I’ve just received a call from my friend Ross Picardo, who spends time in our village of San Mathias on the island of Divar. He was distressed that, despite his vigilance some people had broken my barbed wire fencing and where dumping all kinds of stuff on my plot not far behind my ancestral house.
“Don’t bother too much about it.” I said as long as they are not hanging their dirty underwear.” Kasthis are another thing. Somehow they don’t ever look dirty. The pattern and the quality of weave takes care of it all.
I had several other calls from other friendly neighbours. “Someone is using your plot as a pathway for his bullock cart.” they said. “You must do something about it” .”
I called my brother in Chennai, who spends a lot of time in San Mathias having built a house on his property on the hill overlooking the Mandovi river.
“You must build a wall,” he said . “I will ask the guy who did the work for me. Solid stone wall with a nice iron gate. It will cost you just over a lakh, but worth it in the long run.”
What “long run” is he talking about I said to myself. With me batting on 83 and with my children, very sensibly showing no interest in ancestral property ?. How do I attach the ownership papers to the hearse that is carrying my not so immortal remains to the cemetery in Bandra? Or maybe the nearest incinerator, better known as electric crematorium?
It is not the cost, nor the attachment of the property papers to the hearse, but the fact that I just hate walls is what that makes me hesitate to venture into my brother’s proposed security measure.
As I write this, several walls in Mumbai have killed people. Crushed them to death or maimed them forever.
I was with the Indian Embassy in Paris, watching with horror the building of the wall that separated families and loved ones for 28 years and created martyrs in the cause of freedom that no walls can divide.
I was in Germany when the wall was demolished, surrounded by German friends whom I loved, and who I’m still in touch with, and who will read this piece and shed a few tears for old times sake.
Why am I writing about walls again. Because the latest shocking news is that following the 8 foot wall that surrounds the beautiful Sidddi Vinayaka Temple in the centre of Mumbai another 8 foot wall is being built around the Mantralaya where the offices of all the Ministers of the government of Maharashtra and all the bureaucrats are housed.
All it takes for this to happen is to discover a car that is carrying some RDX and bomb-making equipment, allegedly planted by the only people who benefit from building walls, namely the builders and the guys who sign the contract for the walls to be built for a certain percentage.
The pace of a course has been set by the filthy rich people in this city, including builders themselves who, not satisfied with surrounding themselves with gun toting security personnel, have also started to build walls around their homes. These are the same people who demand openness and transparency from the government., The same people who build walls between themselves and their employees and truly believe they can resolve the problem by shifting their offices and manufacturing units to another State, where dissent is dealt with gunfire.
Development will soon be concentrated on exporting do-it-yourself kits in building walls
But enough of anger. I need to pause and attempt to convert the anger against walls to constructive reflection.
Is there something really in a wall that makes me dislike them, or like Robert Frost “is there something in ME that does not like a wall”.
After all, a wall is something made of brick and stone and mortar. The wall will tell you if you can speak to it that it has a useful purpose. It has nothing against me in person. Walls can be made of barbed wire or bamboo or a whole lot of other things.
Its main purpose is to separate, to divide. Did I not during my corporate life, love the idea of a separate office and did not those who worked with me love the idea of separate cubicles? We all did. Privacy is such an important and personal thing.
The problem is with me. The problem is with my upbringing, with my value system and all my experiences that makes me love open spaces. Not just around me, but within me and in my relationships with other people.
Maybe I can share with my readers, part of a poem I once wrote about a passionate relationship during the time of the Berlin Wall
“We have our walls
The walls that we have built
With the barbed wire of our minds
The walls of self-invented guilt
The electronic fence of right and wrong
WE are the walls. We are
Grown ups in a children’s game … and
Our walls are worse.
They so separate our souls
That climbing over the top
We might destroy ourselves.
Because we lack the guts
Of common sluts
Our walls unclimbed, remain!”