life is too short for a diary

A random stranger

Tags: story india fiction bangalore sci-fi

It was just another day in Bangalore. I caught the bus from the Kormangala bus depot. Amid exhausting heat & nudging elbows, I somehow managed to grab a seat in the bus. Securing a seat in the Indian bus during peak time is considered a fortune. This often attracts resentful eyes. However my Indian genes have made me immune to both pani puri & judgment.

Random stranger

If you are lucky, you could get a window seat. This saves you from claustrophobia of the overcrowded isles. And today was my lucky day. I happily slumped down into my seat and peeped out of my window catching some glimpse of just another life on just another Indian road.

For outside world, India is chaotic. They imagine cars driving in zigzag manner on roads, performing dangerous maneuver to escape potholes, honking relentlessly with drivers eager to engage in fights with each other. It is remnant image of Slumdog Millionaire where city is ripe with frantic traffic, begging children & ostentatious few rich. Though I resent stereotypes, however sometimes this is true.

Traffic in India at times do turn messy. Traffic overflows into pavements leading the vehicles to compete with the pedestrians for space. However pedestrians in India are second class citizen still struggling to get their rights. They are always honked at disdainfully by the drivers. Zebra crossing is often a piece of art designed for foreigners to make them feel at home. Richard Stallman, eminent computer programmer, has boasted in his speaking condition, “I have crossed streets without assistance even in the chaotic traffic of Bangalore and Delhi. Please just leave me alone when I cross streets.”

A P J Abdul Kalam, one the most beloved President of India, was once asked, “Do you think India is chaotic?”. He quipped, “Order comes from disorder”. It is a fascinating concept in science called chaos theory in which randomness can sometimes leads to symmetry. Can India turn her chaos into her strength? I peeped down from the window at the children begging on the roads and I wondered if the earth was weeping at the loss of their innocence. However one of little girl among them was smiling. She was playfully absorbed with the marbles in her hands. I could see reflection of my past with my fixation on marbles. But I knew life had also given her broken marbles.

"You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what's in your heart." - Carol Ann Duffy

Traffic in Bangalore has the potential of holding the Guinness World Records for keeping people stuck for indefinite hours. The stray dogs no longer found appealing to bark at the motionless traffic. The scorching sun made debut on the wrong day; people were packed inside the bus, sweating profusely, with the dust sweeping across the window blocking our nostrils thus saving us from the odor of our fellow passenger. And the bus moved sluggishly, I wondered if I would grow old in this traffic. I even imagined myself getting married and dying in the bus.

A fine gentleman was sitting in front of me. He was typing frantically on his laptop absorbed in deep smadhi. He occasionally slipped open his blackberry phone, a rarity in this day. He spoke IT, a common language usually spoken by Indian graduates who could not change their career before their marriageable age. Beside him sat a tired man, who occasionally made his shoulders rest on the fine gentleman. However after much discomfort, the fine gentleman exchanged some not so fine pleasantries which lead to the conductor to intervene.

When you have abundant time, your mind begins to play tricks on you. I tried, albeit unsuccessfully, listening to radio station but the excruciating pain of some senseless Bollywood songs made me quit. I cursed myself for not subscribing to 3G connection which left me in the bus without water & fast internet. 2G internet is limited to messaging. This is the time when you realize why facebook reminds you that your are single. I seldom chat with my friends but when I do, I usually look like a walrus trying to play saxophone. Chatting is not my cup of tea.

With the looming danger of hallucination, I began crunching numbers. How much is 327 X 42. Seven times two is eight, and two times two is four but I forgot the previous value. How much is the total? “Thirty”, said a loud voice. I shook my head as it can’t be that less. But as my sense prevailed, I panicked fearing if I had thought loudly enough for everyone to hear. “Sir, Thirty change?”, said the conductor. I took my change quickly, partly relieved as the laws of the physics were not broken and I could still think quietly.

Amid all my rambling, I forgot introduce to you my protagonist, a random stranger. On that fateful day, he was also accompanying me in the bus. However he rarely attracted my attention. He was sitting somewhere in the front seat shrouded with many occupied seats. Tangential to him, sat a beautiful girl who was busy caressing her hair. Einstein showed in his theory of relativity how gravity can curve the space. Well my sensory neurons occasionally warped space to catch glimpse of her.

