Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Once upon a bus ride...

If you have ever taken a public transport on a week day, around afternoon or late morning, am sure you were struck by a lightening of some sort. Here is the story of my (en)lightening.

I had a doctor’s appointment today and had to head straight back to office after that. I was to take a bus to the bus port…from where I had to take another bus to my office (not the best use of my time…but can’t complain…it was ME who had been putting off driving lessons for so long).
By the way, those of you have been asking me how my driving is going:
• I have taken 8 classes as of today and I haven’t killed anyone…injured a car or two, including ours.
• I have decided that I will keep taking classes till I successfully pay off my instructor’s mortgage.
• I have also realised that when I finally get a licence, am not going to need it that much. Retirement homes usually have their own transport.

Anyway, coming back to my public transport story, I must say that the simple exercise of taking a bus filled me with the strangest thoughts. At that time of the day on a week day, the busses are filled with people who are either too old to work….or too young. I happened to sit beside an old lady wearing a hearing aid, clutching her walking stick and her shopping bags, casting furtive and even suspicious glances at me, as if I would snatch her bags or her hearing aid and run away. She looked scared, insecure, and uncomfortable to say the least. Does old age do that to every one?

Her life floated in front of my eyes…
Living alone in an old house, with a little dog perhaps, a little garden, a refrigerator full of easy to chew and easy to digest food, a variety of medicines on the bedside table, a reading glass on her coffee table, a glass jar in the window sill that holds her dentures at night. Grocery shopping is a weekly affair, mainly vegetables and soup, as the doctor had prescribed. The young boy at the pharmacy is friendly and helpful…delivers her weekly medicines for diabetes and blood pressure, and enjoys a nice cup of tea and two biscuits in return. The children don’t visit that often now. The elder son is a truck driver and drives to faraway lands…the younger son visits only when he needs to borrow a little money…who else will a son go to? The daughter visits once in three months and brings the grandchildren too. Jeez! How fast they are growing up. If their grandfather was around, he would have taken them for picnics and fishing…but it’s better that he left. The kidney failure was too much to bear.

The driver braked suddenly, and my thoughts jumped back into the bus. The old lady was as uncomfortable as before. I wanted to hold her hand and say “It’s alright…I have seen your house, your dog, your children…even met the pharmacy boy. I know you. Relax, don’t be scared.” But that would scare her even more. So I pressed mute on my vocal cords.

Opposite to me was a young girl with her nails painted fluorescent pink. From the speed at which her fingers moved on the cell phone to type out a text message or perhaps play a game, I guessed she was in her teens (that would explain the nail colour as well). Her hair was a mess and I am sure she would have taken it as a compliment if I told her so. It was probably the reaction she expected and wanted from a fat, old-fashioned, on-the-wrong-side-of-her-twenties woman like me. It would be pretty uncool for her to have a hairstyle that I found cool. She chewed a gum with the aggression of an Australian fast-bowler. Her fluorescent pink iPod played some noise that was loud enough for me to hear, despite the earphones. Again, she would be happy to know that what was music for her, was noise for me.

What was life like for her?
She must have hated school, and hated homework even more. The only saving grace was that she hung out with the hippest girl gang in school…the group that every girl aspired to be in…the group that was mean and smart and ruthless and sexy and adventurous and not afraid of the teachers or the parents. The group that was chased by the coolest boys…the group that always knew what to do, say, wear, eat, chew, paint, colour, pierce, listen to, in order to keep the rest of the school gawking. Mom and Dad were too busy to notice the secret stash of vodka and cigarettes in her room. When the girl gang had one of the wild pajama parties at her place, she would make them the most intoxicating drink…the one that her ex-boyfriend who was a bartender at a night club for backpackers, had taught her. Presently, she is single…though Rob and Dennis both text her 45 times a day, so it’s almost like being with two boys at the same time. Studying wouldn’t do her any good she decided…she was to become a rock star some day and the old guitar in her room believed in her, if no one else did. Life was kinda fun…school camps were great, and the weekends were great too, when Mom and Dad were away. The little sister is a pain in the butt…knocking her room every minute and totally destroying her privacy. She doesn’t read much, though she really did enjoy the Twilight series a lot. Edward Cullen was just the right guy for her, she thought.

As if it was the intermission of an interesting movie, my mind floated back to the present. I was perplexed and even annoyed at myself…that I had done what I always championed against…that is, I had stereo typed people from their appearances. But this was not the time for self-criticism. I was struck by a lightening…one that was a strange mix of gratitude and haste. I realized that I may be living the best years of my life. I wouldn’t swap places with either of the two ladies I had observed in the bus. I ought to be grateful for the life I had NOW…for my present…which may be boring, and often lonely and unadventurous…maybe slightly typical even…and definitely a lot overweight. But this was indeed the best years of my life! I wouldn’t rewind to teenage (can’t bear the thought of acne and the confusion over my body “growing up” all over again)…and would definitely not look forward to a life with my dog and dentures.

