People

Augmented Reality

I thought I was the luckiest girl

In the world

Because the night was quiet

And the stars were bright

There was a light breeze

To blow my hair lightly

So I skipped along the way

With a bounce in my step

In a car-less night

I put my hand through my lover’s

His skin made me smile

I swung his hand

Absent-minded, he smiled

I sighed to the sky

For a beautiful life

When I saw the moon

A flawless circle

As I gazed on

It twinkled so white

And I said to my lover

“Look! Look at that!”

I said as if in a dream

“What?” he asked in wild haste

‘Did you get Pikachu?”

 

By Srish

The Battle of the Bastards

Monday’s Game of Thrones episode, The Battle of the Bastards, has been hailed as one of the best episodes in the entire series, and more importantly, the battle sequence has been described as one of the greatest battle scenes in television history.

Ramsay Bolton employed tactics which would involve Jon Snow giving up his advantageous, defensive  position; Jon Snow fell for it. He charged forward, alone, as Bolton slaughtered Rickon and Jon Snow’s army was forced to follow their commander, straight into the trap laid by Bolton. Bolton’s archers released arrows, encircled Jon Snow’s army with rows and rows long spears and shields as Jon Snow’s army became trapped between that and the mounds of corpses.

Cinematically, the battle scenes were amazingly shot, each and every shot very artistically and mindfully built- but to my mind, it just brought one poem which I had studied in my literature course. The poem was written by Wilfred Owen, one of the greatest English poets of World War I, and was titled Dulce et Decorum est.

The poem is named after the old Latin saying Dulce et Decorum est, pro patria mori, which translates to meaning, it is a great honor to fight and die for your country. For is that not how they make people go to war? Is that not how they convince that this is the right thing to do, that this must be done, that our country must be defended and the other attacked? Do they not tell us that there is pride and glory in laying down our lives for something that is much bigger than us, than our circles of friends and families?

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge

This is how Wilfred Owen begins to describe the soldiers of the Great War- like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed and coughing like hags. They were all ‘drunk with fatigue’ he said, before Owen sees his comrade dying in the poisonous gas. ‘Guttering, choking, drowning’, Owen said, his comrade was simply dying, helpless, in the most pathetic way possible.

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Not much glory in gargling from ‘froth-corrupted lungs’, ‘obscene as cancer’ and in ‘vile, incurable sores’, is there?

This is exactly what the Game of Thrones episode showed. As Bolton’s army collided with Snow’s, man fell against horse and there was absolute chaos; heads went flying about, horses maimed, limbs cut off as Jon Snow went about in utter confusion, trying to distinguish friend from foe, killing those who attempted to slaughter him. Blood poured in every direction, arrows rained upon men as swords were wielded without knowing what they would destroy. As Snow’s army was encircled and trapped, Jon Snow got trampled beneath the ensuing chaos buried under heaps of corpses and flailing soldiers who attempted to run and defend themselves. With difficulty, he emerged from within the riot of bodies, covered in blood and grime, only to stare at death in the face.

That, then, is perhaps the reality of wars and battles; not pride, not honor and definitely not the sweet taste of glory- just a bunch of ragged limbs, barely functioning, arms outstretched, trying to gain a semblance of reality, a perspective about the senselessness, all around.

Image Source: blogs.wsj.com

Punjab of the Popular Imagination

There is a stereotype for the people of Punjab that is known across the country; perhaps no other stereotype is as stereotypical as this one. And so that stereotype has played a major role in depicting the entire state of Punjab in the popular imagination, as we know today. Most people know Punjab through the veil of that stereotype, thanks to how it influenced the popular imagination.

That Punjabis are loud-mouthed. That they have a tendency to utter and blabber what they actually feel, that they wear their heart on their sleeves. That they may say things that might not sound great, but they have their hearts in the right place.

The most famous symbol for Punjab is the Golden Temple, which stands for peace and serenity such as you might have never known before; the beautiful temple made of gold which stands shining as much in the night as in the day.

Punjab is also known for its food; oh, the food. The dollops and dollops of butter that they use, the scrumptious choley they cook, the beautiful way in which they cook their chicken, the makki ki roti and the sarson ka saag of course. More than the food, they are known for the generosity they extend with the food, the langars, with the belief that food is meant for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs.

