Mornings, a city's mirror

Mornings, anywhere, are a mirror to the lifestyle of the people of that place.

While many people think that night life in a city indicates its vibrancy, it is the early morning life which gives a true picture of any human dwelling.

Pre-dawn is the time to know how people spend their nights. This is the time when night shift workers and party hoppers pack up and go home to have a good day’s sleep. Once in Bangkok while briskly walking on the footpath, I heard loud music blaring from a parked vehicle and saw empty liquor bottles indicating a pavement party. Some partying sex workers who were there accosted me and would not allow me to move forward. With great difficulty, I could sneak out. In Cape Town, a bunch of drunk goons were about to rob me and thanks to a police patrol car, I could get away to safety.

Pre-dawn, is also the time to see and smell freshly arrived vegetables, fruits and flowers. Any passerby in front of K R Market in Mysuru will be exhilarated by the smell of Jasmine and sight of brinjals. Early birds in coastal towns can see freshly caught fish being sorted out and, if lucky, buy the best catch at reasonable price. Seeing the faces of satisfied fisherfolks coming back home with a substantial catch is elevating.

Early mornings are also people’s fitness time. One can come across people walking, jogging, doing yoga, clapping their hands. In Hanoi, I saw a group of elderly women convert a footpath into a gym and perform Chinese dance.

This is also the time to see different breeds of dogs. I was amused to see walkers in New York carrying plastic bags and scoops to take away their pet dog’s poop. I was surprised that people in Antwerp allow their dogs to spoil pavements despite seeing warning signs of hefty fines.

Mornings are the times to know  the local breakfast habits. It is the time when roadside vendors do roaring business. In Saigon, one can see footpath vendors serving ‘pho,’ a soup with rice noodles, to customers sitting on low plastic stools. In Ghana, it is burgers and sandwiches, whereas in Sri Lanka it is string hoppers with curry. While walking in the Little India area in Singapore the smell of fresh Idlis linger and while in Belgium, it is the smell of waffles and potato chips.  The smell of filter coffee in Tamil Nadu makes one stop and savour a tumbler. It is a sight to see busy office goers grab a plateful of breakfast on the streets and rush to their offices.

Dawns are also the time when the smell of printing ink wafts through. Road corners are full of newspaper vendors. As a media man once, I would learn which newspaper sells most in that town by talking to the vendors, apart from quickly glancing at all headlines. As the sun slowly rises, the air smells of petrol and diesel, the chirps of the birds recede and the city comes to life with a lot of noise. Mornings, wherever in the world, are a mirror to the lifestyle of the people of that place.

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