Image result for man in brussels fills up manholes with flowers

By Neel Anil Panicker

It’s that twilight hour when the skies above are in limbo, the stars well hidden and the sun still a million miles away.

The ones that roam the skies all day are well ensconced in their nests while the earth below breathes the fragrance of the westerly winds that blow from above the Arabian Sea. An eerie stillness pervades all over the sea locked coastal city of Cochin, with its denizens still deeply wedded to sleep; the rich in their luxurious condominiums and gated colonies, the poor and not so poor under lesser roofs.

The streets, its arterial roads and the main highways are all empty. Save for the odd assortment of joggers, the vagabonds and the plain mad.

Detective Will pushes his bicycle out of the front lawns of his fronted villa and closing the massive wrought iron gates behind him, embarks on what has been a daily regimen for the past decade or so.

He is on mission, a noble mission; a mission fuelled by his love for Cochin, his city of birth, the city they once so fondly called the Venice of the East, but one that now had metamorphosed into yet another bustling, hustling mass of concrete, with bricks and mortar strewn over, all around as far as the eye could see chic  a bloc with construction material insignia __the iron rods, beams, poles and other tools horrendously jutting out of half or near  finished apartments, flats and standalone duplex villas.

Detective Will, who by now had pedalled past his quiet pristine neighbourhood that was dotted with quaint little multi- hued Portuguese and French styled small bungalows, was thankful that this place, the place where he was born and where his ancestors had long lived, a few arriving to this beautiful city from distant shores, was still an oasis of peace and serenity and had managed to fend off the land sharks and the after effects of the massive construction boom that was synonymous with all mid-sized cities in any part of the country.

His grouse was different; his was against the civic authorities, the government department that was responsible for keeping the city neat and clean. Also, safe.

The last meant a lot to Will who by now had entered the main road. Suddenly his eyes spotted what was a manhole.

He let out a silent prayer. What if he had not seen it, especially so given the fact that at this hour the streets were still dark and the lights above then non-functional. He alighted from his cycle and walked towards the mouth of the hole. Peering into emptiness, he realised to his horror that this manhole had enough depth in it to suck a man, maybe even drown him on a rainy day.

Immediately, Will returned with his ‘kit’ that was attached to the backseat.

He set it aside him on the tar road and opening the wooden square box began to spread out its contents__ a bag of mud, another that contained flower stems, a huge water sprinkler, and a small pickaxe.

A quick ten minutes later he examined the fruits of his labour__ a beautiful daffodil with its little ferns and fronds, now lay proudly atop what was earlier the manhole.

Satisfied, Will walked back to his bicycle and pedalled away: his destination, spotting the next manhole and repeating the ritual.

Detective Long, long ago, when he was a mere kid still struggling to get into his half pants, his grandmother, the very beautiful Lady Garcia Simones Mathai had given him a piece of advice he had never forgotten: Willie dear, if and when you want to shame them, shame them, but with joy.


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