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      Volume 11 |Issue 05| February 03, 2012 |


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New Uses for Old Things

Aasha Mehreen Amin

It is strange but true that over time the meaning of many words change because of the way they have been used in different periods. In the good old days it was ok to say 'Oh what a gay (meaning merry) lad that is'. Now it refers to homosexuality and such a remark would be considered quite inappropriate. Other words the meaning of which have completely changed: 'harlot' - a boy in the past, now a derogatory word meaning prostitute; awful meant something wonderful, awesome in fact and a 'nice person' meant someone who was a bit of a dullard. Now you know why a potential girlfriend got all worked up because you said she was 'so nice'.

Besides all these words, infrastructure too, can be meant for something but used for something totally different.

Original meaning: a long strip along roads for pedestrians to walk on with relatively little risk.

Now: A place for hawkers to sell anything they want. It is the perfect spot for little tea stalls selling steaming hot tea and rolls as well as 'hotels' or mini restaurants offering low-cost lunches.

– An unofficial alternative route for a long line of zooming motorcyclists to unashamedly go by during gridlocks, almost trampling the surprised and furious pedestrians who have become second class citizens on their own turf.

– A storage place for developers to keep piles of bricks, sand, rods and other items required for building, free of cost or permission.

– A parking space for anyone who can dodge the traffic sergeants. Cars belonging to DHL and UPS, both very efficient courier services, have been seen smartly parked on the footpath outside the offices in Karwan Bazar.

Archaic meaning: a smooth surface for vehicles to go by in peace and occasionally be slowed down in traffic.

Contemporary: A pock-faced death trap for travellers.

– A place to spend the next two hours in utter frustration or blissful dozing.

– A place for mini bazaars for vendors to sell their vegetables, clothing, shoes, fake medicine etc.

– Alternative route for pedestrians as footpaths are no longer usable.

– A spot for sudden garbage dumps to fall into and create the general ambience of smoke and putrification.

– Free and illegal double or triple parking space, especially in front of schools, hospitals and banks.

– Racing tracks for rickshaws, CNGs, cars, buses and trucks.

Original: A bridge over troubled roads to help one cross safely and get a bit of exercise.

Now: A place where people go to shop for things like polyester saris, hair accessories, Chinese tooth brushes, rechargeable torch lights, key rings, sequinned ornas, bangles, fruits and mobile phone covers. One can also have their weight checked at the weighing machine spots.

– Strategic spots for Ogling Romeos to leer at women and sometimes take pictures with their cell phones.

– Prime spots for privileged beggars and undercover intelligence agents.

Original: An underground pathway for pedestrians to cross the road.

Now: Where people, especially women, go for thrills, a bit like the fake cave in an amusement park. Only, the ghoulish creatures that steer towards you in the dark (the lights often do not work), are real.

Original: Green and scenic places where people go for recreational walks or exercise, picnics and general aimless strolling about. Children and dogs go to play and stretch their little legs.

Now: A place where the desperately amorous go in twos and pretend they are invisible to the rest of the crowd.

– A place for muggers and assassins to practice their art.

– A place for the homeless to sleep.

Road Dividers
Original: A strip of land to divide a road into two for incoming and outgoing vehicles.

Now: An incentive for jaywalkers to mutilate the barbed wires and ‘break on through to the other side’.

– A place to sleep for homeless dare-devils who are saved of mosquito bites because of the wind created by rushing cars.

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