Punjab, oh, if anyone were to ask me, Punjab is a riot, full of colours, and bhangra, and generous, kind souls, and delicious food, green fields, lots of sunshine, big houses, giggly girls, outspoken men, but a good place, overall a good place.

So I liked Udta Punjab- it swooped in and destroyed the Punjab of the popular imagination and replaced it with a much grueling reality, which hasn’t really been done properly before. We have Amrish Puri romanticizing Punjab as ‘home’ which is, although ever so humble, irreplaceable and Shah Rukh Khan coming in and sweeping away the bride in the mustard fields of dear Punjab in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge. Skip that, we have two of the actors in Udta Punjab, Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan, who when last worked in a movie together glorified the very stereotype we just spoke about.

The overbearing, kind-hearted, all-knowing patriarch who gives the way for love, giggly, supportive relatives who like to stuff guests with food, colorful clothes and bhangra sequences, the beat of the dhol which sets everyone in action- Punjab for beginners.

But I loved it how Udta Punjab brought about a new Punjab in the popular imagination, the Punjab of drugs. Corrupt policemen, dirty politicians who’d do anything to win elections, youth wasting away in syringes lying in abandoned fields, girls being forced to go on drugs, families which coalesce and support the men in their family to keep a girl locked up rape her turn by turn.

The people of Punjab here were cunning and sly, not loudmouthed and outspoken.

The picture painted was the opposite of serene; in fact, the only way Alia Bhatt could figure having some peace in her life was through staring at the board of Goa through her window and imagine diving into the ocean.

And the food? Udta Punjab broke all notions about Punjab’s food when they showed Alia Bhatt hungrily gnawing at the leftover chicken bone her captor left lying around.

Although I did feel that Abhishek Chaubey could have depicted the drug problem as a more generalized phenomenon, affecting people of Balli’s age, as opposed to concentrating on individual stories, for the problem affects people at large. It is a sociological ill, not an individual one, and hence, would have been much more appealing.

And yet I am happy to see a new Punjab, away from the Punjab of the Popular imagination, for we must know, and all the four actors’ performances show it as well as it could.

The Jungle Book: So What Makes You As You Are?

I watched The Jungle Book, and as is my habit, went on to read its reviews. Personally, I found the movie to be very interesting, but for its original story that hails from Rudyard Kipling, not because this particular adaptation was so great. The 3D effects were spectacular, but I was a bit surprised to note the lack of humor in the movie- I certainly felt that there was a lot more scope for a few jokes. Compared to the other animated greats like Tangled, How To Train Your Dragon, and The Incredibles, the Jungle Book fails quite sadly.

Of course, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book has been read, understood and interpreted widely in terms of postcolonial theory and imperialism, for Kipling was the unfortunate author of the poem The White Man’s Burden. But the aspect of the story that I found much more captivating were the results of the nature and nurture effects, which goes back to the old argument concerning the development and growth of any being- what is more influential, the genes or the environment?

In the figure of Mowgli, the debate is personified quite literally. Left in the jungle at a very tiny age when his father is killed by the tiger Shere Khan, Mowgli is almost adopted by the panther Bagheera and from then on, raised by a pack of wolves, and called a ‘man cub’. But Shere khan is determined to hunt Mowgli down and finish him off, for he is sure that the ‘man cub’ will grow up to be a man and be the natural enemy of animals as all humans are, for he believes that the true nature of a man cannot be taken away from him.

Shere Khan has a point-Mowgli might have been raised amongst wolves but he struggles to be one like them, lagging behind as his brother wolves sprint on and the wolf elders try again and again to teach him how to live and behave like a wolf. He is constantly reprimanded for using his ‘tricks’- using to his advantage his separated fingers and agile grip to move around and operate stuff that four- legged mammals possibly could not. He is regarded warily by everyone in the jungle, for quite obviously, he walks on twos instead of fours.

