Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Of fruit peel and invisibility

There's a fruit-stall near my office building. Actually, it is not even a stall. It's just a woman sitting on the ground with a basket of fruit, a knife, a bowl, a packet of kala namak and masala, a stack of leaf-bowls (we call them donaa; what's it called in English?) and toothpicks.

I'm a regular customer.

Today, there was some sort of argument going on. A man was berating the woman for leaving fruit-peel lying around. She doesn't, actually. She puts the waste in a separate basket behind her seat and carries it away at night (I think).

The trouble, it turns out, is not littering. The trouble is that a lot of poor kids have been falling sick. The fruit-wali is being accused of letting these poor kids eat her waste.

She denies this. Says that it is the migrant labourers' kids and they don't even ask her permission. They sneak up behind her and as soon as they think nobody's looking, they grab some fruit-waste (cores from apples and pears, papaya or mango peel, badly bruised bananas) and run.

I stood there, looking left and right and all around.

This is an office area. There are no poor kids, except the regular ones begging at the traffic signals; I have seen them hiding their rotis by sticking them in the iron railing on the road-divider. But I saw no labourers, no slums, no shanties, no children.

And suddenly, I saw that it is possible to become invisible.

So invisible that you eat fruit-peel from a trash-basket in a busy office area in the heart of the capital, and nobody really sees.

5 comments:

Anirudh said...

In its own way, lovely.

annie said...

anirudh: thanks

Madhat said...

you should read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman...

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Yep, so many invisible people all around us. We live in a state of invisible apartheid.

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