Life in the city or rather living in the city has its own pleasures and of course, its own perils; life in the city as a hosteller is even more pleasing and perilous. Imagine a spoilt brat who didn’t even get up to fetch up a glass of water for his own self and one who is grounded for most part of the week is forced to wash all of his crockery with most of the faces of freedom smiling on him; the results are bound to be bemusing. The spoilt brat in this case is I, the city is that of Jorhat and the purpose of the stay is purely educational, officially. Unofficially, it’s socialising, making new mates and preparing oneself for the life away from home that I strive; how successful I am or will be only time will tell but as for now, leaving all of my petty little dreams and concentrating on the experience that it has been for a small town boy in a small city, I could only say it is temptingly destructive as like a plump chocolate cake for a kid who has eaten crackers all his life. Now, if you’ve properly taken note than you’d find that an average plump chocolate cake consists of a thick chocolate layer hiding the generic baked core and of course, a few meticulous toppings to attract people and pests alike and if you’re an even more keen observer you’d note that all writers are pretentious and thus in accordance, this lesser known writer pretends to be a MasterChef Judge in this piece and analyses the chocolate cake that is city life, piece by piece.
The Thick Chocolate Layer
A chocolate layer in the said cake consists of eggs, sugar, cocoa powder and a lot of artificial strengtheners and sweeteners. Likewise, the chocolate layer of city consists of a well-developed infrastructure, warm amenities, sound law enforcement and a lot of pretentious advantages and privileges. Talking of the eggs or the infrastructure, it is well-advanced in comparison to even those places we gape open-mouthed as developed back in our small towns. The roads are broad and it takes a hell lot of a practice to learn to cross them at once without getting squashed or even scratched by the cars that trail like ants endlessly. Buildings abound on either sides of these numerous roads, some the short and some the tall, some the scanty and some the superfluous easily illuminating the economic imbalance of its residents. However, commercial buildings easily outshine the residencies and add to the thickness of the metaphorical layer but the most fervent addition to the layer is provided by the educational institutions, the offices, the hospitals, the Jail and other such productive and destructive sites of activity. These sites contribute the largest not because they are superfluous but because they provide the basic amenities of which the city people boast off to their small-town relatives and speaking in realistic terms, their boasting seems to be justified and consequently, loathsome. These inanimate aspects do contribute to this metaphorical layer but as the bitter cocoa powder makes or breaks a chocolate, the system of law and order makes or breaks this layer and in case of Jorhat, the deciding ingredient is not lacklustre at all. The layer is firm yet soft and like all good layers easily veils the artificial components of it in plain sight. The artificial components in this case are the commuting factor, queuing factor, the economic factor and the superiority-complex factor while trying to avail all of the amenities as provided by the judicious and strong infrastructure of the city illustrated as there are numerous brilliant schools in an around a city but not everyone could afford one or is eligible to attend one, there is basically everything in the vicinity of a city but one could not access even those of his needs in a jiffy or without burning a hole in his pocket, hundreds of doctors but not more than half a dozen you could meet without having to wait for an hour, among other examples and activities which of course, one has to perform with the burden of performing them as people of the city. A small peril I guess if you consider the pleasures or maybe not?
The Generic Baked Core
Every cake, chocolate or carrot consists of a core of flour, baking powder and all baked lovingly or not so lovingly together regardless of what is to top this core and hide all of the love and hard work which will keep the cake strong. The core of the city is its people and in spite of the thick chocolate layer, the ones residing in the cities are also human and more-so Indians in the case of Jorhat and thus it is only natural for one to find similar trends in behaviour and actions if not in anything else. For starters, people like to waste money and hence the shops and as there are more people in a city and hence, more shops. Secondly, people like to converse and as such the conversations which take place in the AC rooms regarding the global economic crisis or the crisis in the neighbouring house are as loud as those fermenting in an open courtyard under the evening stars. Lastly, people love people when need be and they hate one another when need be, they serve when need be and rule when they need be but more importantly care for another when need be and even kill one another when need be in the city as like in the hamlets; an universal doctrine, I suppose. Need I say anymore?
The Meticulous Toppings
In case of a cake, the icing, the cherry and the whipped cream attract the flies and the hungry children and in case of a city, the dreams of a sophisticated life, the perks of considering oneself elite and the universal lust of humanity attract thousands. The toppings seem meticulous all in righteousness but how great these toppings that a man chases could be best exhibited by the following anecdote. The day was the 7th of April and I and a couple of my friends were roaming the city aimlessly when we crossed the Domino’s, in front of the gates of which two rosy-cheeked girls were taking selfies flashing the Domino’s sign well and nice, and on the door of the Domino’s was a ragged child peering through the glasses at a privilege he’ll never be able to acquire, only to be chased away by an employee. What if I were one of those two girls, would I have taken a selfie? Oh yes. What if I were the ragged child, would I have peered longingly? Yes, of course. What if I were a Domino’s employee, would I have chased that ragged boy away? Yes…
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Arunabh Debendranath Konwar