Aramanenagara: a 45 minute walk


The garbage is on all four corners of the block, embracing each right-angle like a picture-placeholder. Some yards away from each dump the mansions of the rich begin. Outside the rectangular block are the houses of the not-so-rich. The garbage is dumped there both by the rich and the others and you cannot tell which garbage is from whom and, today, some well-intentioned soul had set fire to it on one corner but he had only managed to make worse the smell of the stink, and change the color of the mess to black. The damn thing was still visibly moist, but by noon, when it dried, into the faces of whose houses did it all fly? Into the mansions? Into the tenements?

It is a power block. In its center is the stately house of an ex-mayor. The other houses belong to big businessmen, senior civil servants, and other powerful and capable men living in neat clean houses, and opposite the block across the 80-feet wide street, and just one street away, is the house of our Chief Minister.

The garbage that touches me more is that which lies by the modest masjid at the east end of 80-feet Road. Cows with dappled coats (white on black and black on white) feed there every morning. A good part of the flattened pile is leftover takeaway, still in plastic bags. This morning I took a closer look and much of it was rice. Vegetarian fried rice? Chicken fried rice? And the bags with the gravy which also the cows took in? Mutton chops? Chicken leg? Chinese vegetables? The cows eat in the manner of hogs, leaving nothing. Their capacious udders are sunken, and the milk that forms in them from out of this putrefied intake—into which dairy is it fed? Is the government dairy, whose milk is my supply, supplied in part by these cows?

This is the neighborhood I walk out into, and when I return to mine I take a deep breath and exhale slow and long, in gratitude to the dentist who is the president of our Residents Welfare Association, and who keeps our small neighborhood clean like all of it is his own home. And everyone in the neighborhood responds, as one does to a good leader.