Laying the Foundation Stone, by Jaanu Nagar

When one dwells in a place, one also abides by the ideas that are accepted in that place as being ideal for living. We even think of our future from within the mesh of these ideas. What seems to be at stake here is a consensus, arrived at over a long duration, about what should be sustained as the basis according to which life ought to be led. When a dwelling that has existed for a long time is broken, it is not only their homes that people are evicted out of. Demolition threatens people by scraping at the very foundations they have built their entire lives on.

It was after the demolition of many homes that some people found a place to live in, in Ghevra. The demolition of ones house leaves one steeped in many difficulties. In some ways, the energy mustered by different people to take care of their daily needs after a demolition, becomes a new basis on which to start constructing life afresh in a new place.

These needs include food, water, electricity, roads, means of transport, ways of earning a living, a house, a toilet. But there are some things which have more to do with ones heart and with a search for inner peace and self confidence, which also need an externalisation and a form. Such as: a mosque to offer namaz, a gurudwara to listen to guruwani, a church to find some peace of mind, a temple to pray in. These find their own place amidst the jostle of the everyday.

And they have in Ghevra too.

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Ghevra, 24 June 2008

More Sayings, Old and New, by Jaanu Nagar


The daily journey to Ghevra has now become a pleasant one for me, but as I approach the turn that leads into Ghevra I can see, children in their school uniforms, restlessly crossing the road. Trying to get back to their homes, they call out to any richshaw driving past, "Bhaiyya, please take us along!" After four passengers have filled a single rickshaw, they climb in, standing in the space that is leftover between them. When the rickshaws don't slow down to take them in, they run along them and hang from the edges, uninvited. Sometimes they get together in small groups and plead with the drivers of trucks that carry mud, but which are empty, and travel homewards in them, joking with one another. Some travel without permission, clinging to the ladders and handles on the water tanks on their way to Ghevra, sometimes getting a beating from the drivers for it. One day I saw a water tank on its way to Ghevra. A boy hung on to it, even though at the back of the vehicle was painted the line: Don't hang from me, or I'll throw you off!
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Some Sayings, Old and New, by Jaanu Nagar

What makes someone silent, and when? It's so hard to understand this. Sometimes people are fearful of teams of government officials, and at other times it is the officials who get frightened by the thought of what people might do. What makes government officials fearful?
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Inauguration of the Public Toilet, Jaanu Nagar


That day, DTC buses had arrived in Ghevra and left from there all morning according to their usual routine. The weather was clear, people smiled, and two lines of chalk powder ran along the edges of the road leading into Ghevra. Two white lines, running along the road, turning as the road bends. Our story too, takes a turn along one such bend. The driver of the DTC bus, route number 949, alights from the bus and asks a shopkeeper, "What's going on here?" Folding a betel leaf, the shopkeeper replies, "The Toilet is about to be inaugurated. The MLA is coming to Ghevra."
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Announcement by the Government of India, Jaanu Nagar


Evening was descending. The sun mellowed the red glow that it had cast over the sky. The DTC bus stood at one edge of the road, the board announcing where all it would go pasted on its forehead. Passengers climbed into it, and finding seats they could sit on, sighed with relief. Those already seated repeated for any who climbed in after them, where the bus was headed towards.

A TATA Sumo drove up the road. The words, "Government of India" were printed on its front. Two loudspeakers were fixed on top of it. A sound emerged from them.
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Here People Walk in Their Sleep, Jaanu Nagar

The day dissolved amidst the clutter of "bring this", "buy that". No time to be still and talk. No respite. Evening softly descended upon the accumulations of the day. Bulbs hanging from the poles lining the street lit up, spreading a white glow. Lights shone out into the darkness from the houses made with rolled out bamboo mats. Grass that had sprouted on the unpaved lanes looked thick in the dark. I'm inside. Noises and sounds from the neighbouring houses are so close that they seem to be rising from the dark corners inside my own room. It's my first night in Ghevra.
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About Myself, Love Anand


From far it looked like nothing more than an empty field. As we neared it, small houses made of bamboo mats and poles could be seen. Some houses were adjacent to each other, while others were apart. I walked on and soon I found myself stading in the middle of a process of the making of a new part of the city.

Two rickshawalas stood on either side of the lane. There were carts, one after the other; people were selling things. There were five to six shops. This part has taken the form of the first market in Ghevra.
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Proud Days, Azra Tabassum


"It doesn't seem to me you have come from somewhere else. You seem to me to be from here itself!"

When she said this, it broke through Yashoda and my hesitation about it being our first day here. Smiling, we sat down on the cot that lay beside the cot on which she was sitting.

Noorjahan baaji lived in a house of forty yards in Lakshmi Nagar's area number 8 for fifteen years. Now she has been given a plot of 18 sq m here. As of now, the plot has not got transformed into a casing supported by beams of concrete. There are few people around, and so Noorjahan baaji's heart is not in this place yet. "But so what! I have somehow made my place amidst others who live here, and I live among them."

The narrow spaces between houses that have been constructed does not shy away from inviting others. It is prepared to soak in different kinds of presences into itself.
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The Cot, Yashoda Singh


There are three cots in her house. Sitting on one, the dark skinned Noorjahan apaa, with half the hair on her head having turned white, gold ear rings strung into the string attached to her spectacles, was intently opening the chain on a bag she was holding. Another bag emerged from this bag, shinier and more beutiful than the one before. She unzipped this second bag, and it revealed a third bag, more beautiful than either of the two before, and with fresher colours. Seeing this, a smile spread across my lips. I said excitedly, "Wow! Bag inside bag! It's looking so beautiful."

Sweeping her hand over a bag she said, "My daughter gave this to me; she made it from the scraps of cloth left over each time she got a new suit stitched. She said to me, 'ammi, use them to keep your special things'." Saying this she began looking at the bags lovingly.
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