A long time ago came a man on a track
Walking thirty miles with a sack on his back
And he put down his load where he thought it was the best
Made a home in the wilderness
Built a cabin and a winter store
And he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore
The other travelers came walking down the track
And they never went further, no, they never went back
Then came the churches then came the schools
Then came the lawyers then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their load
And the dirty old track was the telegraph road
Then came the mines and then came the ore
Then there was the hard times then there was a war
Telegraph sang a song about the world outside
Telegraph road got so deep and so wide
Like a rolling river …
And my radio says tonight it’s gonna freeze
People driving home from the factories
Six lanes of traffic
Three lanes moving slow …
The lyrics above are from Telegraph Road , a masterpiece from Dire Straits.I am amazed at the simplicity with which Mark has put down how a civilization builds up around a point and how we as humans have a way of complicating everything around us.
In the last 13 odd years that I have been out of my home town I have the opportunity to visit and stay in various cities.Like little children I have watched them grow into puberty,youth and decay in their old.Arguably I ain’t seen enough but from what I have I can say I don’t wish to anymore.
Taking example of my own town Lucknow in which there used to be a neighborhood called Gomti Nagar has now transformed into a modern city by itself.Places where we used to cycle around,sit and chat,smoke casually without a care in the world have all become shopping Malls,Multiplexes,Hospitals,Hotels ,Schools and what not.Every time I go and visit my folks there is a deep sense of alienation as if this is not the place I grew up,these are not the people I knew,these are not the same streets and lanes I walked ……….this is not the place I want to come back to.
They say that the land prices have soared and I don’t know whether I should feel good or bad about it.Hundreds of houses have been converted into commercial spaces and the street next to my place is now a declared ‘Commercial area’ by the city municipality.Thankfully the lane we are in is still quiet and peaceful but then for how long ? As soon as money has satiated its appetite once and hunger strikes again you will have the house next door on sale to a White goods showroom.
I have seen it happening in New Delhi,Bangalore,Hyderabad and Lucknow.I don’t know how or what prompts us to indulge in this madness.Shops,shops and then some more shops.Offices,Offices and the some more offices.Factories,Factories and the some more factories.
I remember we were once on a highway and stopped by to have some tea at a roadside stall.Everyone started commenting on the slow pace of life,the lackadaisical attitude of the farmer sitting in a corner by the tube well and how things will never change around here.While we were all animated and stressed in our conversation I just chanced to look at the face of the farmer.Peaceful,calm,contended looking far away into the eternity oblivious of our silly ranting.I think I got my answer so I stopped being a part of the debate and walked away.
In his book Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainance Rober Pirsig asks a question -
Are we working for the factories or the factories are working for us ?
If you don’t want chilled water you don’t need a refrigerator,If you do not want to know how the world is going crazy you don’t need a TV….and these are just some smaller examples.I have tried to give up on various gadgets and I found that life goes on perfectly fine without.In fact it was better before they ever arrived.
One of my friends is making a house up on the hill,another friend is tilling his own land and cultivating his own crop.I guess I will be building my own road very soon…..