By Bikram Keshari Jena
As one more addition to the hazards of street food, eviction drives by the municipality, not universal but situational, can crash land on the laundry list. While relishing your favourite street food, to see the world around you set into a hullabaloo is not a palatable condiment to go with. The devourer soon gets devoured by the ruckus that ensues from anywhere and everywhere. If you happen to be a bystander you press your fists against your chest with a hunched back and neck crammed tightly between your shoulders gaping at the insurrection in front of your eyes and reverberation inside your eardrums.
The concerned parties equally believe that each of them is rightfully uninvited. Hence they are never in taking terms but in running terms – one after the other. As the evictor appears, the evictee disappears.
As a group of men and machines descend like a cat among pigeons, a flutter sets in motion. Within seconds, the whole real estate of the place changes as if a wardrobe has been stripped naked into a suitcase by an irate woman headed to her parents’ house following a fight with her husband. The whole place sheds its flab even quicker than represented in the advert of a fat burning accoutrement and falls in line with a town planner’ cartographic strictures.
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But two characters standout – the pedestrian and the bulldozer, a predator, in its quintessential yellow-black birthday suit. One lands by accident, the other by design; one out of place, other to put things in place.
One gets a notion that both of them are equally annoyed. While the man is annoyed over the wreckage, the machine is annoyed over the lack of it.
The machine wakes up in the morning with an objective to decolonize squatters. It arrives at the eviction spot coughing clouds of smoke but it ends up depleting more ozone layer than causing any permanent harm to the squatters. The swift evacuation mechanism of the squatters and having nothing to plunder and pillage, the bulldozer feels like a toddler flipping eyelids, rolling eyeballs and flapping lips as if something about to enter his mouth has been snatched away. Disappointed at the token destruction, it is shepherd back to its mundane, unexciting chores of construction.
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The pedestrian on the other hand is caught up in the whirlwind and involuntarily dragged into the exodus of squatters. Holding his plate and trotting behind the street food vendor who has lifted the whole shop on his head, the man finds himself in an annoying trilemma of saving his food, collecting his change and protecting his mode of transport which stands exposed on the firing line of evictors.
After a moment the dust settles. An eerie airiness is palpable after the phantasm draws to a close.
And this is how the theatre essentially ends to begin at some other venue and on some other page of a calendar.
The sample size of this observation are the temporary squatters like the betel shop cabins, dahi vada vendors, gupchup vendors, vada vendors and their ilk’s, not the ones who rule the food chain of land-grab and encroachment.