But on the other hand, Mowgli is more a creature of the jungle than he was ever of the human world- he speaks the language of the wolves, the panther, the bear, the tiger and the king of the Bander-log. He runs and climbs faster than any human is probably capable of, having been raised among animals. He’s uncannily adept at picking fruits, berries and honey off heights. But more importantly, he identifies himself with the world of the jungle, rather than the world of the humans, and so, is dismayed when he realizes that he will have to go to the human village in order to survive the menace of Shere Khan.

This, right here was, nature versus nurture, but with convincing arguments for both sides- this embodiment of the debate is precisely why I find Mowgli so fascinating.

Let’s go back to our general daily life to understand what can be regarded as a more influential factor. For Abhishek Bachhan, while having given a couple of stellar performances in Guru and Yuva, could not be said to have possessed the greatness and the larger-than-life aura of his father Amitabh Bachhan? Rahul Gandhi, with generations of political blood behind him, hasn’t really displayed the political cunning and ambition that was expected of him. Sunil Gavaskar, one of the greatest cricketers in the world, never could bring his son even close to the success in the cricketing world that he himself had achieved. These are the examples which not only had great, professional genes, but also bustling environs where their skills could flourish.

To the contrary, we have countless examples which defy odds- Shah Rukh Khan did not have the acting lineage and business acumen that many of his contemporaries did but yet he went on to become India’s star. We are all aware of Modi’s chaiwallah story, how he became the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy from being a mere chaiwallah at one point of time. J.K. Rowling’s is another rags to riches story, where she went on to write the world’s most popular and highest selling book series, while living on the state’s allowance, being as poor as one can be without being homeless, with a child to take care of? It was certainly not the conducive environment that resulted in their dazzling success- then were their parents hidden geniuses that managed to pass on their abilities? Perhaps not- perhaps there are other factors that are in play. Yet it cannot be denied that talent can rise in the unlikeliest of places.

Many years back, Virginia Woolf wrote of Shakespeare’s sister- a sister that he never had. She wrote about his hypothetical sister, who might have had Shakespeare’s genius, but would have died anonymous and unknown because her talents would never be allowed to flourish and develop in a world so stifling to women. She wrote that if a woman is to write, she must have a room of her own and adequate money that would provide her with the comfort to write. A room of her own, she said- the private space free of anybody to introspect and write.

Psychology partly made the answer for me, if not fully. From what I understood, the biological genes set the extreme limits, but the human will and determination is free to exercise within those limits. With a healthy and happy environment, the children do have higher odds of leading more satisfied lives. We cannot possibly overreach our genes, but the limits do give our environments enough scope to lead lives as we would. For not everybody had the comforts of a private room, yet great writing is known to have come up from the messiest of places. For people are known to have survived on lonely islands, swum great lengths and eaten fellow human beings if the time called for it- yet they couldn’t escape the confines of their own biology.

This is precisely where Mowgli becomes so relevant- Mowgli, as a human being, cannot help but use his fingers and limbs because he simply can. But he can easily climb trees and run extremely fast because he had been taught so; he can speak the language because he grew up conversing the language. In the end, he is the most content in the ‘Mowgli way’, his own way of living comprising a mix of both human and animal behaviors. And that is what we must strive for- limited as we are by our own generational advantages and disadvantages while becoming more and more like our parents every passing year, we can always learn from the past and forge a new to the future,  to be set as an example by others.

Happy New Year, Said the Doorman

Suited up

He holds one hand in the other

Standing in attention

Instructions memorized

Professional attire

Surveying, judging

Who is for real

And who isn’t

Who has the money to enter

And who doesn’t

Cover charge, he says crisply

Six thousand.

He mocks those who exhibit outrage

And welcomes those who reach their wallets

Behind the grubby streets and the dirty walls

The shiny board rests

‘Rooftop Restaurant and Bar’

He looks up in pride

Thrilled to witness the party

Gleaming shoes and red lipsticks

Luxury bags and fitted clothes

Expensive cigarettes in the pocket

The moneybags behind the imported liquor

He smiles, warm and courteous

As the music blared

And the glasses clinked

As notes were counted

And cheers heard

So he looked onward with pride

Noticing an aberration

Something that didn’t quite fit

Gangly boys, with teeth so yellow

And faces so dirty

With feet so strong

That they never felt the midnight chill

Needed no fur or leather to keep warm

Just a patch of blanket

To hide their syringe

And the unkempt bellies

And oh the dirty hair

Which turned light brown

Similar to the people who could enter

And he looked at those two again

In annoyance

Shooing them away

As they poked those who went inside

Asking for money

Nothing less than ten

Mocking them if not obliged

And he shooed them away

Once more

Cursing under his breath

About irritants

And rodents

And pests

And filth

And spoiling the landscape

And troubling the good folk

With their poverty

And their degradation

And so

We say

Happy New Year.

