Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Burden of the Present

Early in the morning they drop me at the railway station. It is a state car with the emblem. As I get down from the back seat, as the young man who has escorted me to the station takes my bag out from the car's boot, people with their sleep ridden eyes look at me curiously thinking that I am someone from the government with a designated vehicle. This has happened to me before too. I understand each time the intoxication and high that authority could induce in one's mind.

I pick up my bag which has become heavier with the materials and books that the artists have given me, bid goodbye to the driver and the young man, avoid making eye contact with the curious people around and walk straight into the station. On platform number three my train has already arrived. Surprised I lug myself towards the overbridge that for a moment looks unsurmountable with the heavy bag in my hand. Panting and puffing, I climb the flight of stairs and alight at the third platform. Luckily the air conditioned chair car in which they have booked me is right there next to the foot of the bridge.

I go inside. I see weary faces of early morning passengers here and there. Just as they are bored they look at me with eyes deprived of sleep and then they go back to their day dreaming or into desperate efforts catch some sleep. I haul my bag and place it on the side racks above my head. I have a very bad cold. To add to my misery the air conditioner in the coach blasts down heavy loads of cold air on my head and neck. I feel sick. Then I do something that I have never done before. I open my bag and pull out a woollen shawl which I had packed when I left Delhi, knowing that by the time I return it would be winter. I cover myself with it and I feel strange. I have never covered myself in Kerala, that too with a woollen shawl.

The shawl and the notebook in my had give me a sort of avuncular look and obviously nobody these days write inside a moving train. If I had seen someone writing down something in a notebook, I would have definitely taken that person either for an old school writer or a member of some legislative body who had to prepare notes, while on the move during a busy schedule. I look absolutely retro. These days nobody uses a notebook and pen. Most of the people prefer to work on their computers, notepads, tabs or smart phones. Going back to a retro mode is deliberate and I cannot insist that everyone does it because as they we cannot set the course of history in reverse. If someone wants he could leave all modern technology behind and live a retro life. But that cannot be advocated; it should remain a personal choice.

Through the large glass window I could see the landscape slowly becoming visible as the first rays of the sun pierce through a reluctant darkness and the fog above the trees. The misty morning looks so alluring that I feel like walking into it. However, I warn myself: anything seen through a tinted glass will be  far removed from the reality. But I know the quality of the landscape on either side of the railway tracks. There are hardly any houses; what you see is the large expanse of lush green in different forms. Some run horizontally and melt into the horizon line. Trees with different contours look like individuals with different characters, standing sternly at their places, ignoring the people inside the passing trains. It is an ancient land. If you hark patiently you could hear the voices spoken by the trees. As if to transmit their secret whisperings to the winds, beyond one could see transmission towers of telephone service providers jutting out of the foliages, as anachronism of modernity.

The train passes over a small culvert with a clear brook running beneath. A white crane stands still. Up there along the electricity lines birds of different sorts sit and debate the course of the day.

Nature muted by a running carriage overwhelms me.I take out my phone and skim through it; mails, WhatsApp and Facebook. I take a selfie. Dissatisfied by my looks, I consign the picture to the delete box. In Facebook, people have posted so many things and a majority of it looks like latin to me as I am not tuned to the daily routine of sporadic updates by so many people who I hardly know. Then I look at some pages of certain journalists. Birds of a feather flock together, they say. In those pages I see the birds of the same species. I find them burdened by the Present. Whatever they have posted, though seems to have clear thoughts behind it, are apparently too close to our times and look shallow. They are debating very crucial issues. But all of them took a voyage on a paper-boat in a shallow sea. I fail to see the glimpses of historical depths.

For many of those who post those opinions and those who comment on them, it is a question of life and death. In their engagement, they look serious and sincere. They are so close to the issues that I wonder if they would ever be able to detach from those issues. Their innocence and verve makes me think of them as children in role play games; they pretend as their parents, teachers, shop owners, politicians, lawmakers, historians, scientists, and so on. This brings a smile to my lips. I look at the names and find most of the familiar. Soon they transform in front of my eyes and they become strange people with strange opinions and strange behaviour. I suddenly understand that they are simply doing what they are expected to do. They are just following their calling and path. I am the one who has been wandering in the woods of history, often lost or distracted.

Inside the train coach, I realise that I can never agree with the world around me. When he world is right, I am definitely wrong. If I am right, then he world should be wrong. How could I bring about the alignment with the world? The world is so fast and I am too slow to catch up with it. Ironically, I don feel the need to catch up with the world. Yet I feel pain when I see disparities among people abound around. I feel miserable when people connect even with the nature with the aid of technology. A scenery is no longer a scenery until it turns out to be a digital image which could be zoomed in and zoomed out. A reality is a reality only when it is debated in the social media. We have only mediatized realities now. The nature out there looks so close yet distant from this railway coach.

(Images courtesy Internet)

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