Friday, March 15, 2013

A Three Course Meal and a Book in Hand


I am calling this series - Stories from Traveling by Public Transport in Bangalore

Day: Thursday, 14th March 2013
Time: 8AM

As I sat in the bus, headed to work, a girl was seated to my left. I was reading “The Pilgrimage” by Coehlo, one of my favourite authors. Something about the girl was distracting me. I re-read a sentence almost thrice and still wasn’t able to move on with my reading. That’s when it happened!

The girl by my side, unzipped her backpack (a tell-tale sign that you are in the IT capital of India is people with laptop bags that contains what seems like everything one would need to stay alive stranded in a desert for an entire month!), she fished out a packet of something. She began opening the packet, the plastic making enough noise to fill the usual silence inside the a/c environs of the Volvo bus. The noise was bad enough as I tried telling myself that I was needlessly irritated because I couldn’t concentrate on my reading, and out came a biscuit, Bourbon cream layered biscuit at that. And I thought to myself “The poor girl has probably not had her breakfast and is just hungry.”

Feeling slightly less irritated, I got back to reading the same sentence for the fourth time. You might thing I’d have moved on with my reading but it was not to be.

As the biscuit was bitten into, what followed was slightly worse than the racket of the plastic packet a few moments earlier. It you have had the good fortune of witnessing someone chewing their food with great abandon; crumbs flying out and much chewing sounds emanating right from the gut upwards to the throat and out through the mouth, I strongly recommend that you stop reading this now. I could try to help you visualize what I was witness to but that would mean taking away your innocence a little bit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moving on, as the biscuit was consumed with great passion and oblivious to the God-Knows-Why discomfort it might have caused any co-passengers aboard, out came the packet once again. Oh yes! The packet was promptly stashed away into the bag after the first biscuit was freed from its shackles. The entire scene repeated.

That’s when my eyes met the eyes of another girl sitting on the other side of the aisle by the window. Very briefly, mind you, a mutual electrifying bond was created between her and I.

I got back to the sentence, now probably my most favoured sentence in the book, for the fifth time. The chewing and devouring had stopped so there was some hope that I might be able to digest the full meaning of this elusive sentence from a book by after all my favourite author.

No such luck, my lovelies. My very considerate and hungrylicious neighbour prepared to unzip the bag once again. This time though, I was mentally prepared for the onslaught of the sounds that would follow as she devoured yet another biscuit, chewing with her mouth so wide open that just maybe, the entire backpack might have fit into it.

However, I was in for a great disappointment because this time around, a noisier yellow and green packet emerged. Lo and behold! It was a packet of potato wafers (also known as chips before wafers became the cooler term to use).

Our eyes met once more, the electrifying bond converted into a shared smile, a nod and then each of us looking out of our respective windows to distract ourselves from the uncontrollable distraction that was my neighbour. After what seemed like an hour of the repeat performance but with crunchier and more crackling sounds added to it, the pack went back into the great abyss of the backpack. To be fair to my co-passenger, I must clarify that this wafery episode lasted about 10 minutes (let it not be said that I exaggerated or stretched the truth, thereby rendering my writing a work of fiction. There, I’ve set the record straight.)

Finally, I re-read that lovely sentence written after great thought (I am sure) by Mr. Coehlo.  I moved on to the next sentence and then the next and so on. There was peace at last and my world was spinning at the right speed yet again. Happy and content, I was now deeply engrossed in my book.

The end? Definitely not… just a small scene left, I promise.

Yes, the bag was unzipped one last time. As I imagined all the crunchy, crispy, crumby and noisy packaged food imaginable in the world being retrieved from the great, big bag, I was let down yet again, as a small box appeared instead. Fortunately, I was disappointed only for just a few seconds. My girl’s hand overturned the box and brought out two small pieces of innocent looking rectangular white tablet-like elements and popped them into her harmless looking mouth. Chewing gum, what luck! And then the chewing began right into my ears, for now she had a great urge to look out the window over my shoulder as well!

One last time, our eyes met and this time the bond that had transformed into a shared smile moved to the next level in our newfound relationship – uncontrollable laughter and yes, we did sense all our co-passengers smiling pityingly at me, while my neighbour was oblivious and continued with the movement of her lower mandible while peering over my shoulder.

And so I had no choice but to shut my book, put it into my very own IT signature-style backpack and sit through the next 20 minutes or so to reach my destination, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature so close to me. I was blessed. Amen.
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