 

Picture source: GB Times

What does it mean to be traveling in India?

A single or a couple of women taking a trip in India comes with its own volley of problems, as every step of the way throws up a new challenge. First of all, you cannot do the most travel-esque thing: hitchhike. A method tried and tested for travel experiences that remain unforgotten, in a country where the news is full of horror stories about crimes against women, it is a privilege only accessible to well-built, thrifty men, as we give up dreams of our very own Motorcycle Diaries. Or so common sense will tell you.

Worries begin as night falls- while big cities are notorious for their crime rates, small cities have that eerie sense of abandonment post nine pm, of perhaps police being not so readily available, of people misconstruing your purpose, of stumbling across barren land and little connectivity. As women, we choose to spend the extra cash, but not compromise on safety- we try to stay in downtown areas, tend to peek in buses to check the male-female ratio before hopping on, and generally beware of accepting any unsolicited help. We take extra care about where we stay, about the homestays we pick, about the hotels we decide on, as often enough one hears horror stories about hotel staff mixing with local goons to harass you.

And then of course, for the cherry on top, there are always judgy uncles and aunties who are only too happy to show you your place. In our train back to Delhi, a middle aged couple was surprised to find that the two of us girls were out by ourselves, asking us whether we were too fond of adventure, their eyebrows raised so high up that they threatened to get lost in the hair on their head. Of course, there are many, many of us who do go out on our own, who do hitchhike, who do take trips while staying on a tight budget- but a general middle-class consensus remains, that for a woman to travel alone in India, without an external support system, is just not safe. I do not suggest that these problems for women are exclusive to India- but perhaps I may suggest that they exist more so in India?

A night in Jodhpur and all of us sat together, conversations taking us to places unexplored. A French girl traveling to other states of India after a three-month long stint in Leh, a German out to experience the whole of south and south-east Asia, another German with similar travel plans, an Indian guy bagpacking across the entire subcontinent with a goal to know every corner of all our twenty-nine states over a period of one-and-half years- and of course, us two girls, our travel plans seeming increasingly tiny in front of their ambitious ones.

Suddenly though, the equation changes- there are foreigners amidst us who have their own set of problems. They don’t know the language, they stand out for their differently coloured skin, and are obviously not so aware of the culture of a place- additionally, in a country like India, where culture can vary so greatly every few hundred kilometres, it can get all the more confusing.

They begin to relate their experiences, one of which happened right in front of us- some of the locals extremely keen to take pictures with these whiter skinned people, simply walk up  to these foreigners and stand next to them, asking their friend to click a picture. It is bizarre; the French girl exclaims that it does not make them feel like celebrities, that it makes them feel like zoo animals. That is the gap- it wouldn’t be the locals’ intention to make them feel like zoo animals; perhaps they just act out of curiosity, and do not find any other way to express themselves since they cannot speak a language common with them.

Then there are some instances which are not so funny, some which are just plain awful. Foreigners raped on the beaches of Goa, raped while they are on drugs, robbed as they try to ask around their way, fooled into things much more sinister. It is not just limited to foreigners; as the two of us girls walked around in Pushkar, a bunch of local guys begin to follow us, asking us which country, which country. When we do not answer, they try and push each other on us, so they may accidently brush against us and every time that happened, the whole group would cheer.

There are smaller problems as well- imagine leaving a valuable bag at some place you visited, some table you sat at, in the excitement of the day, imagine accidently leaving it behind at a shop, a restaurant or in a taxi. I make this statement without referring to any stats, because there can be no reliable stats for such a thing- you’re just less likely to retrieve something you left behind or lost in India as opposed to in other touristy countries. It is easier to find something you left behind, or dropped on the way, in a country like Singapore, or Germany or Switzerland.