That was it! That was such a great feeling…almost like a rebirth. I had suddenly arrived in life and couldn’t help smiling my broadest smile (I noticed the old lady held her bags even more tightly…the obese smiling-to-herself lunatic must be up to something, she must have thought).

Thanking both the ladies profusely for enlightening me such (in my mind of course), I got down at the bus port. Life couldn’t get better, I realized (touch wood) and I hurried up to make the most of it.


spiderman! said...

Many pointers:

1. "Wrong side of twenty.." - Lucky you that you still belong to the twenties :(

2. What you did might not be classified as stereo-typing. I think it was more of forming an impression when you see someone. And in that, we will always go by the attitude or vibe rather than appearance. You formed your opinion on the basis of that vibe not how they looked?

3. Congrats on being in the best time of your life. This is quite contrary to the general notion of happy adolescence. Maybe this is because you were busy getting ready to don the role of the "1st Class 1st" :D

4. Now, that you have identified that these are the best years of your life - how do you intend to make it count ?

Scribbler :) said...

@ spiderman - pointwise, on your pointers:

1. Is not long before I will be on the right side of thirties. At least it will be the right side.

2. Hmm,we all form impressions of the way they dress up, behave, talk etc. It's not a crime to do so as long as we remember that these are impressions only....and the real person may be something totally different. If we don't take those impressions too literally, and can keep our mind open to newer impressions, all's good with the world. Stereo-typing however, is different...and pretty immature. Every old woman does not need to be lonely and ill....just like every teenager may not want to become a rock-star.

3. You are so right :) What a waste.

4. To start with, am going to stop cribbing about how boring my life sometimes is...and start doing things that can be enjoyed most at this age (like travelling more...learning new skills etc).

Paws Awhile said...

Nice post, but HAHA, I kinda got stuck at "wrong side of twenty". I know you don't think it's funny, but ask anyone who is sitting at the top of the hill with the twenties on one side, and the thirties at another. I laughed even more because you can't roll back the way you came from.

The Ketchup Girl said...

scribbler, I am scared of u. I wonder what kind of images will flast before your when u see me, whenever that is. What would life been like for kg? she was always a bitch- he snooty expressions tell that bout her....

Or do u already have a first impression of me based on the pictures??

darn scribbler, u are still in your twenties. Enjoy it so long as it lasts. This side of 30 is all about nappies n nagging. :)

I like the way your mind works- its like a devil's workshop :D

Scribbler :) said...

@ Paws Awhile - I know what you mean. But there is a certain dignity in being on the "right side" of things...even if it is "thirties" in this case :) Tai na?

@ KG - Well, my enlightening was little to do with what impressions I formed of them (as I said, am aware it was a very immature stero-typing) had everything to do with the "phase of life that the 2 women were in". You know what I mean? Even if it was the most decent, well-behaved academic-oriented teenager...and a very healthy, confident looking old woman, I would have still felt the same. My imaginative impressions were incidental...what I tried to say was that, seeing two women in totally different phases of their lives, triggered a sense of gratitude in me...that I was perhaps leading the best phase of my life.

And no..the "impression" I formed of you was from our chats and not from your pictures...and it is something like "Wow, she is such a talented young lady...wish I could be like her." :)

Mustaf said...

I can understand why you don not want to take the old lady's place but why not the young girl? You did not like the impression that you formed of that young girl or you do not like to relive those years again given a chance? From your reply to KG, it seems that you just dont like those phases but just curious why?

And this is for KG, This side of 30 is all about nappies n nagging. :) . you know i crossed the 30 mark few months back and I became a father few days back, you are scaring the hell out of me :(

Debanjana said...

awesomely written....

The Ketchup Girl said...

oh and i heart the brand new header. :)

sayantani said...

I love my bus rides to school. It like being in Dr Phil without paying for the expensive show tickets. The conversations range from "Effy is sooo hot and invited me over to hang around with him tonight, but dawg on I have my freaking math homework...I hate that bitch!"(Incidentally that bitch is some poor Teaching Assistant like me, who is trying just that little bit harder to survive grad school).There are others who sit with coach bags,complaining about life being so hard coz "Chaad wouldn take the dog out" or the usual Jocks who hit on anything that comes in their way...the "how u doing kinds?".