At the end of a rainbow

Lucy found her diamond sky

silents ramblings in a rumbling train

on September 22, 2013

A frequent traveler of the Delhi metro, I know that there are few spaces in India that bring such myriad backgrounds together. When I say together, I don’t mean it in some metaphysical state of shared consciousness, I mean the “armpit on your face” kind of togetherness. Love it or hate it, you are a part of it. So, everyday finds me in the familiar routine of jostling for space, maintain an imaginary queue, be a recipient of friendly smiles, lewd stares, innocent kicks, obnoxious smells and well, a fresh perspective on humanity for what else could be so enduring yet dynamic?

My most recent experience found me standing opposite a woman wearing a badge, “lose weight now! Ask me how”. In our tiny heads, I suppose, we often behave like rulers because we feel so free to pass our judgments that in reality matters to no one but us. Anyway, I instantly took a passive dislike because she was holding a number of pamphlets and being the narcissist we all are, felt like she was intent on passing them all to me. So, I deliberately looked the other way while some other passengers began peering over her shoulders to see the “before/after” photos she had spread over her lap. An expert that she was, she immediately began with the usual doomsday prophecies of when passengers around her could be expected to die because of the prevalent lifestyle diseases. Sensing their growing interest, her voice became louder even as she gave me a sideways look to ascertain my response. I in turn did something I hadn’t done in ages; I began playing a game on my phone with a renewed determination to ignore her. By then, my options of simply moving to another place had run out as I found myself surrounded by a tight group of onlookers wanting to hear her out. This, I suppose is something peculiar to my country-fellows who seem to follow the philosophy ‘be safe, be powerful, stay in a crowd’. Turn a direct gaze towards anyone and the face will turn away from you. But, the crowd itself exists as a faceless, nameless entity you can’t ignore. So, at the end of her presentation, when she asked who would like to try the wonder product she has been talking about all along, she faced the same spectre of blank faces. However, a true war veteran of the society that she seemed, she hid her disappointment quite well. She instead tried the bait that never fails with most people–“free service”. “Accha aap yeh card lijiye. Hum office mein free health check-up bhi karate hain.” Immediately, a few hands reached out for the cards, and soon they were being passed around the entire compartment. I was still defiant about my disinterest till she directly held out a card for me to take.  Now, my friend has an interesting insight about situations resembling the one I was in. According to him, the bourgeois are an epitome of “politeness”, simply because taking any other stance would involve risk. So, most of us are highly appreciative of diplomatic traits that supposedly result in win-win situations. “Hypocrisy” he says, and well, I can’t help but agree. Despite my silent rebellion, that moment was one dominated by social protocol of “politely” accepting the card with every intention of throwing it later. This goes with every other “polite”act of allowing myself to be pushed about, to reduce my displeasure to an angry stare when I see something I know is wrong, to be silent, to be “secular and useless” in the words of my friend; for who wants to be the “anti-social” element disrupting the smooth-running cogs of society even as individuals get worn and crushed under the daily grind? Life goes on as they say, or does it?

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