The other day, I was returning home in a cab from work when a TMT bus, a veritable sardine can on wheels, parked itself alongside, at a signal that had just turned red. Speeding as it was on a crater-filled road that also threw up dust and cement from the flyover construction site nearby, it almost nose-dived before it stopped with a forceful jerk. All the commuters—those sitting uncomfortably in their seats and those standing with their bodies glued together by the sweat and grime of a day’s work—were first pushed violently forward, then backward and forward again, before they could steady themselves and untwist their twisted arms that held on for dear life to coiled, worn-out handles. Next, I heard some expletives fly out above the blaring horns, screeching tyres and racing motors. The bus looked angry as people gathered themselves after disentangling their bodies from the mass of limbs that had flailed about when the bus driver had braked abruptly.
I have seen crowded buses before but this one looked like no air could circulate inside it. Though I was comfortably ensconced in the cab, I started feeling asphyxiated and claustrophobic. Gratitude filled my heart. I was privileged. I wasn’t in that bus trying hard to breathe. The forces that create us had been kind to me. ‘What if?’ I thought, as a chill ran down my spine, all that I have taken for granted vanished overnight? What if I had no car, no money to travel by cab, no roof over my head, nothing? What would I do? Suddenly, nothing felt permanent—not my clothes, my books, my little desk at home, my job, the plants I watered every morning, the people in my life, the buildings, the park, the bank accounts, the pan card, the passport, the cheque book, the travel plans, the vision board, the dreams! I shuddered!
What would I do?” Where would I go? What would I have? The sky would hopefully not turn its back on me. The sun would rise and set. The moon would flood the nights with silver light and stars would twinkle. I could take these for granted. Well, maybe. My fears made me doubt even that which seemed to have always been around and seems eternal. Love would still cause heartburn, longing and all the bitter-sweet things love does. I imagined myself standing under the azure sky, looking upward, all alone, wondering which direction to take. I pictured myself in the wilderness. Long stretches of land, wildly green, sullen brown and grey and orange. It terrified me. It liberated me. It deposited me into a fantastic world where anything was possible and everything was, at the same time, so dangerously adventurous! Would I be able to live without my Blackberry and vada paav and hot running water and a clean loo? If there was a way in which I could find out without it ever happening, I’d love to take a walk in the wilderness.