I hear strange souls speaking while I am in a bus. They come to me, pull my ears and demand my attention. Often, while in bus rides either I am reading or looking at my mobile phone screen, racing to the last pages of a book or trying to debate things which are known to me and unknown to others. It is difficult when people speak two different languages and yet desire to communicate. Emoting icons that have been amply designed, developed and profusely provided in the mobile phone apps by tireless innovators in the realm of communication, come handy on such occasions; where words fail, different types of faces do the job. They represent a sort of ceasefire, boredom and permission to go. When you are distracted by the ordinariness of your own talks, when a yawn unknowingly escape from your mouth and the sudden release of your boredom causes some panic in you as the feeling of irreverence for the one in the other end starts haunting you, emoticons step into help. There will be a day when silence would take over all sorts of communications and everyone would feel the peace of being alone. A world of Buddhas. A world without wars. Terrorism could be one of those cheap games at the last row in a supermarket.
Hills come up suddenly; behind them clouds and sunlight do some airbrushing to make the evening so luscious and vague, in taste and look. A shower touches your elbow resting on the window. Slanting lines of water vigorously slice up air and everything beyond them looks photoshopped by a fresh hand who has not yet satisfied his curiosity in using too many filters in one go. The pastel effects and frayed edges make the journey easier as the shutters fall one by one with a cascading thud leaving the inside of the bus a dark cave. Soon the white lights open their eyes turning the standing figures so dark and stark; dark skins shine like metal plates coated with printing ink. A sudden brake, the forms move up, down, forward and backward, printing the images of one’s own self over others making the bus a print making studio of sorts. I see a heavy bottomed woman falling on the lap of an unsuspecting guy, who before holding her back to position sees her flying away to the driver’s cabin, through the windscreen, without shattering it. Like a painting of Chagall, out there figures float by. A goat flies away along the paths created by angels during their nights’ work. A pair of lovers in their wedding suites holds on to each other to resist the painter’s order to fly.
(A Painting by Marc Chagall)
I hear souls speaking. Today, while sitting alone in an Express Bus with no other person around, I heard someone calling out. The voice asked me, shall I come and sit next you? I said, yes. Then I felt the presence of that soul, heavily breathing. It had a weeping voice and it looked golden and blue. From the voice I thought the soul next to me spoke in the voice of china cups filled with crystals and water. As it went on with its wailing, I heard the voices of the forests, of the winding paths, the lonely churches, lost cemeteries, a gong that has been frozen in the middle of the air, a waterfall that has been vanished into thin air, the birds that have gone into the tome of an ornithologist, the snakes that have slithered on the books left unread, the doors that have never been opened or closed, the windows that caught a sky permanently as it backdrop, a house that has lost its eye, a moon that has just forgotten to rise or set, a planet stopped half way in turning, an angel decided to fly with a devil, a converted demonologist, the voices of three witches, that of a black soldier, the excruciating pain of a boxer who has just received a deep gash down there at his right eye, the penguins that slipped from one glacier and vanished, and of those inane voices of some minions.
I hark upon the voices hard. They make sense through the nonsense. The disembodied voices tell me the stories of success that has never been felt by the ones who have succeeded. One of the voices tells me how the students should respect their teachers. How they should wish the teachers as they walk in. It had a very boyish tone. I tried to locate the voice but in vain. It also clearly told me that if someone dies on a Thursday night and before Friday noon, the passing of the soul over to the other world becomes much easier. Then again the voice told me that the best form of death is when it freezes the person while he is at his prayers. The voice spoke of rigor mortis. I wanted to ask why the voice chose to speak of death in that cold and windy night. But I could not raise my voice. It was too heavy a feeling that even if tried to turn my neck and see from where the voice came. I kept my eyes closed and tried to listen to the noises that are familiar to me. I did and I heard the revving of the engine of the bus, the harsh noise of the tyres, the sharp noise of the tireless winds, the voices that the children had left in the primary school. I felt an eerie shock as I listened to the voices of children in the night. Their voices still linger on there in the school. The voice inside the bus had ceased.
I closed my eyes and tried to see the places in the darkness on either side. Yes, I could see. Even if I am rendered eyeless, I could ‘see’ these places. Now the bus comes down and then it goes up. Here comes the culvert and a bump. Right under the culvert there flows a stream and the little fishes with eyes above their heads always focus on the sun. Beyond the stream there is a stretch of paddy fields. A wave of green comes to you as wind flows by and it stops half way leaving a green line in the middle of the expanse. Like the waves in the sea , the waves of the rice blades do not come to you. I could see darkness and feel the utter silence of the darkness. I see the bus running through the tunnel of darkness, heavily panting and taking a difficult turn, blares its horn like a sickly horse that has just finished a task that it thought it could never do. I do not open my eyes. The soul has not just left my side. It sticks to me. It whispers something into my ears. I can hear it but now it has become absolutely incoherent. For the first time, I ask, why so incoherent. It is meant to be so, says the voice. I get down at the junction where the memory of a street lamp still lingers on and lights up the place without any source. I walk and listen and stop and listen. The soul has left me. But I am sure, in these words and sentences, it is there somewhere, lying hidden, listening to all what I have been telling so far.