* THE ADVENTURES OF WAIWAI *
Summer holidays in school is something that did not excite Waiwai. Simply, for during these days he did not get a chance to see the city daily. Waiwai loved the outside, everything about it. Feeling slightly disappointed today morning, he purposefully immersed himself on bed and kept staring at the coconut trees blurringly through his blanket. Waiwai’s Ma realizing what this truant will shape into, stood at the door and said,“Daadu and I are going to the bazaar to buy some things for tomorrow’s puja, if you are not sleepy, come with us !!”
Smiling under his blanket and resisting to jump out of the bed in excitement, he sneaked through the side of the blanket and said, “What should I wear? Give me my clothes”. Ma replied "Anything, what you are wearing is also okay."
Hearing Ma, Waiwai almost leaped out of bed. Not because he was now excited to go, but he could hardly believe that he could go to the city wearing anything!!! “No dress code!” he said to himself. “Really Ma, I can wear anything? You will not say what I should wear?” Ma smiled and left the room. Waiwai quickly picked up his glasses and rushed out and seeing both Ma and Daadu near the main door, both wearing ‘anything’ he could not control the broad smile that appeared over his face. Waiwai had only heard about the bazaar, that everyone frequently visited but he never realized that this visit can be made by just waking up and leaving the house – without any instructions of how one should behave in a place outside the house. Sitting in the backseat behind Ma, who was driving, he stuck his face against the window glass pane wondering how strange this act of going to the market had unfolded since morning.
As Waiwai walked trying to match alternate steps of Ma and Daadu, he suddenly felt an unusual feeling of all his senses being activated at once. Suddenly within the same moment, he could smell different objects – the guavas, the vermillion, a faint scent of spices, he could hear different voices – a man shrieking, a woman shouting, the cow mooing, the bicycle ‘tring,tring'. And within all this he could also see a panorama – one where everyone was in motion, hands moving around, heads turning and shifting, legs trying to find space in between the others, and expressions of joy, disagreement and even confusion. All these actions unfolding and playing themselves out in such a fast pace that momentary blink of the eye would mean a series of actions gone unnoticed.
Waiwai for a moment seemed disoriented and became stationary at a point, till Ma pulled him by his arms and said, “Come on, don’t stand.” Waiwai was however reluctant to move and tried to say, “Can we not stay here … ?” only to be interrupted by a loud “Sssshh !!” by Ma, as Daadu glanced back towards Waiwai nodding through his eyes to affirm that he should listen to Ma’s words. Waiwai wanted to stay at one place, for he wanted to investigate in detail, but soon realized that every time he was dragged from one place to the other; the appearance through remained the same; the details varied considerably.
The women sitting alongside the footpath sat differently – one cross legged, the other slightly leaning with one knee up and the other bend outwards towards the vegetables that she was selling. The vegetables and the fruits were also arranged differently: the ones on the cart were spread out more horizontally across, while the ones in that little basket on the road were stacked one above the other like how one arranges playing cards.The leafy vegetables were tied and constantly watered whereas some of the ones were rolling over one another.
The shops, located behind these carts also displayed objects in a variety of manner .The spices were in glass jars or in small pouches, where as some articles hung from the ceiling. It was all chaotic and Waiwai could not keep his eyes fixed at one point for too long to a point that he felt dizzy with the sheer amount of activities and objects at display.
Ma suddenly shook Waiwai out of his dizziness and spoke out “Stand here, near this counter. This is Dattu uncles’s shop. Daadu and I will go inside, and be back soon.” Daadu, with one hand holding the bazaar bag, ran his hand though Waiwai’s curly hair as he walked past him, while nodding his head towards his friend Dattu who stood behind the counter.
Waiwai, suddenly realized that he was so overwhelmed all this while, that he did not remember to wear the glasses. He leaned against the counter, reached out to his pocket and looked again at the bazaar now through his glasses. Waiwai tried to focus keenly but he soon realized that the bazaar through his glasses has now become a blur; that too an unusual blur. Waiwai could no longer identify between the man and the woman he observed, the noise and the voice, the person selling and the one buying, the vegetables and the fruits, the smell between the butter and the vermilion, the pungency of the flowers and the pickles, the limit between which person was selling what.
The bazaar, now appeared to him as a place of exchange – an exchange not monetary in nature but an exchange of different forms of conversations. Everyone was conversing in some way or the other without any barriers – of gender, age or social class. Mostly everyone wearing ‘anything’ helped in this blurring of the boundaries and for those who did not were smirked at. Not only the human boundaries blurred and seemed like a large cohesive mass of gestures but even the spatial boundaries dissolved. No more could Waiwai differentiate between the shop and the carts outside of it. Where did the shop end? What is the exact space occupied by the person sitting on the footpath he could no more observe. Was there even a footpath and a road? Or was it one large space that was occupied by all under the spans of the colorful tarpaulin sheets?To Waiwai people were just now moving across without any tangible dimension. There was no notion of ‘my place, his place, their space’. It was just one huge mass of bizarre expressions being rolled out without any form, space or order.
Overwhelmed, slightly lost in the space that we just witnessed, Waiwai now poking his head in between the two-front seat of the car and enquired “Daadu, what did the vegetable tell you?” Daadu replied “What did they tell you?” prompting Waiwai to answer on his behalf. By the time Daadu, finished the question, Waiwai jumped in with his soliloquy:
"Those tomatoes, some were so red, they were telling me to take them home, and you know some almost felt little sad because everyone would pick them up and rolled them back into the basket. Daadu, at one time I did not realize whether Ma was buying those chillies or selling them!! (breaking into a laughter by himself). She seems to be shouting more than the person who was on the other side of the cart. And did you notice, how everyone was not really following any other person, but they were just gliding past one another and jumping from one place or spot to the other. Sometimes they would walk even while in the middle of talking but no one said,'bad manners', Daadu. Everyone was still smiling. Even when two or three people were talking to one another at the same time, no one interrupted. You know the funny part Daadu? Do you remember that large tree? That also felt like a shop!! Really it did!! For a moment I thought that it belonged to only one person but soon I realized that everyone owns that tree, but no one was fighting for it, everyone was giving each other a share of the space. Did you notice Daadu?"
“Yes” said Daadu, with an acknowledging nod and a soothing smile. “Who else said or did what?" Daadu enquired to encourage Waiwai.
“Actually, everyone was saying something or the other Daadu.” replied Waiwai. "No one could stay in that bazaar without conversing Daadu. From fruits, the sweets, the banana leaves to even the hands of people, everybody’s eyes, the facial expressions and even the noises – everything was conversation!! It seemed like everyone lived like one big family Daadu, they were sharing without hesitating.
“Why! why do you keep asking him more?” interrupted Ma. “Yes, Ma ?” asked Waiwai.
"I said why - why to Daadu, not Waiwai !!” answered Ma.
“Oh” smiled Waiwai and leaned back and rested on the backseat with both hands crossed behind his head as he kept wondering of the space he witnessed today.
A space, he learnt in the city that did not know how to judge. No judgement by what you wear, what you say, what language you speak or who you are. A kind of public space that was indeed public – constantly in a state of argument yet one where everyone belonged equally.