Saturday, March 19, 2011

Through the Looking Glass: From a Car

I look out of the car window and see so many people milling about – in cars, on foot. Standing, walking. Talking on phone, staring in the distance. Smiling and brooding. Children and adults.

And I see possibilities. So many stories – they could have been mine if Providence had so chosen.

There’s that woman in a saree leading her son by hand to school. I wonder how old is she. I try to judge from her face. Not too lined. Her son also looks to be a pre-schooler. May be she is my age. Is she happy to be who she is? Is she content? Would she have been happier, if she was I? Would I have found her life better? Perhaps the answer to all the questions is “Yes”. Who knows? But speculation is interesting.

Then there’s this old gentleman sitting by the road on a stool, soaking in the winter sun. He is dressed in a white kurta and pajama. His beard is white with age and perhaps wisdom. He seems serene as he slowly discusses the matters of the world with a young man. The latter does not seem to be his son or any kind of relative. Perhaps, he is a neighbour. Maybe, the two meet every morning in this same spot to share their first cup of tea and exchange greetings. The younger man on the way to work. The older looking only for that conversation. I try to gauge whether the old man would be my grandfather’s age. I wonder what he would be like as a grandpa. He seems to be benevolent and the kind who would spoil his grandchildren. I think I would have liked him in that role. But my grandpa is fun too. I smile and move on.

At the crossing, the light turns red. A swanky red car comes and stops next to mine. A very young man seems to be driving it. Only a teenager perhaps. He seems to be concentrating hard on the road. Who knows what’s on his mind? May be a date with his girlfriend. Or the Saturday night party. Or may be the upcoming exams. Would he make it to that coveted college? Would his dad be happy with his decision to join an acting school or fine arts? There’s so much pressure on him to do well. This car was a gift because he had managed to stay at the top of his class. But it seems like blackmail.

I can make out the music is blasting in the car, even though the windows are rolled up. I cannot make out the song but the beats reach out to me in waves.

On the other side in a very dashing black Honda City, a man in a pinstriped suit is very seriously reading the Economic Times. Not for him the frivolity of music. But I am probably being unkind. He could be a great lover of music. Only it does not suit his mood today. For all I know his work life balance is better than mine. He has hobbies, he keenly pursues. He is a lover of arts. Can play the guitar himself. Loves reading books and debating. A loving father and devoted husband. Then my thoughts take an uncharitable turn. What if he is a total snob? His polish and sophistication only a veneer to hide an acute lack of self-respect. I would not like him for my own boss. Thank god, he is not. And the signal turns green.

Oh, look. There’s that bunch of college girls. They probably go to the same college as I did. Was it so long ago? Do they talk about the same things as we did? The same giggling and conspiratorial tones. Plans to bunk college and bitching about the rigorous attendance requirements. Exchanging notes and planning get-togethers. College fest coming up – so what about the dress code? There’s a sale on in the nearby malls. Maybe they can find some good deals – mix and match clothes and jewellery to put together a cool ensemble.

They walk on towards that mall and my car travels the really short distance left to office. And there ends my imagination’s hour out. Until the evening.

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