There is a little shed on a tiny sliver of land jutting into the lake. I am no metallurgist, so excuse me if I take it to be
made of tin, or thakaram as it is called in Tamil. That paints a nicer picture for the romantic in me, you see. This shed is
unlike any other, or so I tell myself. It is an amphitheatre where such drama unfolds, the likes of which even Bollywood
could not have seen. So pardon me for calling dibs on a permanent seat on the floor. The tharai ticket, as we Tamilians
like to call it, used to be the cheapest ticket at the local cinema, typically on the floor, right in front of the screen, and
affording the spectators (usually children) the simple pleasure of squatting, and the supreme luxury of erupting in a
raucous jig at the slightest excuse. Sadly, this disappeared with the advent of multiplexes, aerated drinks, and airconditioning,
not necessarily in that order.
Anyway, this little tin shed on the Powai Lake has played host to romances, tragedies, thrillers, mysteries, and
everything in between, but with some serious twists. Firstly, the actors are not always human. And secondly, it is all
spontaneous and impromptu, kind of like improvisational stand-up comedy – the blink-and-you-shall-miss kind of
action that goes against the theatre norms of scripted films, re-runs, show-timings, and advertisements. The kind that
one is unlikely to ever find on torrent sites and DC++. Lastly, it is always, always free (as in “free beer”).
An osprey with its catch
As you may have surmised by now, I am a happy resident of a campus by the lake. And it is not just any old campus,
mind you. I live inside the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay campus. And, consider myself privileged to
stay here - a little haven within the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, a tiny island (metaphorically speaking) that is cut
off from the city's concrete jungle, fumes, pollution, famed commutes, and crowds. It is nicely ensconced between the
breathtaking (and crocodile infested) Powai lake on one side and a hillock worthy of picnics on the other. What is more,
it shares borders with the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) – borders and fences that the numerous wonderful
residents of the park frequently disregard! There are even notices warning folks to not venture into certain areas that are
prone to, say, a stray leopard that wandered in from its home adjoining the campus. During the rains, tracts transform
into miniature rainforests, replete with leopards and langurs, pittas and pangolins, macaques and magpie robins.
So in this case, the adage 'good fences make good neighbours' can be left to rust unburnished. For here, there is scope for
osmosis, for the city's green lungs to breathe, for good neighbours to evolve and learn to co-exist. How much fun is a
neighbour who does not visit, share, interact or borrow? How can a neighbour be good if there is no interaction? For
good neighbours come into existence not when fences go up, but when walls crack, crumble and fall.