‘Now is the winter of our discontent/ Made glorious by this sun of York.’ That is how Shakespeare begins Richard III, in lines spoken in a soliloquy by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later to become King Richard III. It is another matter whether he deserves his historical reputation, but it is true that he was already known as Richard Crouchback, because even though he became King of England, he remained afflicted with a hump caused by a congenital defect. He might be the proverbial evil uncle, because he killed his minor nephews after their father died, but he was right when he said that it was a ‘winter of discontent.’ By the way, that was the title of the American Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck’s last novel.

But are we in a winter of discontent? That would only happen if we were passing through the depths of winter. And are these the depths of winter? Perhaps not yet. It will get colder. But already, it’s become cold enough to break out the old thermal underwear and the long johns, and sniffles are not just persisting, but are turning to pneumonia, which is all too often fatal for older folk.

One should look at the construction that is affecting the Ferozepur Road, mainly because of the Metro bus Transit Project, and building of a special lane for transit along the Ferozepur Road above the Road. As the work site was not closed off (it couldn’t, as it was one of the busiest roads of the city), all of us gawkers are learning what life under the lane will be like. Well, it will probably be better than it is now, awash with water, and therefore pretty muddy, even though there hasn’t been any rain for a few days. I wonder if people will start sleeping under them. I mean, as far as I know, there isn’t any law against it. As early as the 19th century, a French writer extolled the fact that no one was above the law, by saying that no one was allowed by the law to sleep under the arches of a bridge in Paris, no matter how rich. Of course, if any law prohibiting sleeping under the lane was passed, it would be used by the police not to stop people sleeping there, but to extract a ‘rent’. I suspect that the real reason mobiles are shut off during public holidays is because policemen don’t understand how mobile companies can be awash with cash, without any of it getting to them. So they accuse the mobile companies of helping the terrorists, another group the policemen do not get any money from. While policeman mind this, they do see that there isn’t the same money in blowing oneself up as there is in purveying mobile services.

Still, maybe the new bridge will produce Saghir Siddiqui. Where else would homeless poets go? And there are a lot of kiosks along the way. Surely one would be willing to spring, as one did for Saghir, a 10-pack of cigarettes and a soft drink, every day. Not having a bridge under, he had to live on a footpath. And you might bring the raised-lane concept to Indian cities like Mumbai and Kolkata, where it would not only solve the mass-transit problem, but also provide a lot of housing. One only hopes the PPP does not adopt the project as the way in which the party fulfills the third plank of its roti kapra aur makan slogan.

Speaking of winters of discontent, we may well see one soon, because we should remember that this is the winter before elections. This time around, it seems that elections are going to happen in summer for once. That is the result of giving the Constitution an interpretation that means that there are up to three months of caretaker rule tacked on to the present five-year term. What with assemblies running to their full term, it was perhaps inevitable that summer elections would have to be held. Summer elections were once deliberately avoided, because having elections in the midst of heat would not mean merely the standard reports of voters turning up on crutches, but of them dying.

We perhaps shouldn’t forget that the UK last experienced a ‘Winter of Discontent’ in 1979, when it was very cold, and the Tories turfed out Labour in the ensuing general election for no less than 18 years. That too happened to a Labour government that had lasted a full five years.