Musings on the Rooftops
How empty and lifeless are the rooftops of these high-rises! The huge water tanks and dish T.V. antennas are their only adornments. Children do not go there to play, neither does a young lady dry her long tresses sitting there in the warmth of the winter Sun, making some young boy smitten on some neighboring rooftop. Winters, on them, do not resonate with the laughter of ladies sitting together, creating designs on the wool with their knitting-needles while keeping a watch on the kids playing nearby. The young, from these rooftops, do not render the sky a riot of colours with their kites in that short spring season before the Sun turns fierce. Summer evenings do not see the drenching of the rooftop floor before the cots are laid down for the night’s sleep. And, no longer do children or lasses dance on the rooftops welcoming the splatter of the first showers as it soaks the world around with petrichor.
It was so different when the towns hadn’t turned into megalopolises and, the houses did not resemble cells of a honeycomb. The roofs of the houses were as lively, open and, welcoming as the then life. The sound of chirping crickets, the waft of an old film song on radio from some distant roof and, the soft voices of a conversing couple or someone narrating stories to kids slowly faded away, as the gentle summer breeze, with a whiff of the sweet mild smell of a mango tree in bloom, lulled all to sleep. The warmth of the afternoon Sun in the winters brought all and sundry to their rooftops and it became a stage for varied activities- sun bath for the oil glistening torsos before the water- bath, indoor games or outdoor games with improvisations according to the size of the rooftops and, a snooze for the elderly.
Life, however, in these giant residential complexes in our asphalt jungles, is a bit different. Closeted with the four walls all the day long, it is amidst the monotonous whirr of the air-conditioners and intimacy with the communication gadgets that one goes to sleep. Isn’t the word ‘complex’ denoting these giant residential buildings so apt? This word– both as a noun and, as an adjective- signifies all the characteristics of these buildings aspiring to touch the clouds. In thinking thus, I am reminded of two great thinkers- Ruskin and Tagore. While Ruskin believed that our architecture is an expression of our life and character, Tagore wrote- ‘…walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men. They set up a principle of ‘divide and rule’ in our mental outlook, which begets in us a habit of securing all our conquests by fortifying them and separating them from one another…. It breeds in us a strong suspicion of whatever is beyond the barriers we have built, and everything has to fight hard for its entrance into our recognition’. The openness, sharing in the griefs and happiness of others and, genuine joie de vivre in our lives, a few decades back, seems to have been replaced by canned emotions and their digital expressions. Has our world view been limited by the size of our open terraces and the time we get to spend on it? I wonder.
(published in HT Lko - 15/12/2015 Link- http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/iphone/homepage.aspx#_article33a44347-42e3-4f2d-8a82-2b77e82f27af/waarticle33a44347-42e3-4f2d-8a82-2b77e82f27af/33a44347-42e3-4f2d-8a82-2b77e82f27af/true)