By Sunil Sharma
There’s a lull in the rain that had driven Mumbai crazy this year, battering the mega-city and almost drowning millions of harried commuters. It’s an annual, or almost annual, occurrence!
The city guardians blame the rain gods; activists, poor planning—and civic apathy.
The city survives—and inches ahead.
After the deluge, denizens come out.
On this holiday, even creatures considered dumb and helpless by some superior beings called the Master race that rules nature and her offspring, especially found in the urban swathe, co-existing uneasily.
Machines. Automata. Cats. Dogs.
A strange menagerie! The watcher thinks, as she surveys the scene below her window.
Bored. She surveys the crated road—and puffing traffic.
Dark clouds. Grey skies, pouring for the fifth day—continually.
Slow trains. Buses.
Long traffic grids.
Then this heartwarming spectacle witnessed by chance by a wandering eye, un-engaged, now fixed upon that tiny patch of ugly reality: A thin rag picker, encased in mackintosh, rummaging the dustbin, right side, outside a gated community. The waste—his treasure, a bulging sack near his feet. Hands moving carefully in the discarded items of excessive consumption.
Next, an ox, big horns, moves in and stands near the bigger bin, extreme left. Two cows sitting a few feet away on the street—crawling with vehicles now, on this September morning. A few stray dogs, nearby the animals—the human and animal vagrants forming a new kind of inter-species continuity—and a strange bond!
Citizens passing by—oblivious to the sight—preoccupied with phones or dodging the puddles.
The ox drinks water from a pail kept under an awning for catching the waters from the menacing vault—and returns to the bin, patiently waiting. The hungry-looking rag picker brings out some fruits from the narrow depths of the bin and places them near the ox; the latter starts munching them, one by one. Others do not get anything. Apples and corn cobs gobbled by the ox, while the cow family sits lazily watching the street. Some women touch their foreheads with reverence.
The man rummages further but finds nothing in the vertical boxes.
He stands idle for a few seconds. The ox looks at him with watery eyes. The strays, too, wait near the bins, each silent.
Mission fulfilled, the ragpicker leaves for the building opposite—searching for plastic bottles in the waste there—and finds three bottles and two whittled-down brooms—and leaves for another destination. Now turning into a full trash-raider (or a climate savior?), his plastic sack bit fatter.
The three strays pounce upon the bins—as if they were some aliens—trying to find some food.
The cows are still parked there, having reclaimed the narrow street for their rights.
Vehicles avoid the two bovines. The ox stands there mutely. Maybe waiting for another two-legged creature to feed him—in this urban jungle!
In a few minutes, the skies open up and humans rush for cover. The animals bear the fierce rain. The ragpicker returns with more fruits, and feeds the ox and the cows, finally obscured by a rain curtain!