Airoots Gets Lost in Deep Urbanmess (Guest Post by Matias Sendoa Echanove and Rahul Srivastava)

We arrive at a narrow commercial street lost somewhere between Bombay and Tokyo. It is crowded with pedestrians, bicycles, street vendors, food stalls, and wandering cows and dogs that don’t allow cars to pass through. Most of the buildings lining the street are two to three stories high, covered either with faded, dusty shop-signs painted in art-deco fonts, or snazzy neon lights. Billboards with smiling Manga faces and Bollywood movie stars eye each other warily.

An intricate web of wires, pipes, pathways, and cables connect the buildings, huts, cottages and shop-fronts to each other. They hang overhead or lie snugly underground. They are like masses of snakes intertwined into each other – alive and organic. They buzz with whispering voices, crackle with coded e-mails and crisp exchange of smses, gurgle with water or sewage and are swollen with pornographic images looking for immediate release, along with religious icons that appear on screens of high-tech devotees who bow to them in tiny studios.

The air is abuzz with invisible energy fields. Wireless networks that feed on cables and transmit the cyber-world into this dense neighbourhood. They compete for airspace with the smells of food, fish, gutters, and incense and the crowded sounds of the city.

Walking through the gulleys and streets one sees second-hand electronic shops selling tiny bits of chips and wires. We bump into a bull, resting in front of a poster selling Chinese medicine. Withdrawing, we stumble over a robot-dog who yelps angrily, snapping mechanically and uselessly at our ankles.

Going deeper one sees nimble hands stripping off circuit-board wires. They magically transform the pieces into copper jewelry that is marketed as tribal art. On one side otakus and geeks wait to devour cheap electronic left-overs – on the other, hippies and high-fashion lovers wait to decorate themselves with re-designed electronic waste.

An entrance to one street looks particularly crowded. It is lined with Japanese tea-shops, Iranian Samovar-houses and Chai-stalls served by kids. Old men and women sip tea, keeping an eye on children playing dangerously close to railway tracks. The street shudders as two trains zoom pass each other – one a yellow and brown old-fashioned rusty local train with open doors and another a sleek silver, futuristic machine made of steel, its windows covered with dark tinted glass.

The sound of new stalls being put up and old ones being pulled down rent the air. A bearded man with wild eyes sells mangas in a makeshift stall right next to an old sadhu with dirty, matted hair, who tells your fortune. The mangaman reads out stories to a group of teenaged girls who giggle crazily as he shows them explicit pictures. The palmist-cum-astrologer catches a hapless European tourist and predicts that he will hook up with one of the teenaged girls, who is already smiling at him.

The two connect and vanish around the corner hand in hand. To be continued...

(All of the images above are photoshop collages of Bombay and Tokyo.)


Big thanks to today's guest bloggers! Matias Sendoa Echanove and Rahul Srivastava are the bloggers behind Airoots/Eirut. Check out their blog for more ruminations on "adventitious roots, urban forests & villages, natural cities, lost tribes, new nomads, and everything in between."

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