But why? Is it because people are more dishonest here, more deceitful? No, maybe not; maybe the problem is that we don’t have the kind of systems in place that will facilitate the search of a lost item. We don’t have effective Lost-and-Found management at tourist places, we have police who are overburdened and have better things to do than find your lost wallet and they have no problem even telling you so- it is perhaps because the system doesn’t support us that individual acts of such assistance are more rare. Of course, experiences are always subjective- you could have lost your bag in Singapore, never to be found again, and found a lost one in Punjab. But on an average, I would not pick up a wallet lying on the road and make an effort to report it to the police if I know that it’s going to take away too much time from my day and earn me additional jeers from the authorities themselves.

These are among the many factors that make traveling in India not just dangerous, but consistently difficult, and that is a terrible shame, because India, with its endless history and multicultural demographic has monumental potential. Every state has so much to teach you, with effects of an increasingly globalizing world palpable on the local population, that traveling in India can be one of the many great experiences of your life.

But as the night went on and the Jodhpur air cooled down, we began talking about the other side of India, the side beyond the gruelling heat and inconvenient transport, the side beyond the dilapidated histories and the forgotten lives. The side which sheds light on the warmth, the brilliance and the beauty of cultures which believe in communities, in helping each other out, in looking out for more than just yourself.

They relate experiences and instances where the generosity of the people has exceeded anything that they have ever witnessed- the simple gestures by which the locals welcome travellers in their homes, the way they ask them to sit and have a meal with them, to share their food and understand where they come from. I hear that and I can’t help but agree- seeing a baraat passing by the main road from our balcony, all of us rushed down to witness it as the groom and his family pulled us in with them, made us dance, and asked us to come along, to be a part of their festivities, to share their happiness. They asked us, as we stood in our dishevelled hair and random pyjamas, they asked us to come along.

When our German friend caught an auto in the middle of the night to buy cigarettes and upon reaching the shop, realized that he had no money on him, the auto guy generously offered to purchase them for him. When in the train, the judgy uncle-aunty who disapproved of our trip, also made an extra effort to visit us and check whether our unconfirmed seats got confirmed. A couple of years back, while on the train from Goa to Delhi, we befriended an old, sardaar uncle who never fails to call and wish me on any festival, who never fails to wish me on my birthday, more than two years after we met him that one time.

There is something about this country that makes traveling here an absolutely maddening and an absolutely heart-warming experience. The range of people you will find here, there is little chance that you will find it anywhere else. Perhaps its still not too clichéd to say that here you will find that something else too, maybe a method in madness, a beauty in disarray, but it is something that works.

 

 

Money Can’t Make You Work

Marlo Stanfield, an unbelievably young drug kingpin in the city of Baltimore, is caught in a multi-million dollar drug bust. Behind the drugs lies a trail of murders and black money, pinning him responsible for all these crimes, something that can ensure that he stays in jail till the day he dies and yet have years and years left in his sentence. His snarky lawyer is able to cut a deal for him that allows him to walk free with all that money, and let his subordinates take all the blame. Guilty of a drug conspiracy and more than two dozen murders, Marlo Stanfield walks away with more money than he can possibly spend in ten lifetimes. It is nothing new; with democratic legal systems, it happens all the time.

Now imagine this.

Jimmy McNulty, a police officer who has caught several murderers in his service to the police, puts his career at stake by misleading his superiors into allocating funds to their department, funds that will catch Marlo Stanfield, funds that do catch Marlo Stanfield and his associates. But once Jimmy McNulty’s fraud is caught, he is fired, and could possibly face a criminal charge.

In the face of a situation so contrasting wherein a drug dealer walks free and a police officer is fired for bending the law in trying to catch the drug dealer, one can wonder what inspires people to take up certain jobs. What can inspire you to be a police officer, with salaries that can barely sustain you, when you witness first hand how much money lies in being on the other side of the law? What inspires people to take up certain professions that seem too dangerous to us? What can inspire you to be poor policeman, when you can be the rich criminal?

It is simply the difference between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing.

A difference that is underrated and overused, the one with the very thin line in between.

