|Pic: Pfutsero, July, 2011|
After owning a car, I hardly travel by public bus anymore. So, on those now rare occasions when I take the minibus in Kohima, it feels a bit strange. Why should I feel this way? There is someone on the phone; some students come in uniform; some are dead silent and seem lost in their thought. Some are playing with their phones while some are listening to whatever they are playing on their headphones. Still there are those people who seem to have met after a long time and are catching up with the stories of each other. The bus conductor comes and some people stretch out their hands to pay the fare for their friends. When some passenger wants to stop before reaching the actual bus stand, they’d say out loud, ‘side’.
But when I drive alone, I am detached from this experience. I am in a way detached from the society that I live in. All these people in the bus, we share a common space and time. We all have our own lives and go about doing our own business. But at that point of time, we share a common experience of traveling together in a bus along our lives’ journeys.
View from above
Before I shifted to the present house, I lived in a place where I would go for evening walks up the Bayavu hill in Kohima. There is a good spot where one can see the traffic below at Tinpati junction. I see cars, people crossing the busy road, and traffic coming to a halt. As I looked down, I thought about my life down below. I have driven up and down that road a hundred times. I am one among the many brake lights, and heads turning left and right before crossing the road. I am the crowd. I am the people.
From such a height, I looked at myself down there below, and I feel I have detached myself from that life down below. I think of life’s big questions and the frailties of life. It is an enjoyable experience from above. But I share my existence with the crowd below. Down there is where I go about living my life.
I take my car to a workshop and there are these dirty little boys who fix broken machinery. Their work of fixing broken machine is not usually associated with works of great people who try to fix the brokenness of our world. Forget that, these boys are dirty from head to toe. You can’t locate a spot on their dress or exposed skin which is clean. Strangely one day, I imagined if I put on what they were wearing; those greasy oily sweaty dresses. I wondered how I would feel if I put those on.
I quickly remembered that I share my humanity with those boys. They have as much soul as I have. No less.
While coming from Imphal to Kohima by bus (again), I saw a tree up in the mountain. It wasn’t the only tree around but my mind went to it. ‘What if I build a friendship with that tree and we would communicate as I pass through the spot each time?’ I thought. That’s an impossible thought. Trees don’t feel and definitely don’t talk (while some people may believe that trees have feelings and speech).
But I was fascinated by this thought that I might not see or hear or think of this tree ever again. It lived once in a certain point of time in the history of the universe, and it will die. It might have died by now. But this can be told long after we are gone that I lived with this tree at a certain point of time. We existed together.