Imagine yourself in a busy crowded street, with hawkers on each side, sweltering heat and pedestrians elbowing their way about. Now, imagine a calm cool night, where the darkness envelopes all and a cool breeze blows in gentle swings. One more…imagine a high-end locality, with glass façade buildings and important looking people manoeuvring their way about. Again imagine, (promise last one), a quiet residential area where children are riding cycles and playing.
Now, close your eyes and look up to the sky in all of these imagined scenarios and tell me what you see. Is it blue skies, clouds, birds chirping, owls, silhouettes of branches or the moon? Ehm! Sorry to break your blissful thoughts, but I was thinking more along the lines of the electrical, cable and telephone wires. Yes, can you imagine black thick and thin wires dangling from poles and crisscrossing the sky in myriad shapes? Never mind imagining, if you have grown up in India, this one needs no imagination, because quite literally you have grown up watching them. With every passing year, as you grew taller and stronger, the wiring on top of the poles in your neighbourhood grew too and emerged as webbed and tangled as your teenage hair did. Your hair, of course, conditioned with tiring effort has found a way to remain smooth, the wires that lap around in eternity, unfortunately, have not had any smooth ride so far.
The thing to notice is that they have in fact followed you everywhere. You joined football class, dance class, and all the other summer classes for years and travelled far and wide across your city. But, the wires never left your sight. You graduated to college and changed your route and yet you found them along new destinations. I can promise that tomorrow you will be showing them off to your grandchildren, unless, some saint from heaven or MP from Parliament does something about them.
Please do not misunderstand my mockery as a way of being hopelessly disdained. I am here for change and cleanliness, but you know somewhere deep down my heart I cannot imagine my city or any city for that matter, without the noodles of wires. They are like a lifeline to a city that is grappling to be modern and have amenities, yet doesn’t quite know how to control and make them behave themselves.
Unlike other developed cities of the world (foreign as we Indians love to say), where the wiring is underground, in India due to the initial sporadic development of cities which were far from each other, wiring was done mostly overhead. It is much easier and much less expensive to make new connections overhead than to have the ground dug up for the same each time. Also, it is much easier to steal power by the locals if the wires are hanging from above, a common practice here, especially in old city parts.
And therefore, we flaunt a series of webs connecting and dancing off building terraces that will put even Spiderman to shame.
When we think of India, we think of its rich heritage, culture, and diversity. However, there are many small imperfections that also make this country stand apart. Sometimes, these imperfections can be dangerous whether they are social, religious or physical. In this case, hanging wires are very dangerous for pedestrians and vehicles and more so in the rainy season.
So at times when we talk of all glory and ways of attracting tourism (which it most definitely deserves), we miss out on the day to day things that are a very integral part of our way of life.
Would I want to wake up someday and look out of my window and see the clear blue sky, uninterrupted by dark strikes zigzagging my view? Maybe yes! Would that make me feel good about the care that the people and government are taking to make things most systematic and organized? Yes of course! But in this place which I call home, I have also learnt to live with all irregularities and flaws that are also very much a part of who we are.
Today, you may look up consciously to observe what I say, though till yesterday the wires didn’t really even register their presence. Or they may have if you living in one of those areas, such as Old Delhi, where the overhead wires are more a part of the terrain than anything else. But then after all, for us, ‘ sab kuch chalta hain’. Well, as long as it’s convenient and been this way for ages, and as long as its woes are comparatively less than its benefits, we just hang more and more wires. What if it turns fretfully fateful and fatal someday? We will cross the bridge when we come to it.