The difference between right and wrong.

It is this which convinces me that money is not the motivational factor, that it is not even close. Some people work for money, yes, but there are some things that can drive people in a way money never can. Marlo Stanfield, despite his millions, despite a fortune that can be spent without heed, is unable to leave his drug dealing. He is unable to quit. Just like for McNulty, it is not about the money, for Stanfield too, it is not about the money, but the thrill of the game.

Money is something that is needed to function in a society, money is something that is needed to buy our comforts and our luxuries.

But money cannot make you work.

That is where money fails.

A Patch of Green

On a hot morning in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, I met a Chinese acquaintance who could surprisingly speak very good English, facilitating our conversation, as we headed towards a cultural park which I wanted to visit. A long metro ride ahead of us, we went on talking about one thing then the other, this habit and that tradition, India and China, life and the Universe.

Very soon, as had to happen, with a person like me, very soon, we landed on the subject of movies. Who didn’t like movies? At the mention, he felt compelled to give me his very honest opinion- his face went glum, his voice lowered , a shadow of disappointment fell over his person. “I will not tell you to watch any Chinese movies. Here, we do not like a lot of Chinese movies; they are very stupid. They have no story at all, just a bunch of stupid fighting scenes, some stupid love story, everybody always beating each other up. All of them are the same”

I looked at him, amazed, making no effort to hide my expression. How many times in ourselves, in our friends, in our families had we said the same thing about Indian movies? How many times have we scoffed and dismissed Bollywood commercial films, dismissed them for their exaggerated nuisance, spurned their stupidity, their absurdity, their distance from real life, their nonsensical nature? “That’s what we also think of our movies, sometimes”, I told him, giggling.

“What?” he asked me, flabbergasted. “Why?! Here, we LOVE your movies. I haven’t seen a lot of them but the ones that I have, I loved. Especially I have seen 3 Idiots and PK, and they are amazing! In my college, all my friends love these two movies. They are so full of life and so funny. How can you not like them?”  “What, and I love your movies! Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee- come on!” We both burst out laughing.

With a shake of the head, a hint of a smile and a dawn of realization, I understood the secret to the universe. What is yours will always suffer your criticizm, your rebukes, and your disappointments. It will take your praise and present its flaws, it will lay bare in front of you, in its stark honesty and nakedness. What is not yours, however, will escape the glaring eye; we will never know their problems and their dreams, we will never know what it is like to be them. We can always guess, but we might never know. So what we belittle here could be celebrated there; what they deride there could be extolled here.

But more importantly, I learned that you could be sitting in the most beautiful and lush sprout-wielding, cherry-popping flowerage, but the grass? The grass will always, always be greener on the other side.

MUSIC TO MY EARS

It became an unspoken rule that every vacation I’d take, I had to have a trip song- that one song which would transport me back to the place, flashing memories and moments alongside the beats of the track, making me wonder how perfectly the song fit the mood of the trip, as if the singer had cut out and moulded it just to fit my days, as if it had no other purpose but to make me reminiscence. So in Goa I’d see colourful clothes and gold beaches pass by on Kid Cudi’s ‘Pursuit of Happiness’, thinking of how amazing life was, how wonderful its fruits, how young and wild and free we felt at this moment, singing and dancing and hurtling forward without a care in the world even if it be that one night. And in Mcleodganj I’d match my pace to John Mayer’s ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’, skipping along this tiny little hill, curiously talking to the locals, understanding how time literally slows down at a tiny place like this.

On my vacation to Kasol, staying in a cute, little homestay after returning from a daunting trek to Kheerganga, the weather was gloomy, the sun had set, and our corridor was abuzz with our excitements, the smell of smoke, and the rumbles of the stomach, when suddenly played Chet Faker’s ‘Gold’. The first time it played though, I was busy running around and never paid attention- the next time however, I couldn’t help but adjust it according to the place we were in, the mood of the moment. Because the song played at the time that made me pay attention to it, in a homestay on a dark evening in Kasol, it will forever remind me of the night, those people, that furniture.

