A journey not-so-usual.
I obscurely remember hitting the snooze button. The next I regain my consciousness is when it is past 08:30. My college is supposed to begin by 09:30. Considering the fact that I have already missed the college bus and that it takes me around an hour and a half to reach my college, I clearly have missed the lecture on Contemporary Issues of Society. With this, I miss the class of Sociology for some nth time now. To my consternation, the dread of shortage of attendance is filling the air around.
I swear as I jump out of the bed, making the same resolution I had made yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that day, that I have to work on my sleep cycle. My motivation at this hour, like every day, is unparalleled. It vaporises at a decent rate as the day progresses. Enough is enough, but never for me in this case it seems. I run to the bathroom and try to be as quick with getting freshen up as possible.
While brushing and staring at my reflection, I take a moment to have pity on my condition, eyes being guarded by dark circles circumferentially, dehydrated looking skin, lethargic being… I am a mess. I decide not to eat anything as of now and push it for later during the journey. Clearly, trying to do things in a hurry takes away the soul of doing them.
I dress myself up in the clothes I have selected the night before and while doing so I give a word of thanks to my yesterday-self for the deed. I’m in love with this lavender top I’m wearing. It has this synthetic fluffy tuft in place of a brooch which looks akin to real feathers. It’s probably the only good thing in my day, as of now.
I take hold of my backpack, mobile phone, and the room keys and move out of the door. While locking the door, I realise that when we try to make haste, we take more time than usual to accomplish the tasks. Irony… check. I then put the keys in the smallest compartment of my backpack, hurriedly put on the sneakers and make my way out.
I come across the home owner while running towards the main gate. She is in her primes and I share a bittersweet relationship with her. I wish her good morning as she waters the plants in the park. She nods with a smile and goes on to add a mocking remark “Late, again?” I pass off my embarrassment as a bashful smirk. Meanwhile I’m fighting off the thought that she must be judging me real bad.
This revives my anger for the college administration for not providing hostel rooms to freshers. It turns a thing of inconvenience. As I step outside, I sense the invisible rays of summer sun falling on my face. I squeeze my eyes as I take a deep breath and brace myself for the goings-on.
This piteous state is something that I have been living with each day for I don’t know how long now, maybe since I got done with the school thing. I often wonder how I managed to maintain such a good attendance record back in the school days, given the fact that school started even earlier. Now I’m hardly on time. I recall this event from my memory lane when a friend had jested that those who are always late, end up politicians. I’m neither convinced nor the idea is reassuring.
I don’t have the confidence or the stamina to run on the roadside, so I negotiate by taking long strides in order to save the time and energy to reach the bus terminus. After a billion thoughts to adapt to a disciplined life, silent curses aimed at self for sleeping not on time, and some 5–6 minutes, I reach the stop. I find myself too impatient to even take a seat. Isn’t it strange how I have been encountering this state of restlessness for so long now, still I’m not acclimatised to it?
The rumbling in my stomach acts the reminder. I better consume something , if not, my stomach will get devoured by its own acids. I run to the stall nearby and grab a pack of biscuits. To my chagrin, I discern that while rushing off in a frenzy in the morning, I forgot to pack a bottle of water, so I end up buying the mineral water bottle. At this point I am mortified with myself for I have decided umpteenth times to cut off these unnecessary expenses but I end up in this toxic cycle each time. I wonder why don’t I make peace with the actuality that things are not going to change this way — without putting in real effort?
The bus arrives shortly after I move back to the stop. I put the half empty packet of biscuits and the water bottle in my bag and mount the bus. Since these are rush hours, it is crowded. The inspiriting thing here is that a considerable number of people will disembark on the next stop that comes after a couple of miles or so. This I can tell with certitude. I take hold of the handgrip over my head and I acknowledge my sleepy and tired state. The saddest part is that the day hasn’t even started with its proceedings yet. My tired eyes explore all that passes by along the road side as the bus moves, none worth remembering, just the stuff my eyes are now used to.
The much anticipated stop arrives and my body moves accordingly to make way for the leaving party. I try to make myself seated in the nearest accessible seat. I take off my bag from my back and put it on my lap as I sit down, and my legs express their gratitude.
My seat-mate today happens to be an elderly woman, probably in her early 60s. She passes a gregarious smile towards me as I take a look at her. I have to smile back. Manners. I observe she is well groomed than most people of her age.
“Are the feathers on your dress from an endangered species?”
Half way through the question I realise this query is meant for me. I must have subconsciously thought that she is using this light-hearted tease as a conversation starter. I say this because of the answer I blurted out. “No, they all committed suicide in the wild.” I for sure was thinking on my toes. Face palm moment.
To my surprise, she breaks into laughter. I feel relieved that she didn’t take the offence for you know how condescending elders are and they kind of feel entitled to the respect that they may or may not deserve.
She goes on, “Suicide jokes ain’t funny anymore. They are dead now.”
That response does amaze me for such sense of sarcasm is rare for her age, or so I believe.
In my defence, I proceed, “It still made you laugh, did it not?”
With this we break into a conversation, mostly she asking me the things. I am not that good at chatting with strangers and it clearly shows. But to my astonishment, with her I feel a bit at ease. I guess it has to do with her gender and age, but also with the fact that she somehow reminds me of my Grandmother. My only left link to our ancestry from that generation. I sense a mild guilt for not having spoken to her in a long time, thanks to the precipitous lives. No ‘time’ to appreciate the worthy.
