each time. The more I look at the place from the top, I want to know more about the other things as well. All I could discern from up here is that the place has a huge well, an abandoned looking hostel building in one corner and two worn looking site offices made of PVC that suggests that in the past there had been a failed attempt at construction. But now each time I sit at the window all I notice is the bountiful nature that never fails to overwhelm me.

I can’t go down and explore the place as I have to be with my ailing patients almost all the time. But I guess the real reason is that I don’t want to unravel the enigma of the place. Off late I have become an expert in making excuses but then whatever the reason, I don’t think I will ever meet the two boys or touch that the soil or climb the tree or listen to the birds. Doing that will spoil my game. I am happy to have my own romantic image of the place and of the two boys. To me they are the uninhibited souls and I long for that carefreeness in my own life. Like them I too want to bathe naked in the well, spend hour’s leisurely feasting on a fruit underneath a tree shade and live beyond the confines of the concrete walls. I have imagined a peaceful life at the place, the one that is not chained to the hands of the clock and of days spent without worrying about tomorrow and of nights expended blissfully listening to the nature.

However when I looked at it the first time around the first question to have crossed my mind is - who owns this land? Me for whom land is measured in square feet and riches of life is directly proportional to the money in bank account, such a huge piece of land meant an outstanding dispute or a rich patron. But as days passed by I felt ashamed to have totally overlooked the beauty of the place when I first saw it. And my growing love for the place, I believe, is a result of my efforts to grow out of my initial embarrassment. Now I look at the place and feel a certain calmness encompass my soul. I see the simplicity of life and the pristine way of those on that place. But my cynicism tell me that soon there will be skyscrapers on these grounds and the trees, the birds and the insect will have to make a way. They will be robbed of their rich abode. But the two boys will carry with them the wealth of the time spent in these trees for the rest of their life and I envy them for that.

My life has to move on and I will be leaving the hospital in some weeks. I have to go to another hospital in another country. The salary is good and my profession, physiotherapy, has a better prospect there. I am glad that I will be leaving the hospital while the place is as it is and I am finding some solace knowing that I will be blissfully unaware of what will happen to the place in some years. Though I will leave, a part of me will stay here at the window. But yes it is good that I am the next one leave; after the sparrows.


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