Roads to nowhere

May 10, 2015, 03:14 IST | Meher Marfatia

" It’s scorching, yes. And you coming in—you big black stretch of road cutting into the middle of my mossy paths— will make it hotter still. I’m a garden. I cool things down.”

Meher Marfatia  “Help, it’s hot!”

“It’s scorching, yes. And you coming in—you big black stretch of road cutting into the middle of my mossy paths— will make it hotter still. I’m a garden. I cool things down.”

“Hey, I’m PMB. Polymer modified bitumen. The best bet to make Mumbai a smart city. So strong, I’m used on runways. I increase the life of roads, I prevent potholes. They mix me into all new construction.”

“You mean all new destruction.”

“Oh stop grumbling, move with the times, my friend. Accept that the authorities are going to have many more of my kind. You can’t stall progress.”

“Their development plans spell death for everyone, children first. It’s hardly just leafy spaces like mine they’re after. They plough roads through museums, cinemas and churches. Where kids learn, are entertained and pray.”

“Get real. How many kids walk in the park today? How many of them pray? Museums bore them. They watch pirated films on laptops. Plus I have social skills. I totally connect. Road networks link points A to B to Zee, put people in instant touch with each other.”

“Instant! The slow crawl of traffic piling for long hours on every inch of you, even flyovers and freeways, pollutes and chokes.”

“The more roads get built, the less bumper-to-bumper cars you need worry about.”

“Added roads create worse jams. You congest. You clog. You kill. One of my willows really wept yesterday when a young pregnant woman sat in its shade with the newspaper. Looking over her shoulder this lovely tree read that pollution is making women deliver underweight babies. Sad kids who grow up feeling no pride for a once grand place the world would call Urbs prima in Indis. Now a city that’s all hype, no heart.”   

 “Quit protesting. In any case you have the upper position. Flowers from bougainvillea bushes planted on either side of me will fall to cover me in a carpet.”

“That’s in summer. One rain shower and the blooms will drop. Each acre of mine has sheltering trees that rustle softly in the wind. I soothe the stressed, relax the restless. We know what happens to those with no chance to roam through me.

Frustrated students take their own lives, frustrated cops take others’. Everyone works without sleep, without peace.”
“That’s their weakness. Leave the government to do its job. Let them have hawkers’ zones, buy votes whichever way they want. What’s the big deal about footpaths some silly citizen groups fight to keep? The poor simply sleep on them to be run over by the drunken rich. You’ll also see sleeker public transport soon zipping across miles of me.”   

“Don’t talk of public transport. Children are molested and flung out of buses and their families are told that is God’s will.”
“Ah, what happened in another state won’t in ours. Blame the Punjab chief minister. Amchi Mumbai is always safer.”
“Amchi Mumbai is Shanghaied, doomed, done for. You think I’m this prissy park struggling to save my small patch of green. But we’re all sitting ducks, magnets for disaster, waiting to incur the wrath of Nature. Carving coastal routes can bring us tsunamis. Digging deep to crisscross roads might tempt the wraith of Nepal here.”    

“Wraith of Nepal, wrath of Nature—such rubbish you spout! Melodramatic, morose... That’s enough. Make a joyful noise.”
“You better tell those vehicles not to do that. It’s ‘Horn Not OK Please’ these days.”

Meher Marfatia is the author of 10 books for children and two for parents. She has mothered her own kids well past the terrible twos and almost past the troubled teens.

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