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Dystopic Delhi – A short fiction by Indian Urbanist Vikas Pawar

DYSTOPIC DELHI

“Who the hell are you? And what are you doing here?” I couldn’t resist my anger and I shouted like hell.

Woahh dude! I can ask you the same question, how did you come here?” He replied furiously.

Well, technically he could ask this too. I was the one who jumped into this house and he was here before me. But fuck technicalities. I spotted him first and I was sure that he was squatting this place. More importantly, I was in anger and being a Delhiite, I had all the right to shout.

“You’ve no right to stay here, I know you’re squatting. You better leave this place before I call somebody. You are a nuisance.” I shouted again. I guess I pissed him off really bad.

‘You listen to me, and you listen to me well” He came closer to me and continued.

“First you let the whole generation of our fathers live in slums and shitholes with no electricity, no water, and no drainage. Then you wiped our homes as if we were not people, but just numbers. You built bridges and metro over our homes, when we moved into the voids beneath them, you kicked us out again and made them into malls. You took our homes and you took our business calling us hawkers and nuisance.  Now when my generation has worked hard to get the white collar jobs, you made the city expensive like hell and planned no space for us. We are the people who run this city, and we are still just numbers. And we are very pissed off.” he was looking directly into my eyes, I could see anger on his face too. I was speechless for a moment, couldn’t think of any words and he still continued.

“You were about to call somebody, I know you don’t even carry a phone. I carry a phone, I’ll just make a call right now, and thousand people will be standing right outside. I bet you wouldn’t leave this place alive. Or maybe I don’t even need to do that.” He opened his drawer from the work desk, took a gun out and pointed at me. “If you make a single noise, I can finish you off just now, Shall I?” he asked.

I was shocked, I didn’t come prepared for this. I feel sometimes some delusions, but this was real. Time has slowed down for me. I could feel a drop of sweat on my ear, I could smell the gun powder at the tip of barrel, and I could see that he had used it before. Tick tock! I could hear the sound of clock. Was I really a trigger away from my death? How did I land up here? Where I had gone wrong? Tick tock!

WAIT.

Let me start from the beginning.

“Don’t play loud music at night said the guy who lives on the ground floor.

“Ya, sure!” I replied. I didn’t want to talk to him so I just ignored. Something was wrong with this guy, every morning he had to say this, While, all I listen to the band ‘The Head and the Heart’ after I smoke weed. Who likes to listen to soft music in loud volume, it was always low, but this guy had a problem with that too. People were useless where I stay and that’s probably the reason what makes them live here. My home was on the fourth floor, flat next to me was closed like many others in the area. This was Sainik Farms, an area which once used to be the great area of the City, had become nothing but a place frozen in time. People who originally used to live here have already left. It used to be one of the least dense area of the city. When people started moving to other places, some builder made a multistory housing here. Only one-fourth of the area eventually got occupied, rest they had to abandon cause there were no buyers. Now, this was one of the darkest places in the city.

It all started with T.O.D; transit oriented development. In India, Delhi was the first city where this model was introduced. Once adopted, it changed the whole form of the city. The government allowed people to build extra within the 500m radius of walkability from a Metro Station. They were allowed to build four times the area of the plot. People were fed up of the private vehicles, and long jams on the road. Soon, everybody started shifting to public transport being the fastest mode to reach any destination. Nobody could afford to travel through a private vehicle and got stuck in jam for hours. Time was money. The city soon realized its potential of development like it had never before. People demanded more to build within walking range, and the limit on the area to be build kept on increasing exponentially, from four to eight to further sixteen. And eventually, there was no limit. The city never felt short of money to build, and there were no fewer buyers. Real estate bubble was a history.

And here it was, the City of Delhi with infinitely high skyscrapers along the 500 m stretch of transit routes, and rest of the city became dead. City clearly had two faces now, bright and the dark. People were traveling same vertical distances as horizontal to reach their work places. One could not see the sky while walking on the street. All they could see the endless towers. Ironically, brighter side never got to see the sun and the darker was parched with it.

Sainik Farm was part of the darker side of the city. Streets were full of parked cars not moved an inch in last 50 years. Trees have grown out of cars, over the terraces, balconies and everywhere. The place was literally a concrete jungle.

I’m the writer, who writes various stuff and trying to complete his book for last six years. Before that, I used to live on the bright side of the city only, but then I left. Only two things kept me going, one was food and other was the weed. I couldn’t live without both. I used to write 12 hours a day, then go off to sleep for next 12.

 “Don’t play loud music at night” Every morning was like a Deja Vu. Anytime in the morning, I came out, this guy was always there. What empty life this guy had.

So today, I had to write a lot and I realized that my stock was over. I had to get this in the morning but I forgot. It was already 11 in the night and I couldn’t sleep without my dose. So, I wrote again. I had my pen, my notebook, and room full of ash with no phone and no internet. I was watching midnight moon after a long time. Here I was, trying to introduce the hero to his long forgotten friend but I couldn’t concentrate as I heard loud music from outside. I opened the door and I could hear the music from the flat next to me. A light was coming through the door and I didn’t know that someone had already shifted to this flat. But wait, the door was locked from outside.

