There was this road at the back end of the housing colony that was dirt and dust and a great place to cycle. Nothing went up and down it but big trucks full of stones - didn't know what they were really for. It was then that the light blue gate propped up on that road. It was as tall as one and a half men, and had thick vertical rods down the middle. There was a wide gap at the bottom, through which the stray dogs could easily pass through for years later. There was a big navy blue sign with white letters no one took the trouble to read. Over a the course of a single week, all the trees disappeared. A bunch of us kids got to play football in the large field - by crawling underneath the large gate with the meaningless lock. Almost a year passed, the grass grew so much, we could play hide and seek between the tall shoots. One day a few men came and burnt everything down. That was when the workers came with their colorful clothes, polythene tents and tiny children. They dug up the field, and the rain came and filled the rectangular holes with water. We floated paper boats in the pools. But thin rods of iron cropped up, and fresh cement from mixers were poured into them - and after that the watchmen kept us out. For our own good.
Other buildings and companies and shops cropped up that road, and soon it had a drain and a footpath, and yellow and white streaks on the concrete. Despite that, there was little traffic and it was still the best roads around to cycle on. The light blue of the gate continued to lighten, dots of rust creeped up the corners of the gate, and a few potholes came on that road. On one of those many bike rides, I remember saluting the watchman in a mistaken display of patriotism during the Kargil war. He saluted right back, and smiled and nodded to boot.
For a long time after that, I stopped going down that road. My cycle was worn through and sold for twenty rupees to my watchman. One night, came the strange nightmare. A big fire engine rushed down the road, screeched to a halt, and two lines of prisoners were herded into a light blue gate by security guards. The mothers worried about their children, some of them cried. The men tried to fight the security guards, who struck them into submission with their batons. Then the men too started whimpering, and the children just sat still, scared, and worried. I was on the other side of that gate. I turned around, and the fire truck was coming towards me, it hit me, I turned around again and hit the headboard of my bed. It was, after all, just a nightmare. Sheets of paper got wasted without ever being made into boats. Whether you wanted them or not, a huge pile of paper came to the door every morning. Among many other convenient things, it had the schedule for the television. If that was not enough, the Internet came into the picture, making the world smaller and bringing everyone closer. The final triumph was that of the mobile phone. Everyone could have you in their pockets.
People had deep pockets. The company behind the gate had planned much in advance. A barbed wire fence appeared on the compound wall, which had so far managed to keep out intruders with only jagged pieces of glass embedded in the cement. They repainted the gate, alternating rods of black and white with a black frame. They welded spikes on the top of the gate, and a mesh to the bottom. Now even dogs cannot go through.