Somedays, the city unfurls a map of secret sunny lanes.
When I first chanced upon one such tucked-away street
(really more shared, gravelly, verandahs leaking out of back doors)
I was worried by how quiet it was.
I wondered if unwanted noise was caught and filtered away by the holes
in the gravel by the blossoming acacia, or
trapped under carefully potted money plants, or
snared by the wicked bougainvillea drapes.
The air is heavy here with the musk of freshly-shelled peas,
drying chillies, open cans of paint,
intimate conversations, hushed conspiracies,
and toothless laughter.
The denizens are a motley group:
grinning old women and well-sunned dogs. They are quick to observe a strangerraising
an eyebrow, barking out a languid enquiry.
Intruders, once approved,
share a laugh with the denizens, barter questions, argue over 'correct' facts, find a
story, dust it out, and leavereceding
slowly but surely
into the shade of an intersection that will lead us away
and onto a walking path littered with semul, and lined by less smug tufts of grass.
Marveling and mourning, all the while, a fleeting intrusion
into the sunniest of worlds:
founded and run by a colorful spectrum of aunties and their wonderful dogs
on any Delhi winter afternoon.