Upon request, a polite guard opens the gate and lets them out. They find a little stairway that leads to a small footbridge that climbs over four huge water pipes leading them to the other side.
Her first feelings are one of trepidation. But her instincts and the encouraging words of her friend, who has visited the city many time before, egg her on. Sure enough, she realises her fears are totally unwarranted.
They are welcomed by light, sound, music and people. The neighbourhood doesn’t seem to be asleep yet although it is well past midnight. They move closer to a blue structure with a wheel exactly like the one on the Indian flag. People are busy decorating the structure in and out. Kids, speaking in impeccable English, approach them asking where they come from.
Their smiles become wider when they realise the two gate-crashers are guests from the hotel.
They point out people from the crowd who work there. Apparently about a third of the working adult population, are employed by that establishment as well as other hotels in the vicinity. She recognizes a waiter that served them breakfast in the morning and they exchange smiles.
When asked what are the festivities about, the kids inform her that it is in preparation for Dr. Ambedkars birthday and they are all going to go on a march as part of the celebrations.
Suddenly the world seems different. She knows who Dr. Ambedkar is. The draughtsman of the Indian constitution and beloved leader of the Dalit communities of India, historically referred to, with prejudice, as untouchables, and now a vibrant, upwardly mobile part of Indian society, a society that may or may not have got over its hang ups about caste.
Her friend points out that he and Dr. Ambedkar went to the same universities abroad, London school of Economics and Columbia University.
That night, from the vantage point of the settlement, the whole neighbourhood looks different. Her hotel looms on the horizon, a gigantic structure, looking like a castle atop a hill. She laughs on realizing that the strict but abstract security measures could not have been targeted at this settlement for sure. Since the two are clearly enmeshed with people coming in and out constantly.
They respond to the invitation of a resident and come back the next day to the same place. After participating in the Ambedkar Birth anniversary march for sometime, they return to the neighbourhood to clearly see its physical and historical identity as a village that existed decades before the grand institutions surrounding it were even conceived. As if to make the point, some cattle wander around, herded by a young boy, coming from the lake nearby. The village is historically connected to a vast natural habitat, which has slowly been closed off to the public, though locals still find their way through.