Music, then, has a funny way of attaching itself to moments of your life. A simple, random collection of sounds bring to your brain a host of emotions: if some remind you of the car ride with that one boy, some remind you of the person who always went mad dancing on those songs. Songs, then, become right on occasion, in the sense that the moment makes the song, instead of the other way round. A song is never right or wrong for you essentially- you just make it so. So my kind of music and your kind of music is just a testament to what surrounded you and I, for there really is the fact how a lot of us went about loving typical Bollywood numbers in our childhood to Avril Lavigne-like teen obsessions, and then finding even those embarrassing, moving on to our rock and alternative and EDM.

Different sorts of music has different sorts of ambience, which also includes what we refer to as a particular style of a musician or a band; whatever you listen to also starts defining your ambience, and so, it is your own moments and memories that determine the ambience of the music and your memory of the music. Some years ago, I used to go for swimming early morning and would always keep a loud song for the alarm- now that song always reminds me of the smell of chlorine! The song is never right or wrong, the music is never good or bad- its just you and what is around you that makes anything, if at all.

A Story of Two Buses

[Image courtesy: https://www.gapyear.com/countries/india/getting-around]

I quickly sought to repress the waves of horror that threatened to rise in my chest as I caught my first glance of the bus- peeling paint, sketchy windows, strange people, and rickety seats. I gulped down my panic, and took deep long breaths; nothing is impossible, and if nothing is impossible, I would survive fourteen hours in this bus. Before I even realize, I told myself, the journey would be over and we would have reached our charming little destination. After all, I told myself some more, it wasn’t the vehicle, but the company which matters, and my company was my best friends. What more could one need, I tried to convince myself. Getting on the bus, I realized with a shudder that it was worse than it looked from outside. The seats barely had any cushioning, the floor seemed dirty, there wasn’t any leg space, and what bugged me was that it was going to be a long, long journey. The bus even had the funny red and blue lights and I realized it would be a close shave; I prayed for survival.

For the way back, I made sure that we return in the best bus there could be, and got everyone to agree upon it. A ticket for this bus was more than double the price of the first one, but it was our 5-star bus. It had more leg space than we ever thought possible, cosy blankets, puking bags, levers which would make our seats ever so comfortable, and huge windows for the perfect view. “This is one thing you did right, Srishti,” a friend told me, as I curled up in my huge, velvety seat with the AC on full blast. There was a lazy, dim lull in the air, the smoothness of brand new plastic, the relentless air conditioning, moveable armrests, thigh rests and polished flooring. Life was good, we thought, before the bus started. After a crazy four days of trekking and camping, life was good and clean and comfortable.

With a jolt, I realized that our journey forward in that HPTC bus, our comfort-less journey, our patchy bus characters, our tottering bus trumped our journey back in our 5-star Volvo- it was funny and uncanny.

It was all a matter of space; as a word, it is much overused and little understood, it is essential and it is dangerous, it is the point of familiarity and the point of contempt. In that shaky bus, we were stuck together, behind the fast wind that ran through the open windows and beneath the ultra-cool Chandni Bar lights, we were stuck together. Due to the lack of space, we sat a lot closer to each other, making pillows out of each other, adjusting our sleep according to the person next to us- we gave up our shoulders and our sides, took the necks and the backs, and made a concoction, a funny little concoction, of adjustment and love. Ties strengthened not just amongst ourselves, but conversations came up with our peculiar bus members, the most surreal of whom was the smackey, who considered it perfectly alright do smack in the bus and ask the other passengers to shut their windows so he could get a better hit.

The Volvo which took us back gave us ample space, which in the end became a hindrance to conversations- the lazy seats gave us all the comfort, but took away the fun, when it was so easy to sleep off, for the journey lost its charm.  With distance comes your own space, and with that, certain limitations. A very smart mother that I know of made both her daughters share a room despite the fact that their gigantic house had so many other rooms- more often than not, spacing determines bonds.

This isn’t a romanticization- if I have to make such a journey again, I’d definitely be more inclined to take the comfortable bus. This is merely a set of observations about two buses, and how different arrangements can create differences, so that one can realize, that sometimes, it is okay, to travel in other ways, to look for stories beyond comfort and luxury, and to try and understand the range of the spectrum, about this weird little thing called life.