Take me for a ride
Mornings. What can be said about them that has not already been? They are a mishmash of thoughts. Life is strange. And rainy days are the best even if you are in Scotland where it rains 300 days a year.
For over 40 days now I have spent more than 2 hours each day travelling by bus. In most parts of India, public transport is staggeringly inexpensive, surprisingly reliable, and owing to these features, about as crowded as the only pub in a planet full of alcoholics.
What makes it attractive for a voyeuristic introvert is the chance it offers to be completely anonymous while allowing glimpses into the basest inclinations of life, emotions, and aspirations of the faceless millions that we are all a part of.
Today happened to be one of those days where chance took me by the collar and dragged me to a window that looked into the soul of a co-traveller.
Looking out of the window (the bus, not the soul), I was lost in thoughts of wonder, and amazement at the armipotent determination of the driver who, after having,almost certainly, woken up well before 5:00 AM on a rainy day, was driving through streets that could, by the way of being unmitigatedly stodgy, be described as murderous seas, when, a man with two bundles — one clinging to the back, and the other clutched in his right arm — drenched and raggedy scrambled into the bus.
One look at him, and even the most innately blind of people would realise that he was obviously shipwrecked, and clung onto dear life while waiting for a bus to arrive at the designated bus-stop, which owing to last night’s rain was lost under 6 feet of water, 3 feet of arboreal waste, and surrounded by about 50,000 cubic centimetres of, the now, automotive flotsam.
Having made it into the six-wheeled life boat, he quickly, single-handedly unburdened himself of the bundle hanging on his back revealing a shirt that was in all certainty the inspiration behind the idea of faith relocating geological features. Calling it threadbare, frayed, or tattered, would be calling it a Dormeuil 15.8. The trousers clinging to his frail, barely nourished frame, while quite not inspiration material for evangelical quotes on faith, were an irrevocable proof.
The other bundle, the one that was still in his arm, covered in a wet towel, suddenly moved. Gingerly, with almost reverential awe, he peeled back the towel to reveal a face that was earthly in the same sense that coal and shale are earthly.
If a divine being made a perfectly round, living, breathing, human face out of opalescent pitch, and wanted it to peek out of a towel, with eyes shining like diamonds and a nose shining like quartz with a mouth curved in the gentlest of smiles with two pairs of iridiscent teeth shining out from behind the lips, the divine being couldn’t have done better.
The face attached to the top of a towel did a quick survey of the noisy rumbling thing that was suddenly replaced the wet towled world around her without once dropping the smile. If adorable had a mascot made out of quartz, diamond, and unmingled nacre, this would be it, and it would have been president.
Bus journeys, especially when they are taken on days of the diluvian are centres for spontaneous conversations of warm greetings, inquiries of well being, and inimate, revealing conversations between total strangers.
If bartenders had some competitions, it would definitely be from ticket conductors on Indian buses on days that dawn with an apocalypse punctuating the background.
A seat emptied itself for the human that was holding the towel with a face on top, and he was promptly seated. Questions started pouring out. As much out of good natured curiousity as out of the human desire to meddle with matters best left to mother nature.
The bundle, as it turns out was a bequest. The bundle was created by the man’s now dearly and recently departed sister and brother-in-law, who, barely two years after having established this adorable creature on the planet, decided to take a trip alone, and as chance would have it picked a conveyance that was doomed.
The person, holding the bundle as if his life depended on it (and not the other way around), and wearing a jeans that has seen more waists and crotches than the earth has seen species, revealed that he worked for temperamental house building contractors who paid him by the hour, and was the verge of getting married when the sudden bequest left him orphaned, both of thought and family.
Deciding his alleigance rested with the bundle, he put his wedding off, knowing full well that two was the maximum number of mouths he could feed, and the other mouth with those twin pairs of iridiscent teeth was suddenly, and inexplicably, took the pride of place in his life, he decided to get on with it and move to the city. And tomorrow was her birthday.
All this was delivered with a detachment that could have been a school for newscasters all over the world. He accepted it with the same amount of vindication that we accept the sun rising in the east, and a day coming to the end every evening — with a smile, and a hint of hope.
Like all journeys, mine was drawing to a close, and as were those of a few others. As several of us got down, and barely anyone got on, the bus got lighter, and those of us that were a part of the conversation, as observers or instigators, were definitely wiser.
As I got out from the protective shelter of the bus, rain wet my face, winds tousled my shirt tails, I couldn’t help but think.
Mornings are a mishmash of thoughts, and this morning, I was thinking about what love is. I was thinking I saw love. It isn’t about conquering the world, or chaning it, or owning something largest and biggest and snazziest, or even being the most beautiful or successful.
It is about holding that bundle close to you. Because, even when there is an apocalypse — and there will be one, all that matters is you holding that bundle close, knowing that your life didn’t depend on it, and knowing that you wish that it did.
And for someone who is going to be born tomorrow, this is for you.