On a bus ride from Mapusa to Siolim

February 2nd, 2019

Reduced to insignificance
on a bus ride from Mapusa to Siolim.
I push my thoughts of chores pending
to a corner in a stall
that houses glass bottles of coke and 7up.

It’s easy to distract myself.

My co-passengers feel like
the supporting cast
on a stage set for me.
But when I look out the window
I become the viewer.
There are too many lives emerging into my vision –
through the window of my bus,
like a screen televising the lives of the common men and women –
each a distinct life,
each a star of their own show.

A little boy stands out
with his brown skin
in his khaki clothes
carrying a once-white tarpaulin sack
that now was umber.
A walking, burdened sepia tone.
He picks up empty plastic bottles that lay forgotten –
once full,
once used,
once thrown
to be picked up by a sepia-toned boy.

A pair of school girls
in navy blue skirts
and light blue shirts
with slender legs
footed in black ballet shoes.
One in deep thought
staring into her dreamscape
and the other
immersed in her mobile phone,
typing excitedly into it.
The one girl’s daydream
and the other girl’s recipient
are inadvertently parts
of the stories unfolding through my window.

The young man shouting ‘panajipanajipanaji’
in a single breath,
indicates the destination of the bus he “conducts”.

There’s a certain familiarity among strangers
when they are amidst each other’s unfamiliarity.
A sense of knowing
in not knowing.

The bus finally moves.
The still air of the city,
with its sun gazing at its perspiring citizens,
becomes softer and more loving
when the window travels across it.
My sweating pores are, needless to say,
grateful for the rumble of the bus’s engines.

Mapusa is not as much a city
like its counterparts
across the country.
But it’s a thriving,
tumultuous city nonetheless.
It boasts of a much more of a kooky personality
than the rest.
Contradictory lives intersect here and co-exist here
but it does not crowd.

Mapusa is proud of its aging.
Its buildings are worn out
and some even torn
but they still breathe.
And it’s not too big –
traveling across the city
took only 24 lines of my writing.

What a beautiful day to daydream!

The music on the bus is intrusively loud.
But I’m grateful that whoever’s playing the music
has good taste.
I enjoy a familiar slow and soothing Hindi song
whose name I don’t particularly recall.
The background score
to my visual day scape.

Every stall or a door or a window
or a gate or a passing vehicle or a pathway
is a drape that reveals a performance –
each unique and different from the other.
I steal quick glimpses like a voyeur –
without the observed’s knowledge.

I search for the locality’s name –
on boards swooshing past.
I find my nephew’s name on one of the boards.
I think of him.
I smile.
It’s Duler.

Goa’s locale names
are so alien to me
and hence, so strange to me,
that I love them.
I never pronounce the names right.
And even if I do, it never feels right.
I am yet to familiarise
the way the unfamiliar words
rest on my newly arrived tongue.

I see a flock of birds
– eagles or kites maybe –
flying round and round in the sky,
in the distance.
The new upbeat song doesn’t aid writing too well.

I make passing eye contact with an old woman
lounging in her home’s verandah
watching the passing vehicles on the road.

Houses, once homes,
are run over by nature’s untamed children.
Dressed in creepers and weeds,
they house memories.
A stage that once thrived with performances.

I sight cranes on the paddy fields.

The music is back to a soothing tempo.
I don’t want this journey to end.
I want to keep glancing at other lives.
I want to continue being a spectator.
I don’t want to take the center stage.

But it must end.

I see the now-familiar St Anthony’s Church
And the “Viva Siolim Sao Jao”
standing upright and proud
on the neighbourhood pond.

I realise I am home.
I am a stranger here,
but this is home.
Lives completely disparate to mine exist here .
All of them converge here,
while all of me fade into the background .
Dare I even say,
I like being just another passenger by the window seat.

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