This article belongs to Sweet Grace column.

The roads in all the Indian Metropolitan cities are flooded with people for at lest 20 hours in a day. So, Chennai which is my city of residence is no exception to this rule.  Often I have wished and also imagined a road without people.  When would it be? Would it ever happen at all ! And my dream came true one day- the ‘bandh' day – ‘bandh' means, total stoppage of all kinds of work;  usually the political parties call for bandh and they invariably succeed most successfully in this game.  Reason?  All bandhs are paid holidays.  Who wouldn't love  a paid holiday !


          On a bandh day, strictly speaking no one should be seen on the roads.  "Why not" some people would ask, "I am not at my work place, am I?  So, why can't I  be seen on the roadside? Why should I be home-bound?"  A good argument, indeed,  When several people think like this, the roads become filled with people once again. The difference is "less people".  Incidentally, Flooding and Less  people cannot be quantified. Less doesn't mean zero either. And so my dream of  seeing an empty road void of any human being continues to be a dream.


          Hurrah! My eyes did witness such a scene in recent days.  Not in my city but in Muscat where we had come on a holiday. My very first question while driving home from the airport was, "Where are the people?  Where are the pedestrians? I don't  see a soul out on the road?"


          Our son, the host in Muscat, explained.  "Now,  everybody is at work or indoors."  Interrupting  him I asked, "Why indoors?  Isn't today a working day in your great city?"


         "Ýou have come to Muscat during the summer season when the mercury shoots up to  52 degrees celsius. Nobody wants to develop a burnTout skin…".  And he gave a chuckle.


         The logic apart, an empty road was a feast to my eyes.


         Life starts in Muscat, a Muslim nation under a benevolent Sultan Oman, after 1900 hours. While in India, people return home from work at that hour, in this desert city people go out for shopping or a little bit of relaxation after 1900 hours.  The temperature is somewhat cooler then and less aggressive at that time..


        All shops remain open till midnight or a little beyond. Even this night time is not free from the Mercury.  One evening at 2230 hours, I sensed hot air on my skin.  Whether you are inside a shop or a car, you need air conditioning.  All shops, malls, restaurants or gyms or what not are all  air conditioned. It's a rule and a  necessity as well. One cannot survive the summer here  without air conditioners. Whereas back in India, air conditioners are rich people's prerogative. .


          One afternoon around 1700 hours, I  ventured out of my house to the roadside to count the number of people using the road.  I saw one solitary male after half an hour's wait.This deficiency, as it were, is made up by the appearance of hundreds and hundreds of cars  whizzing  past you  at 100 kmph  speed.


         Cars and cars and cars.  "Does everyone in Muscat possess a car?" I enquired


         "Yes, most people do.  The ones who don't possess, use taxis…"


        Three wheelers are out.  "What is it?" one person asked.


        Two-wheelers is a rare  sight on Muscat roads, while they outnumber the 4-wheelers  and 3 wheelers in my city  at any  given time. The reason for this is simple. If ever you show your head or body out to the Sun, you invite the danger of a Sun stroke.


        Oh yes, I did see a VIP some two days back.  Guess who?  He was a cyclist but cycling at an early hour of the day. Bicycles are rare in this city.


        What a city of contrasts !