Gullies, avenues, lanes, roads, paths, highways, bridges, cross-way, they all are Streets. All that 'Journey is the Destination' symbolism refers to THE ROAD - long and short of it. They say towns are built around rivers, but the heart of a city is always around the bridge street from one end to the other. The main street, the high street, the corner street, the off street, so many of these path ways which stack the chaotic lives of people in the town neatly around it.
Before I even came to realize this, I have loved to walk these streets in the dawn and dusk, or under the shade on a sleepy afternoon, marveling at the vintage architecture or the tricky lopsided urban structures like in game of Jenga, bustling undercurrent of energy and stories, small nooks and corners of knick-knack shops and food stalls and people from rich to poor in their cars or carts, beggars with their blessings and sorry faces or tourists with Canons and Nikon around necks and the enthu faces. Before the Air conditioned malls, Streets have been the ancient shopping malls. From Colaba Causeway, Pali Hill Road, Fashion Street, and Chor Bazaar in Mumbai to Janpath, Connaught Circle, Karol Bagh, and Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, to Oxford Street, Notting Hill, Regent Street or Covent Garden in London,to Chinatown, Soho or Madison Avenue in New York. Of India or the world these are the places where the stage is set for both the audience and performers, millions of stories and conversations unfolding simultaneously.
The great men, kings or patriots who lent their names to these streets never thought that one day these will turn in to big noisy cheap shopping centers, lined with inexpensive fried and acidic food stalls, cheap china goods sold over a rag of cloth spread on the ground, bursting with people, mothers dragging crying children, men in sweaty and stinking shirts, some thieves, some beggars, old match box homes with poor people cooped into them like pigeon holes. When a road is inaugurated or rechristened (it happens a lot nowadays), it is imagined as a neat wide lane, lined with Gulmohar or Asoka green trees, a central play area, a club house or a small market with neatly parked clean shiny cars, rows of well-spaced, garden attached pretty houses with pretty home makers and cute children. Others imagine these as respectful financial hub of the country with tall modern concrete buildings or architecturally superior heritage buildings commanding respect where billions and trillions of money is exchanged on a daily basis and where young people dream of making it big someday. The power corridors and pillars of economy where nations and economies are made and unmade.
So streets are just not those crisscross lines on Google maps, they are the lifeline of the city, of our economy, of our society, of our lives. And together we are going to explore these with the lens of Streetwala. Next time you go exploring these streets, you may find Streetwala in the middle of the street, soaking in the sun, serenading to white noise, relishing finger licking good food, stealing a peep at the open windows and balconies, wondering at the history of derelict abandoned homes, admiring the trampled yet surviving greenery, capturing the views, the faces, the colors, the people, the conversations, asking for directions as it is lost again, tch-tching at the sight of foot which just entered a dirty puddle and sharing a clumsy smile with a complete stranger. I wonder, if this is what they call Serendipity!!