At least this exchange is making me think past my messed up schedule and other tensions pertaining to life right now. We share with each other a thing or two about ourselves, including our destinations and motives behind. I learn she is a retired headmistress and is on her way to visit her relatives. I tell her about my major and minors in college and also how I’m running late.
We keep on talking about random stuff and I miss my Grandma all the more. She comes off as scholarly, something I had not expected given the exposure female folks of her times, in this part of the world, enjoyed. Nonetheless, I am impressed.
Our conversation shifts to discussing the times when she was my age, so obviously differences are going to be drawn. She reveals how it troubles her on the part of younger people who are more often than not rushing to get things accomplished. She misses the slow paced lives.
She adds, “It is an illusion what we have accepted as the new normal. It can just not be that. To relax and slow down often — that is the normal and it should be treated as such; along with being present, focusing on people, appreciating the nature and finding pleasure in little things. Maybe also doing less at times and doing nothing at all at others.”
I am astonished how different this advice sounds. Most often elders lose me at that point in the conversation when they start bashing my generation. In my judgement, we belong to different times, we are separated by far more things than just age, so things got to be different for us. We can’t expect to have the same lifestyle esp. with all this technological breakthrough. It has turned things different on various levels. As a result of this all, we inhabit disparate worlds of thought. Why, then, draw comparisons?
I guess it’s how she puts it that makes it digestible and given my present state, it makes me question a lot of things about our notion of modernisation already. Plus, she herself is a good example with her calm demeanour. She is actually here, present. It is not that common with people of my generation. We remain lost mostly and we are aware of it.
A juxtaposition it is in itself — the two of us sitting next to each other.
I notice the fine lines and deep wrinkles on her face that change their course as her facial expressions change. I believe in it lies a strange sort of beauty, so unalike the prevalent concept.
I admire how far ahead her experience of life would be as compared to mine. All these years of experience, and it is all hers; for none to share. She may share a word of wisdom or two, as per her liking, as she is doing now, but a person’s experience, all in all, is the most personal characteristic ever!
Our discourse makes me question my take at life like never before. It is reminiscent of talks with my Granny back home, so full of experience and insight. Unfortunately, those quality times with her are so far spaced.
She realises it’s about time for her to get off. This makes me register that it’s been around half an hour for us having these discussions. I get that sour feeling that one gets when someone, one is really fond of, leaves. I really wish time would stretch. I try not to show my disheartening, instead I wish her a good day ahead and express it was nice talking to her. I mean it. She acknowledges it with her beaming face and the last thing she tells me is that I remind her of her granddaughter. Her stop arrives and bus takes a halt. She goes on to say some words of blessings as I make way for her exit. She stands up and leaves.
I wave at her from the window. She waves back at me as the bus departs again.
My source of distress currently is the wrong idea of modernism we are nourishing. Maybe because it is ignorance that more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. What good is the much applauded change, given most of us are in a pursuit of some future happiness for which we are compromising the tranquil of the present?
We are almost always tired with poor sleep patterns. For instance, I wake up as tired as I went to sleep. Her words are alive in my mind, “We keep on rushing each moment to get stuff done”. Reduced to a perfect nonplus, I think how at the end of the day we find ourselves still not content with our accomplishments.
I question myself, when was the last time I took a pause to appreciate that the present has to offer? Everything happens too quickly to stop. All the while I am but complaining. What good has the technology done but made our minds it slaves? This I can very well relate to provided how I am mostly glued to my phone screen, for the most part just for the halibut and seldom for its utility.
What I fear the most is, in future when I look back, I shall not regret for stressing over some petty issues that falsely appeared significant back then.
I decide to rethink into certain aspects of life, including:
For mostly I pass my time being busy, but barely productive. I reevaluate her suggestion of the essence of slow paced life.
So basically, it’s that simple. The antidote to the fast living in this day and age is slowing down itself, so that the time begins to match pace with us. Even thinking about it makes me sense the arrival of spaciousness in my day that I previously couldn’t feel.
My mind drags me back to my sweet Grandma. Without her, my existence would be impossible. Also, who can forget the unconditional love she bestows upon me? What an uncelebrated treasure! Lost in our days and tasks, we forget to comprehend the power of the old that is keeping the world stable.
People often think it is a matter of good deed to give old people ones time. We might not be totally at fault with such a thought, but it’s a myopic ideology. There lies no helplessness of them, rather conversing with them is going to enhance our understanding of certain things, that we might not have time to experience first hand. We often overlook the fact that it’s not easy to adjust to the changing times, so they need to be appreciated even more for doing the same.
When this train of thoughts ended, I find myself reaching for my cell phone and in the To-do list I enter:
- Call Grandma. Express love and admiration.
I can’t give much assurance of my memory. So, I set an alarm for it lest I forget. Yeah, that bad.
I return the cellphone to its place. Smiling like a fool to myself — anticipating a conversation with my Granny after I return from college — I wait for my stop to arrive.
Disclaimer: All persons fictitious.
Dedicated to My Grandparents, who made me experience the kind of tenderness like none other.