I was almost on my way out, about to press the elevator button, when my friend/colleague came by. “Am headed your way. Wait for me, will drop you” he offered; his parents stay close to my place. He used to do the daily commute from there until around a year or so back when he decided to move someplace closer with a saner commute. Unlike me, taking refuge in cosy BMTC, he drove everyday. We formed a mutual admiration society – I told him that the stress of sitting through traffic would kill me if I were to do it every day, and he told me that he’d die of boredom if he had to sit in buses for that long, plus having to wait for them to turn up.
This friend is one I studied in school with, from 8th to 10th. Being the class studious guys, we usually occupied ranks 1, 2 or 3 along with another guy. Unlike most schools, the competition was never cut-throat. The 3 of us stayed good friends even after school.
Wait I did, and we promptly set out. I suggested taking Silk Board as it could be emptier than usual, that being Jan 14th. But he was more comfortable with taking the route via Chamarajpet and Mysore Road. Agara came and a bus blocked the right turn. I fretted, wondering if the signal would turn red soon. He didn’t move an inch beyond the line waiting for the bus to turn. We just about made it, although it was only me observing the ‘just about’ part. “What if we had missed it?!” I wondered. “We’d just have to wait for the next one.” He countered coolly.
Vehicles jumped across at will, the usual Indian way, as we made our way till JC Road and then it dawned on us. It was also Milad ul-Nabi and there were processions being taken out all over the place. We braced ourselves for bad traffic. Chamarajpet came and there were deviations in place all over. We still made it to 9th Cross and there was a long pile up all along till TR mills. Under normal circumstances that would have had me fuming, but we sat there talking of old Chamarajpet days. I noticed that there wasn’t any impatience or irritation as he waited for traffic to move. We slowly inched along and we decided to drop the idea of moving into Gowripalya, or more appropriately Ghauripalya. After a few more jams, pile-ups and detours we finally made it home in one piece, the journey taking close to 2 hours. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel the usual angst that comes with such jams. My friend drove home as if the traffic had been normal.
I wondered where things had gone wrong for me. I remember the time I returned – all blue-eyed and full of idealisms. None of them hold true now. The patience is gone. There is a simmering anger always waiting to explode. Had to struggle to avoid sending angry emails at work recently. I wonder if it is the commute, those endless waits for the buses to turn up. Or is it the struggle to cope with the noise? The time in Seattle has probably made me intolerant to the noise?
I drive along and notice a guy zipping by like a madman and feel joy that he’s not wearing a helmet and an accident could actually claim his life. I stand waiting for the bus and fight hard the urge to reach out and thump the guy, who’s spitting in front of him non-stop, on the head. I watch the autos parked there at the bus stop and feel my heartbeat rising at their being in a bus-stop and the inefficiency of the police in clearing them from there. I see the garbage pile up in a nearby empty plot and my blood boils as I remember cleaner times. I notice the chirping of birds on a Sunday morning being interrupted by a granite cutting machine and wonder with what I can go smash the heads of the workers who dare disturb my Sunday morning. As I type this paragraph, I recall all the above and the rage builds up.
Idealism is a dangerous thing. Especially in a place like ours. All it leads to is frustration, anger and stress. I see my friends who’ve made their peace with this and go about their lives without a care, and envy them. Sometimes life is simpler when you care about less; I know I can never be at peace with this and I probably don’t want to either. I just will have to find a way to make my peace with the stress.
In other news, a random checkup at work, showed that my BP is docking up higher numbers. “Cut down on the salt” advised the doctor. I nodded, wishing it were that simple. Grown-up years, eh?