Motorcycles and men astride it seem to feel at home in Botal Gali. Zooming by the narrow street or standing stationary in front of the situated shops, the public place pretty much seems to be about two things: Bottles and bikes. Having found ourselves with sufficient time to explore, our group’s walk about the area proved to be less challenging than I assumed. For one, there was a marked difference in the presence of beggars than one would expect. We were harassed by hardly any, except for a woman who seemed to be talking to herself more than asking for charity.
The Gali was alive with activity. People, mainly men and children moved about from shop to shop looking for their choice of scents while some, simply moved about just to get from Point A to Point B. Often, a rickshaw would also come jostling down the street, driving away pedestrians to either of the street’s sides but mostly, Botal Gali was crowded with bikes and people walking by.
What stood in direct contrast were the shopkeepers who kept looking ahead listlessly, as if nothing about the area could surprise them or shock them into activity. Even though the passer by would occasionally exchange a few words or share a quick snack, the shopkeepers kept to themselves.
Our group half expected to be met with stares and inquisition considering we had gone with almost the same mission in mind, but weren’t. We weren’t asked to give a reason for us being there (at least, in not so many words). We weren’t asked to move when we stood there in the street observing and we definitely weren’t asked to give away our cell phones when we took them out to take a few photos. Therein lies the beauty of Botal Gali as a public space. Not only does it allow the shopkeepers and the frequent buyers to carry out their trade freely or the school children and the passengers aboard the rickshaws to pass through but it also extends its arms to the occasional nosy bloggers who with their busy notepads and active cameras, make no effort to blend in. Without much ado, it gives everyone the space to be.
(This blog is written as part of a course called Mediated Cities)