1st January, 8.30am. Woken by the sun streaming in through the bedroom sky-light, and the silence being shattered by some very loud shouting in the street.
Hangover-free and glad to see that the sky is blue and the sunshine is back, after 3 days of cold, grey, wet and windy weather caused by the tail end of Cyclone Thane, which had been causing destruction and even some deaths over on the East coast.
Shorts and trainers on, I put the recycling outside the front gate and walk down to the tiny park at the end of the road. Past one of the many construction sites, where something looking like a grey fire engine has turned up to do something with their bore-well. Must’ve been what all the shouting was about.
Into the long, narrow park by the side of the busy main road and it’s already pretty full. The tall trees and palms provide shade from the sun — already warm now. A few street dogs are lying in dappled sunlight. The only path is more of a narrow running track around the edge of the park, with a very high kerb painted in green and white stripes. To me it looks like somewhere kids would ride round in toy cars at a fairground, but I guess the kerb-stones are there to stop all the soil being washed away during monsoon time.
I’m the only white face in the place, and the only person in shorts… my pale bare legs are attracting quite a bit of attention but I’m pretty used to this now.
Elderly ladies in sarees and cardigans amble round, alongside white-haired men in white shirts and dhotis, their flip-flopped feet pointing outwards as they shuffle along. Some more energetic men are doing brisk yoga in the shade, and one or two people are sitting meditating, with their hands on their knees, thumbs touching forefingers. A few younger ladies in tracksuit bottoms and T-shirts are power-walking with their iPods. Apart from me, only one other person is actually running… a young man with a pony tail. He’s going the opposite direction, and we acknowledge each other with eye contact as we pass every couple of minutes. The path is only wide enough for 3 or 4 people to pass, and intricate overtaking manoeuvres are needed from time to time, because everyone’s moving at a different speed.
Just outside the fence a couple of small 3-wheeler garbage trucks, piled ludicrously high, are unloading into a bigger lorry. Every time I come round to that part of the lap, there’s an overwhelming stink of rubbish; quite sweet and similar to rancid milk. The kind of smell you get at any street-corner rubbish dump, but more concentrated. Next to the rag-pickers and garbage-wallahs, a dozen or more yellow and green auto-rickshaws are parked. Khaki-uniformed auto drivers gather in a large group, counting out bank-notes, chatting and smoking small, fragrant beedis.
Walking home from the park back the way I came, I see a crowd of people, all standing quietly and looking. This means there’s been an accident. Sure enough, as I get closer I can see two men lying in the road next to a motorbike. One of them is casually resting his head on the kerb while he talks on his phone. The other is rocking back and forth, clearly in pain, but there’s no blood. The last time I saw an accident on this street was 2 months ago in exactly the same spot. A car was upside down in the street. In the 11 months I’ve lived here, I’ve probably seen 5 or 6 accidents along this stretch, pretty much right outside my flat, and — apart from the car — all of them involving people falling off their 2-wheeler.
Back to the flat and I optimistically run the shower, but the solar panels haven’t quite warmed up yet. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and apart from the odd car-horn, it’s about as peaceful as it gets. An ambulance comes past, presumably for the spilled bikers. I have a cold shower anyway.
I remember I have strawberries in the fridge.
We have a whole new year ahead of us. 366 days of potential, good intentions and even whole new lives. Happy 2012, everyone.