I knocked on the door, but no one replied. Obviously, the music was so high that nobody could listen to the knock. So it was this guy, who was playing loud music every night. All this while, ground floor guy was thinking I was playing the music all night and I thought he was mad. Whoever is behind the door, I had to teach him a lesson. I knew what I had to do.

I went to my terrace and jumped to the other side. I noticed the door to the balcony was open. I jumped into the balcony and entered the room. The flat was fully furnished and well maintained from the inside. The room I entered was a bedroom, with a cupboard full of clothes. On the side table, I could see a bunch of cards with name Sameer Jaiswal. I walked further in, I could see this guy in his corporate attire with a white shirt and black trousers, working on his mac. His living space was like a library with books all around and a small seating for the guests and a large working desk for him. The layout of this flat was exactly the same as mine. I was living in a shabby place, while I owned that flat, and here was this guy, with such luxury that too by squatting. He was living the future I wanted to have, after the publication of my novel. I felt jealous and angry both. The moment he noticed me, I shouted “Who the fuck are you? And what are you doing here?” As a result, here I was, hanging between life and death.

Each word he said was echoing in my mind. I felt each word was there in me and someone just spelled them for me. I was scared.

“Put your gun down, we can talk, I didn’t come to hurt you.” Although I had come to hurt him only, I didn’t know this guy would be carrying an AMT Auto Mag II pistol. Even the God help those who have guns. He removed the gun but made the call “Come in five.” he said over the call.

“Why did you call? You think I’m responsible for your condition? Even I was thrown out of the other part of the City. Six years back. Now I write against the government, against policy makers, against everyone who denied rights of the people like you and me.”

“I know who you are, you’re a Coward! You hide behind words. You and I are the two faces of the same coin. You are weak and am powerful, just like this City.”

“Maybe, I don’t know. I said. And I was thinking about what he just said.

“Why did you come through balcony?” He asked.

“I was knocking on the door but no one responded and it was locked from outside. So I went to the terrace and jumped into the balcony.”

“Locked?” He asked with shock. “Do you really think, a guy who carries a gun can’t break the lock?”

“It was locked, you better check it again.” How can he not know that the door was locked from outside, how did he enter the house. This guy was a complete freak. He left his pistol on the table and went ahead towards the door and pulled the door. It was OPEN.

“HOLY SHIT!” I shouted and I could see the other side and there was a lock on the door of my flat. How could this be possible?  How could he do this in this fraction of time? I couldn’t understand what was happening. I ran towards the table picked the gun and pointed at him.

“What’s happening? I saw myself a lock on your door? Who opened this? And who put the lock on my door? And who the fuck are you?” I shouted all the questions came to my mind.

“Relax! You psycho! Put the gun down.” He was normal, he didn’t get scared as I got when he pointed that gun at me.

“Who are you?” I asked again.

“I am Sameer Jaiswal. I fight for the rights of people. I am the face of the rebel against the system. I write all day long and every night I network and gather sources. I collect people who believe that Justice will not be given but has to be taken by any means. Either this city has to be bright for all or we make sure it becomes dark everywhere. I’ll bring the change you always wanted but never capable of. I didn’t put any lock on the door, it was always open. You keep it open. Now you better put the gun down. You can’t kill me because I’m fucking YOU!” He jumped on my hand to grab the gun. I was holding it tight but he was equally stronger and

BANG!

Stay back, hold your seats tight. Even I couldn’t understand what just happened. One of us was shot. I was lying on the floor. My mind was numb with no thoughts. I slowly closed my eyes and lights faded around me.

Was I dead or sleeping? I didn’t know.

If I was in my flat or the flat next door? I didn’t know.

Was Sameer Jaiswal my dream or I was his. I didn’t know.

And who the fuck am I? I didn’t know.

KNOCK KNOCK!

Someone was there on the door. I was in the corporate attire with a white shirt and black trousers. My left hand was bleeding as a bullet had passed through my palm. A guy was standing on the door and I could see others standing behind him and there were more on the stairs till the ground and on the streets. It was full of people in white shirt and black trousers. As I moved towards him he said

“Hello Mr. Jaiswal, you called five minutes back. All of us are here!”

About Vikas Pawar

Indian Urbanist and Architect Vikas Pawar has imagined a dystopian future of New Delhi through his short fiction story Dystopic Delhi. Vikas Pawar is the Founder of internationally renowned architectural platform Rethinking The Future, which showcases the excellent work happening around the world in the field of architecture & design. Most of the prestigious practices across the globe have been among the winners at RTF Awards which happens annually. He’s also the founder of India’s one of largest architectural events, Delhi Architecture Festival which happened in January this year, received a participation of 3500 students and professionals. He recently got invited to help in curating the Exhibition on 100 years of Architecture in India on centenary celebration of Indian Institute of Architects. He has been a speaker at TEDx Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, Kolkata and TEDx PEC, Chandigarh.

He’s working towards developing a new language of urban architecture that would deal with the current issues of sustainable habitats and city futures. Apart from this, he also likes to write stories and poetry.

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