I have always believed that we get a sense of our real self when we are on the road. It may sound a little far fetched but I may not be too off to think that traffic is a strong signal to the values of our society. The roads have a cold blooded indifference and candor. They lay us bare. Our humanity, gentleness, rectitude, courtesy or the utter lack of all these is on public display and we feed off of one another. And over my lifetime, I have seen more souls than bodies bleed to death on these roads.
I don’t drive anymore. I prefer to get killed rather than committing suicide. Or is it the fear that someone else would get killed or worse might get to see a glimpse of the darkest corners of my heart? Whatever it may be, I take the auto everyday. Some bonds are strange to describe and trying to understand them defeats the whole purpose. Thankfully the auto driver doesn’t question why I give him the luxury of taking me anywhere he pleases to and I don’t wonder why he entertains me every time. We are both comfortable in our uncomfortable silence.
I try to detach myself from everything. Listlessness strangely keeps me sane. The roads are full of bustle and chaos but I merely watch it with a callous apathy. A man on a bike, in an attempt to impress his pillion interest, zips past us miraculously bisecting the auto and a scooter, almost rams into an old man in a bicycle before his short tryst with the gutter. Alas, a sad predicament to a romantic endeavor. Another who is not acrobatic enough stays behind us and shows his grumpiness with a generous dose of his boisterous horn. The auto-driver is calm and unruffled by the hullabaloo around as he listens to something he calls “a song” that has a pitch to rip apart the jarring loudspeaker which has the potential to replace any hearing aid.
I see a huge car in the distance. Its shimmer tells me that it would have preferred to happily stay off the road in the pleasant confines of the showroom. Reminds me of a newly wed bride who would have rather stayed with her parents. A raw wound is touched. The road’s narrowness is no match for the car’s grandeur. There is a hefty man at the helm. He looks rich from the outside. But the narrowness of his mind is too much even for this road. He is coming right at us and bludgeons our ears with a thunderous honk. It is a one way street and he is on the wrong side. My blood threatens to evaporate.
A dude in a motor cycle comes whizzing from the right hand side and threatens to rewrite all laws of physics and human belief by trying to sneak through the microscopic gap between the car and auto. Physics prevails and he gets caught in the muddle like an arachnid trapped in a Venus flytrap. Everything stalls. Nothing but chaos ensues. In the world of fistfights and word barbs, I stand speechless and thoughtless as an insignificant alien. Meanwhile a miniscule kid in a cycle achieves what the biker dude couldn’t. He gingerly balances his right leg on the auto, provides thrust by pushing his left leg against the car, squeezes his frame through miraculously and accelerates by using his hands as oars against the two vehicles and launches himself through and out of this commotion. A child who was looking at this feat all the while breaks into rapture.
The auto driver gives in finally and backs off slowly in an attempt to create an incredible angle for the mammoth car to slither past him and the horde of vehicles that have accumulated like bees on honey. Seeing his opening, the biker dude vrooms into action as he starts his engine directly in fourth gear and in the process deposits soot on a few fuming faces around, dents the car, teeters off precariously and ultimately spears into a little school girl. A moment of stunned silence is followed by his cowardly flight into oblivion. The auto driver helps her up and nurses her wounds. Why am I so surprised that good men still exist? Perhaps I have been living with myself for too long.
I am superstitious. I get out of the auto and walk away from the scene. I feel like I am leaving the world on a happy note. I walk aimlessly looking around, searching for something I will never get back. A tall gargantuan tree stands towering above all things living and otherwise. Its branches are spread out like tentacles engulfing infinity ready to suck the blood out of all humanity. I have always wondered how a tree can still look gorgeous without a single leaf on it. Barren beauty if I may. I think I know why it doesn’t have a single spot of green on it. Humans are not made with blood anymore. Why have I always felt that it is the lushness of our hearts that is on display as greenery on trees? Or is it anymore? I wonder if mankind has only aridity to offer.
I haven’t touched my brush. What will I paint when I can’t see the colors anymore? My eyes recognize them but the heart doesn’t feel their radiance. I wouldn’t mind if it was the other way around. I have poured my heart into my paintings so much that I don’t even have any red left to dip in. That my heart will be immortalized piece by piece but seen or understood by no one is another irony! I wish someone would burn all those paintings and mix it with my ash. Perhaps my heart would beat again! But do I want it to?
My legs have been leading my mind for several years now. I amble along. Aurobindo and Mother usher me into their shrine. The Ashram calms my senses for the moment. Everyone around seems to be in peace. The Tulasi leaves bring me to equilibrium. But why are they not sweet anymore? An old lady smiles at me. She knows I am beyond help. Yet she tries! I cry. Something I should have done long back! It doesn’t placate me. The burden is mine to shoulder!
I reach the end of the road. I look the sea in its eye. Its vastness once fueled my imagination. Today it reminds me of my inner vacuum. I stand in emptiness right in between a resolute Gandhi who is in his fervent stride and a tranquil Nehru who is welcoming him with open arms. I will never know if the architects envisioned this when sculpting but it has been my source of enlightenment and resolve for years. Why don’t they talk to me anymore?
I painted the sky blue. I painted the tree green. But I could not paint my life happy.
- From the diary of a man who was happy once!