Growing up with bollywood movies has given me unearthly ideas which defies common sense. I began interweaving story in which some miscreants would break into the bus, attack the girl, and I gallantly saved her. After I penned my imaginary love story, I reckon a less risky approach would be to just simply say hi. However people especially girls don’t entertain greetings from random strangers. With a sigh, I opened my phone and began playing Candy Crush. (Later that night, lot of my friends in Facebook blocked me for sending them Candy Crush request).

Soon more passengers flooded the bus thus disturbing the geometry of space. The tangential space changed to orthogonal, and my sensor neurons no longer caught the sight of her. However some abstruse angle allowed me to notice my random stranger. But why should I be intrigued by him? I ignored him, for lack of interest and resumed Candy Crush.

"Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?" - Morpheus

The other day I was reading about Quantum Physics. Bizarre events happens in quantum which are antithesis to common sense. Atoms could be at two different position at the same time thanks to superpostition. Or electrons could message each other instantly from any distance due to quantum entanglement. But ripples of such quantum effects are usually not felt in our larger world. However scientist agree that this whole universe is quantum. And sometimes such bizarre quantum effects may spill into our world.

His glanced at me occasionally, arousing my curiosity. However I shrugged off this behaviour as it was trivial. There was nothing appealing in him. May be his prosaicness was his hallmark; bland, unpolished shoes, uncouth hair, with a air of callousness. His shoes were worn out and his looks had fatigue. His eyes met mine more than once and it seems they spoke. And it seems the surrounding around me grew dimmer until I could feel only his presence in the bus.

Time often slows down when you move closer to the speed of light. Electrons communicates at wide distances almost instantly. However sometimes you experience quantum physics in your macro life. When you see your own reflection sitting in front of you. And your heart beats faster when you realize that your reflection is real. I stood motionless when I saw the random stranger was nothing but my own reflection. The random stranger was me.

Mad Hatter: "Have I gone mad?"
Alice Kingsley: "I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are."

Some times traffic makes you mad. Common symptom involves visualizing cinematic effects around you. The windows of the bus turned into a hologram projecting the life outside the bus. And time slowed down and nothing moved except the flurry of images on the window.

Out of the cosmic window I saw lives of people dragging their mundane lives. A lady was selling buttermilk on the sides of the pavement. And every time a customer came, she smiled and thanked him wholeheartedly. Her protruding teeth and bare foot could not conceal her poverty. And the sun felt pity on her and blaze down on the people below which attracted her more customers.

I caught the glance of another window. Few people were standing across the street waiting for the bus. Girls had draped scarf over ther head to avoid any dust and ogling. A young boy was absorbed in his music as he stood in corner separated from the crowd. I saw two man crossing the street while holding hands. Such behaviour is tacitly considered as romantic worldwide. However Indian government doesn’t believe homosexuality exist as it is against Indian culture. They were just close friends, I believed.

Another window had a reflection of a beautiful young girl. Wearing a funky T-shirt and a jean, she leaned towards the shop to have a cigarette. One middle age man was scornfully looking at her. “Girls wearing jeans these days have lost all values”, he mumbled while puffing his own smoke. Another young lad stood at the opposite side of the road bore a distressed look. “But why is she smoking. She is so pretty”, he thought. Like some men he also held common misconceptions about pretty descent girls in India. However he forgot that pretty girls were humans too. They also did fart.

And the images continued to flash. It was difficult to describe the immense diversity of the life I saw at once; both the rich and the poor; the beauty and their admirers, hawkers selling in their high pitched voice. Lastly I saw the random stranger, a common man who was everywhere.

And soon the hangover of the images had a anathestic effect on me. And the light grew dimmer until my surrounding were devoid of any images and sound.. According to quantum mechanics, I had plunged into a quantum sleep.

Image credit ~ xckd

Heavy bumps are often advised by doctors to cure for day dreaming. Luckily Indian Municipality has heeded to doctor’s advice and deliberately created potholes on Indian roads at regular intervals for convenience. However sudden brakes of the bus literary pulled me out of my dreams. I stood up & offered my seat to another man, who thanked me. I somehow squeezed through to reach the exit and alighted from the bus.

The sun had now retired to give respite to people for the day. The traffic was gradually uncoiling. I stood there watching the bus depart. The experience I spent in the bus was surreal. The bus was anthropomorphically transmuted into a random stranger with whom I shared my dream. My eyes were moist as I saw the bus dissolve into traffic and disappear (May be my emotions were due to inhaling of smoke). I pulled out my ticket & tossed it into the air in agony of estrangement. And I walked away in the opposite direction of the bus.

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