Wednesday, July 20, 2005

For the love of the road.

These pics on Charu's Flickr album blew me away... I spent precious productive time gazing at them, drowning in a multitude of feelings. But then I have always loved roads... When I was in UK, I had once sent home a package of snaps I had taken... all of them with a tag written behind... commenting on who was in the snap, where it was taken, when it was taken or something interesting or funny. Among them there were numerous snaps which featured just roads... country roads, roads lined with heavily pregnant apple trees in Berkshire, cobbled pavements at Eton, Oxford street, the lighted up streets near Piccadilly, busy streets of Canary Wharf, Outside the Odeon at Leicester Square, On the street outside 22B Baker street, small tree lined paths by the Thames, the village road in Hurst, the willow lined riverside road at Henley-on-Thames...

I am not much of a photographer... if you pose for me with your best makeup and brightest smile, rest assured the snap will feature only a body at an odd angle with the head cut off at the neck or worse the fruitseller behind you and there would be just your scarf in the left corner betraying your existence :) Roads though are easy to photograph... they are too big to be accidentally excluded and they don't complain if I make them look bad, they don't even ask for a second go since the first time they 'blinked at the flash'.

Anyways I am digressing and to bring us back on track... I was saying how I love roads. Each of them speaks to me in a different way, awaken in me a different set of emotions.

A village mud path lined with endless green paddy fields and peppered with little thatched roof mud huts always reminds me of the real India... not the cities where people are crushed like sardines in little houses and smaller train compartments. Village roads or those set amidst green fields or orchards always transport me back to my childhood summer vacations spent in my native place in Kerala. And immediately I feel happier, lighter and so much younger. I want to go explore them wearing old clothes torn on fences and stained by jamuns and mangoes.
Winding roads going up mountains surrounded by endless views of faraway horizons and deep valleys with a river in the groove and a tiny village in the distance... these are my favorite types... they fill me with a sense of freedom and with giddy laughter and abandonment. They make me want to run down the green slopes soaked with dew or rain, barefoot with my arms outstretched and the wind through my hair... laughing and whooping all the way.
Roads along beaches, streams or rivers call me to come sit on the bare earth and let my feet be tickled by the gentle ripples of water as I watch the sunset, read a book or talk in whispers to a dear friend or loved one and if nobody is around, even to myself. And then watch in quiet awe as the night falls gently and the sky is bedecked with countless stars.
Cobbled paths, remnants of a medieval age lined with the stone houses of that era or roads set amidst historic grandeur, lined with reminders of a past gone by... these delight me... fill me with a sense of history and culture, draw out a deep respect and a longing yearning to walk down those paths, drinking in the sights and trying to imagine the life they have witnessed over all these years.
Long roads... with no end in sight, stretched out into the distance... these awaken in me a sense of adventure, they beckon me to drive along, stop at quaint shanties for hot tea and cold samosas, take frequent breaks at villages so small you would miss them if you blink... and talk to their inhabitants, buy fresh vegetables and fruits from them and take home lasting memories of their vivid smiles, eloquent eyes and simple lifestyles.
The city roads sparkling with streetlights, neon glow of the hoardings, lights twinkling at thousands of windows of all the surrounding skyscrapers, headlights from hundreds of cars whizzing by... all these drowning out the moon and the stars... roads filled with busy activity... these too, I love. I love cities, having been born and brought up in Bombay and having lived in cities for most of my life. I love the bustle of the cities, the sense of purpose, the instant sense of belonging I feel in the strangest of them. I like to stand at a junction of these busy roads and soak up the life they have to offer. I feel the pride swelling up in my heart... at the collective achievements of humanity, which make the cities possible. As I stand amidst all that, I know that anything is within reach and the loftiest of ambitions are achievable. These roads, more than any other, make me feel young, so alive and invincible.