When ever we are visiting a place our mind not only registers the landscape of the place but also faces. Almost every public place (a tourist place / market / college / residential area…) in the world can be linked to a face, to a person, to a character but we don’t know it until we visit that place and that face is missing. Then our eyes unconsciously start searching for that face when our eyes fail to locate the face our tongue comes to aid and we start asking people around about the missing face.
If we look at New Delhi’s most famous meeting place, Connaught Place (CP), if you been to CP try to search for a face which you can associate with it…. When I search for a face which I associate with CP, a man dressed in white shirt & trousers , a light orange colored cap carefully placed in the center of head, the cap gives the illusion of an orange rabbit sitting on the head with its little ears listening to the surrounding sounds ( need help from your imagination ), an ear bud placed behind an ear, a small bag sling across his shoulder and him wandering around offering his services to clean ears. (Click here for an intresting post about ear cleaners )
Recently I came across a story in The Hindu regarding an old man (over 100 years old), who earns his living around Lal Qila (Red fort, Old Delhi) through a weighing machine with its needle stuck at 49 kg and I thought that this is the face of old Delhi for the writer and a lot of other people.
A friend told me that even after having left Hamdard University for over three years when ever he thinks about the University the old man’s face, who used to work in the canteen, pops up. This particular old man was around 80 years old, was from UP (Uttar Pradesh), had to work and scrap a living even in this ripe age as he had three unmarried daughters at home.
Every place no matter how big or small, whether visited in large number or is a forgotten dark corner can be associated with a face. So is the case with Kashmir’s famous Lal Chowk, for you to associate Lal chowk with the face with which I do, you need to be a frequent visitor or a frequent visitor needs to point out the face (character) otherwise you will mistake him as a usual tourist rooming around, leaving or looking for a room. This person carries couple of bags (which I assume are empty), wears a hat, has large headphones and just walks around (reminds me of Alan Garner from movie Hangover). What is the story of this guy I don’t know, do you?
While visiting Jammia Millia and maneuvering my way around the campus by asking directions met a person who became my face for jammia. I was asking a campus security personal for directions and another person (seemingly lost in his own world) with my back turned towards him started chanting in loop the names of places from kashmir, “Srinagar, Anantnag, Islamabad, Baramulla, Bandipora, Kulgam, Kupwara…”, as I became curious I asked the campus security whether the person was from Kashmir, he said no. Before I could further inquire about the person, he said why don’t you talk to him yourself. So my first question was where from he was, he said he was born in Jammia and spent his life in Jammia only. My next question was has he been to Kashmir and he said never, then he asked me where from Kashmir I was , I said Baramulla. At this moment the campus security interrupted and said that there are lot of Kashmiri students on campus, he remembers the names of the places they are from and the next time you meet him he will call you by saying hey Baramulla!