Sunday, June 17, 2012

Walking around in Meerut

I've been in Meerut four or five days now. Because the heat is so intense (114f/45c) I have been getting up at 5 am for my walks. After 9am it's just not possible to go out side. I usually go again around 7 pm though not for as long.

Meerut is one of my favorite hanging out places. There is no tourism here so it is a city that is truly Indian. No touts, no higher prices for foreigners. During the day the streets are crowded and busy and doesn't quite wind down until around 9pm or so. On my last visit I would walk for up to 8 hours a day exploring different parts of the city. On this trip it's too hot to do that. And I'm glad that I'm getting up at 5am to walk. Meerut is completely different at that hour.

At 5am it is daylight outside though the sun isn't quite yet visible. The streets are mostly deserted with only a few people moving about. The packs of wild dogs roam the streets sometimes playing like puppies and other times chasing off dogs that have intruded into their territory. Cows are busy moving about and looking for food and chipmunks are scurrying about from one side of the road to the other. Men and boys without homes bath at one of the many public water faucets.

By 7am I stop at the end of Abu Lane and have tea at a small stall. He has four chairs out in front and most times it is just me and one other person drinking tea. The other man reads the morning paper and I look out into the three way intersection, by now schoolboys are riding their bicycles or walking to school, friends gather for a morning chat and others are now out on their morning walk.

Then I walk some more going past an intersection that has a huge statue of the Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity that is worshiped all over India. People stop here on their way to and from work to pray.

I continue and wind through a residential neighborhood. Men are leaving to go to work, many dressed as if they're headed to an office somewhere. A young boy walks with his eyes glued to the ground scanning for recyclables that he can throw into the empty bag slung over his shoulders. Every day he walks the same route looking for something that he can turn into cash.

By 7:30 I end up at another teas stall for my second cup of coffee. The stall is unbearably hot with the sun now beaming down upon it so a crowd of men sit on a concrete barrier on the other side of the road. Every morning there are the same two groups of six or so men, each group checks me out as I take my place on the wall waiting for my tea. I knod a good morning, one man smiles back.  A young boy works here running cups of tea and plates of biscuits back and forth. He has a very serious look upon him. He doesn't want to be there, he doesn't want to work. He brings my tea and biscuit and unlike all the other men I say thank you. On the third day he finally looks at me and a smile starts to come across his face. It quickly vanishes as he goes right back to work. Empty cups are left on the wall and collected later, left over biscuits are thrown behind the wall for the chipmunks, clean up is easy. On my last morning I leave all my loose coins on the wall next to my empty cup, I hope the boy finds it a pleasant surprise.

I continue my walk which now takes me though a small area of slums. On the left side of the street men, women and children sleep on the ground or a woven bed, sleeping in groups. On the right side of the street it is the same but here there are tents and lean-toos. Waking boys take care of their morning business on a concrete wall that lines a small creek. Every morning the same young man and woman smile and wave to me from their bed on the street side.

Many are still sleeping, brothers and sisters huddled together on a small bed. Young boys gather at a public faucet and play in the water as they bathe. A father has one boy in a bucket and pours water over another. Being homeless means no private toilet or bathing facilities. A mother sits on the edge of bed breastfeeding her young infant from what looks like a deflated and empty breast.  And despite the hard life these people are enduring each and every one looks up at me and smiles as I walk, I smile back.

One morning there was a crowd of people in the middle of the street. A man and his well dressed wife had parked their scooter in the middle of the road and were handing out what is called a prasad (or prasada). It is an offer of food for the Hindu gods that is shared with others. This well to do couple were making an offering to god and sharing it with those in need. I asked the couple if I could take a photo and I was told no. I spoke for short bit with the man and then he offered me prasad as well. I accepted as it was an honor to be asked. I held out my right hand with my left hand touching it, the man scooped up a large serving and I quickly stopped him telling him that these people had a much greater need for the food than I did so I would settle for a small offering. He smiled and I accepted the smaller portion. It's nice to know that compassion still exists.

My walk continues now for another half hour taking me through the now busy streets as the day gets started. The rest of the day I remain inside escaping the miserable heat. I do wander outside on occasion with the urge to explore but can only last a short bit until I'm drenched in sweat. Tomorrow I'm headed to Delhi for a week so I'll take my last walk tonight after sunset.

Newspaper delivery bike

Chai Wala (tea maker) with jug of fresh milk

No comments:

Post a Comment