"Footpath mel hogi ma." – (Go on the footpath, Madam). This was a policeman.
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Though I felt like retorting back, I kept quiet as I always try to avoid these uniformed men.
Frankly, where are the footpaths? The first hurdle is to get on to the footpath which is at least one foot high in many parts. Once you get on them there are any number of hurdles. Thirty per cent of them are occupied by construction materials. Iron rods that almost tear your sari. Maunds and maunds of brick and mortar pieces which can make you trip and fall; sands and ballasts that you may have to encounter. Tree stumps that come in the way. Anything happens on the foot path while constructing a building. In certain places, the watchman sheds are built on the foot-path for want of space, though it is unauthorized. God knows how they get permission to do such things.
The family cooks sit outside these sheds to avoid the smoke inside as it has no windows or doors. You cannot walk on the extreme left as the drainage is open and you need to be careful not to fall into it. There are buckets of water for washing the plates and vessels that the workers use before and after their ‘nashta‘ and lunch.
Footpaths are more dangerous than walking on the road as, on the roads, the vehicles drivers know that we are there. They may whiz past you or pass very close to you, horning as loudly as possible, but that, I feel, is a better option than the ‘death knell’ foot paths.
Do you think there are only people walking on the foot-path? The two wheelers conveniently climb on to the foot paths so that they can be closest to the traffic signal, to jump off as soon as it shows green.
Senior citizens have a tough time, not only getting on to the foot-path but getting down from them. The end of the foot-path where one is supposed to get down could be dug up and a gaping hole so broad that one cannot negotiate it by anyway. I came across an old man the other day with a walking stick looking at me askance! He had come to the end of a foot-path tottering with his walking stick and when he had to cross a huge open gutter he did not know what to do. Seeing a policeman nearby, I asked, "Why don’t you help him?"
He seemed a nice man in uniform, he came and lifted the man manually and put him on a path where he could walk. ‘Nadeeri saar, heeg obre barbedi, thileetha?" (Now go on, do not come alone like this.)