Monday, March 09, 2009

On The Road

Anecdote 1

It was a weekend and an early morning flight. I was en route to a friend's wedding. As I queued up at the check-in desk, still sore at having to let go off my weekend snooze, a man sidled up at the counter, slightly unsure, but without bothering to go through the queue. Different cities do different things to you. My home city taught me to be patient and timid, kind but not very self-confident. My adopted city though has ensured I am full of the same bristling restlessness that takes you through days when politeness and patience don't work. The sight of the man jumping the queue raised my hackles immediately, in exactly the same way as it does every day in this city, a dozen times a day actually, dealing with people either too full of themselves or too insolent to care (Maybe the two states are synonymous?). As the conversation at the counter dragged on, I fidgeted and made snide remarks to A, insisting that I go up to the counter and tick the man off. I had been at it for a while, when A, exasperated, pointed out a tiny pin on the man's shirt, which I had failed to see. It had a single word on it: blind, and suddenly, in that fraction of a second, the wind was completely knocked out of me.

There are things one is afraid of in life. I am scared of blindness, both physical and metaphysical, and the implications of it, not just in my life, but in the lives of those whom I cherish the most. To see this man-- non-descript and averagely dressed, but with enough confidence to make him an equal in an unyielding world--brought back images of another man doing the same, in a faraway hinterland, slightly better than him, but struggling nonetheless to hold on to the legacy of sight...Who knows whether some insensitive individual mistakes his valiance for faults unknown, just like his daughter did to some other man?

Anecdote 2

In a tiny city in western Europe, against an overwhelming cathedral an old lady in a wheelchair sits alone staring in to the distance. Her face is wrinkled, but not sad. If you take the time to look, there's a twinkle in her eyes that belies the fact that the half cents that you drop in to her lap would probably go a long way in getting her a meal. Two kids on their way out of the church, stop to speak to her, their father standing in the distance, smiling indulgently at them. The old lady's face lights up and it's a pretty picture as the three of them chat animatedly. The lady's still smiling when the children wave goodbye and move away. It's evening almost and the daytrippers are on their way out of the city. As she sits there counting her day's earning, the setting sun rests on her face for just an instant. Age can be cruel, loneliness crueller...