Monday, August 27, 2012

What if God was on the Bus?

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons 

The daily grind starts around seven thirty. By that time I am dressed, done with my thoughts on being an anti-corruption nutcase, and all set to face another work day.  I complete one last check of my bag to see if I am carrying that little plastic covered chit that says that my work laptop belongs to the company and is not a bomb. Then I make my way down the slope to the bus stop. I exchange glances with the Calvin look alike kid. His sleeves are rolled up and his eyes say that he is going to be paying some serious attention in physics class today. So he can make thermo nuclear warheads to destroy everything that forces him to go to school. But for the oversized Milton bottle around his neck, we are identical. His school tie has already escaped the collar. My work tie never got there. We smile and smirk. I swear if he was older, we would start the Bavdhan chapter of Fight Club right on this gloomy road.

From the bus stop I wave to my wife who is standing in the balcony. She waves back. From the distance it is difficult to say, but I imagine she sighs. Like when one sighs on seeing an old dying dog on the road that you know might not make it till evening comes. She hates seeing me as the person I have become. Some money in the bank, yet untold stories in the heart. I wave back and breathe slowly. My heart pounds. I play a little game with myself. Which little part of me will die today? What she sees leave out of the door every morning does not completely come back. I am a meal on the table being gradually consumed. Some find me tasty, some are only in the game hoping that desert is better.

I look around the bus. Every seat has a mirror. They are called men and women. But everyone is me. All dressed up, fancy headphones, half opened eyes – dark churning thoughts being selfishly kept inside and warm fake smiles for everyone else. Another day at work. We go. One by one. A million course meal being consumed.

It takes about thirty minutes to work. Each ride is like being back in school on days when you forgot to do the homework. There are fifty thoughts in the bus who all want the earth to open up and swallow them. The silence increases as bus approaches destination. Bodies turn still. No one wants to get up and get into the buildings. No one wants to start those machines up. No one wants to login. Now that some unknown forces has moved us into the bus, dear lord please suspend all life in this moment. Somebody half gets up. I can read his face. He wants to tell the driver to keep going around in circles.

The same scene plays out across the street at other work places. My mind zooms away. The same scene plays out across the city. More zoom out. Across the nation. Around the world. Not everyone has to log in. Some have to dig. Some have to cut. Some have to smile. Mop, dry, open doors, draw, write, sell, buy, hedge, climb and drop. Maybe I am wrong. Well...everybody logs in. Everyone lives the day again and again. I instantly feel better in the pool of global misery. I even try the fancy butterfly stroke.

The bus stops. We all troop out. The security guard looks inside my bag and finds the chit. He looks at my laptop with interest. I can see it in his eyes. He is me. He wants something to give. Some mind to unravel. He wishes that the numbers on my laptop don’t match the numbers on the chit. Disappointed, he looks at my ID card. Everything is in order. I am who I am. Another body from the bus. He glances at the laptop. In that moment, for completely different reasons, we both wish it was a bomb. I walk away and almost mutter an apology for not making his day.

The day goes by. The Sun disappears to trouble other continents. I return through the gate. I smile at the guard. He shrugs. No excitement today. I am standing in the bus bay for the bus to come home. It is Mr. Stone again. The same driver is always doing the night shift. I have known him for years. Yet, he has never smiled or acknowledged my presence. He simply drives my remains home. Every day I smile at him. But he chooses to look through me like I am a sticker face on a glass door. I don’t exist in his world. I am a prop. The steering wheel, the brakes and the man who ages every day and smiles. No response.

I go to my seat. Even before I open the window, I know the creaking sound it will make. I almost want to start a conversation with the empty seat next to me. Heck, I shrug and dive right into a dialogue about the weather.

The ride back home is faster. God exists. The driver drops me at the same spot he has dropped me forever. As I get down I turn back, and like I have done a thousand times I say Thank You. I know what his reaction will be. He will not turn but continue looking through the windshield. No acknowledgement. No response. Once he is sure that I am clear of the bus he will put it in gear and drive on. He has done it for years.

I still say Thank You. I get down. I hear a voice from the bus. The driver says, Good night Sir.
I turn around. He nods his head.

I am the king of the world. This was not routine. This was a good day. My wife smiles as she opens the door. I surprise her by smiling back. I tell her about the driver acknowledging me and smiling back. We both agree it is a beautiful world before going to sleep. Peace at last.