Pavement Perorations – Part 4: A moment of epiphany!

After those three informative quizzes, people are finally acknowledging that I do know a thing or two about pavements. Having proven my interest and understanding of this subject, I thought I should spread this knowledge far and wide. I know most people don’t understand my interest in this insignificant topic, but why must everyone think only about the big, important stuff that gets them attention? I am determined to show that even a humble pavement has a part to play in the whole orchestra, or symphony –  or whatever. You know what I mean.

At this point, I have to make full disclosure:

  1. Yes, I have been certified sane by most people (DO NOT ASK my family /friends / office colleagues – AND – it’s not my problem if that does not leave a whole lot of people to talk to)
  2. No, I am not prone to obsessions like this, unless you count the time I got very interested in signboards or the time I talked endlessly about walls…
  3. Yes, I do walk sometimes on pavements, but only if there is an ambulance nearby
  4. No, I do not intend to get a PhD on this subject
  5. Yes, OK! I will not conduct any more quizzes. Happy?

As damaging as it is to my reputation, I have another disclosure to make. You see, during the summer, I visited the U.S. of A. It was a profound learning experience for me. Wherever I looked, I saw people walking ON THE PAVEMENT!! Yes, I kid you not. I must have looked like the village idiot who came to town because my brother had to pick up my jaw and put it back in position every now and then. Luckily, this was New York, where people are almost as law abiding as our good old Bengaluru folk, so I walked where I pleased. But I tell you, I had to try so hard to resist the temptation to walk on the pavement, and it did not last long.

From the moment I put my foot down on that surface, I was a changed woman. It was sheer art. The surface was smooth, hardly any cracks. The edge was neatly contained by a curb that slanted down beautifully to the road at either end. Trees had enough space to grow on, with a tree guard and the soil was edged on all four sides by curbstones. Even the narrowest of pavements was wide enough for three people to walk abreast!

I was in a bit of a daze for some days. Everything I had accepted as gospel truth back home was turned on its head here. I refused to go out. I sorely missed the jagged surfaces, the beautiful rhythmic patterns of pavements rising and falling, the spittle, the comforting smell of pee and garbage – I was sunk in tearful nostalgia. Then I pulled myself together somehow and hit the roads, er.. pavements, once more.

This time, I steeled myself to be objective and impartial in my assessment. First, I had to come to terms with the fact that people actually used pavements for the purpose they were constructed. Then, I had to come to terms with how normal it seemed that people used them that way. Luckily, in New York, you find peddlers and hustlers and food vendors on many pavements, and that made me feel more at home. But, truth be told, it was sort of nice to see those well laid surfaces, the gentle curbs, the neat squares left for planting, the benches for people to sit on. Walking there was actually a pleasant experience.

I walked mindlessly for hours on end taking this in. As I trod on, the bitter realisation sank in. Oh, woe! I knew nothing about pavements! It had been such a big mirage. I thought of my foolish pride in my ‘expertise’. At the end of that walk, light dawned in my befuddled head. It was a moment of epiphany. There was a mantra going on endlessly in my head – If they could do it, so can we. That was it! Making a simple pavement that is well laid, easy to walk on, clean, and green – piece of cake really. If we could do stuff that was so much more complicated, how difficult could this be?

I came back determined to devote myself to spreading this knowledge. My brother – he shook his head and smiled sadly at my naiveté. But hey, I am made of sterner stuff and I love Bharat Mata and all that jazz. So, from here on, it is a new avatar of me that will be unveiled. 

Watch this space.

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About Suchitra Deep 5 Articles
Suchitra Deep is co-founder and partner at Firm Terra Architects, Bangalore. She is the founder of Malleswaram Social, a civic initiative that engages in local issues and an active member of Sunaad, a Hindustani classical music group. She is also a meditation trainer.