City Landmark – Foot-Over Bridge, Ashram Crossing
A world from a bridge
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The white-haired woman in blue sari is beating the clothes on the hard floor. A tub of water is placed beside her. She could as well be washing the laundry by the riverside, or perhaps at the famous dhobhighat in central Delhi’s Hailey Road. She is actually going about her task in the privacy of her small balcony. Except it is not offering any privacy. It falls in direct view of the pedestrians walking on the foot-over bridge in Ashram.
Yes, that same dreaded Ashram Chowk in south Delhi that has traumatised generations of Delhiites with its impossible traffic jams. A new underpass has somewhat eased the trauma, or perhaps not—the jury is still not unanimous in its verdict.
Whatever, nobody likes to be stuck in Ashram. Yet, there are interesting experiences to be availed if you allow yourself to be stranded in that part of he city, simply by lounging on this foot-over for an hour. The diverse scope of the humanity that passes to and fro the bridge brings one close to the neighbourhood it crosses. This moment, in the smoggy afternoon, a woman is gravely carrying a large envelop, the label indicating it to be a medical clinic’s MRI report. An elderly couple appears with a little boy. The child stops midway to gaze down from the bridge; the couple, perhaps the grandparents, hold the boy carefully by his shirt’s collar.
The bridge has the national flag tied on the railings of both sides, barely stirring, though the air is breezy — as if even the flags knew that when it comes to Ashram, smooth movement is not a possibility. Distant banners hanging on shop fronts also command attention. A yellow hoarding is advertising an institute where you can learn English “in just 75 hours.”
The new underpass is clearly visible from the bridge, so are a part of its colourful mosaic walls. The cars and autos are continually streaming out of the underpass, and streaming into it. Like a giant’s open mouth, forever absorbing and spitting out the citizen-commuters.
The bridge has elevators, but they don’t seem to be operational. The access to one of them is blocked by a broken plastic chair, bandaged with two ropes, along with a bruised mattress filled with pieces of thermocol. Most likely, this tiny portion of the foot-over is somebody’s nighttime home.