Monday, June 2, 2008

Traveling Blues

I have recently left the area I stayed in for the last 30 years. I have shifted to a place which is about 10 minutes from my old locality. I have many very close friends with whom I am in constant touch. Today on my way to work I saw one of them also on his way to work. This friend of mine is very trend-conscious. He wears the latest Ray-Ban or Sen-Ban or Ghatak-Ban or such companies I have never heard of. He wears branded clothing, cheap but chic footwear. His watches, his handkerchief, his cologne are all carefully chosen. As expected I, rather gladly, tried to attract his attention. He was in the rear of the bus, and I was towards the front. This long distance communication failed like old trunk-call connections. I even tried calling him on his mobile, but apparently it was switched off. The net profit was that I had become quite a point of interest for the other passengers who were fascinated by my various gesticulations. Bus journeys are boring, anything with the slightest entertainment value becomes of immense merit. This situation was full of potential. Why I was so summarily ignored was a matter of great consideration. Someone even consoled me with bits of idiotic philosophy. I am just grateful that he was a he and not a she!

Later today I gave him a call. Not in the chattiest, old-friendly, full-of-bonhomie manner – but in a somewhat upset one. He was unapologetic. He told me that whenever he boards a bus, he puts on his sunglasses, puts his ear-phones in their rightful places, starts music, closes his eyes and withdraws like a saint in a deep bit of meditation. His mobile-phone plays 40 odd minutes (in which time he unravels one mystery of the universe each day I guess) of music, mostly the Blues, and unless traffic is unusually disjointed, often by the Reds, he reaches 5 minutes after the final musical bit stops. These 5 minutes are his safety period. He has overshot a couple of times because his bus had had formula one drivers on those particular days. He puts his mobile on the music-player mode and does not take any calls during the period! He plainly told me that he does not believe in wasting time, and this really is the only window he has for enjoying music. I could say nothing to such sanctity / insight.

Personally I am a person who likes windows. The window seat in a bus is the ultimate bit of temptation whenever I am on a bus. Consciously I tell myself that it does not really matter, the journey would be over in a matter of minutes. But deep inside I crave that window seat like a child. Not that the other seats are any different. A seat is a matter of much discord. People find all sorts of individuals’ rights and human rights and right and wrong in general in such issues. These discussions invariably end with a lambasting of the condition of the country. These discussions are invariably forgotten within 5 minutes of leaving the bus.

What I was wondering about was his claim of utilizing time. No one can question the value of music, or the necessity of it in one’s life. Though I know fantastic people who are not that habituated to music – such exceptional quality is a mark of genius. But this withdrawal into one’s self makes me uncomfortable. As I said, bus journeys are boring. But it is one of the fewest, growing fewer, times when people get to meet people. When I say people, I mean people I/we do not know. It is very important to be in touch. These people actually denote life. If you are not connecting with your environment, if you are increasingly moving within, then you are losing a large portion of life’s experiences. A window seat lets you see without, the rest is the inside, and even the greatest bits of daydreams or worries can take you completely away.

Day by day things are being invented which are alienating people. Technology has taken this role as if it is a mission. Chatting, e-mails, blogs and stuff are cold connections. Words on a screen. Even video chatting is digital. Let me clarify – I am not against it. As a matter of fact I am one of the fascinated believers in the tech-no-logic. But they should remain supplementary; they should not become the foremost social interaction. As it is urban life is selfish. Lack of green, lack of friends, lack of siblings, lack of family – all are contributing to this isolation effect. When someone pushes you or tramples your foot in the bus/train/plane/boat/van or whichever regular mode of transport you take, cherish that, cherish the fight, it proves that we are alive. All the stupid arguments show the face of the country, the face of its 95%. Of course if you don’t want to know it that is a whole different question. That is a choice we all have.

But those People, who move around in cars with air-conditioning and tinted windows (often accompanied by other flashy and flashing all-importance-claiming cars), move away from the streets. They move away from the nation.


Sucharita Sarkar said...

How right you are - the more we use advanced tele-communications equipment, the less we communicate with people near us.

Even blogging shaves off time which we could've used in talking to oir family or friends, which is why I do it only when they are sleeping!

Sayani said...

am happy to see ur attitude a few days back i wrote on similar issue but am so poor in expressing...u have expressed it so soulfully
loved the post

Sucharita Sarkar said...

what book are you reading now? I've just tagged you about it
Please please post your reply!

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