Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Of Strangers and the Like

Strangers are the kindest people in the world. They are also the people who can casually fuck your being for a decade if not longer.

Strangers are reflections of ourselves that we get to meet once in a while, in strange lands, on beach benches, on the street, in the theatre, just before the big competition, minutes after the major embarrassment. Strangers are those who you share an inadvertent moment with, without forethought, without addendum. Strangers are mum and dad moments after you were born. Strangers are children when they become people. Strangers are what you leave behind in a mirror, on the glass walls, on the windows of cars you walk on by. Strangers are without context, without meaning, without responsibility. They exist merely in the moment. Strangers are your personality, your experience, your super ego, your dark side, they are your guardian angels.

They exist without you, separated from you, in their own lives with their own strangers. They are cruel, they are selfish, they are people just like you. They are irresponsible, they are lonely, they are lost just as much as you. Strangers make that part of your life that you couldn’t or wouldn’t imagine. Which is why, when you meet them and when you realise how similar they are to you, despite the disparate lives and backgrounds you are from, you are amazed. Strangers are the only way you experience the stupendousness of life, the surreal imagery of it that spins through every being you lay your eyes on. Strangers belong to and cultivate that field which you call reality.

And they do not exist until the moment you meet them.

Stranger of the Day

I am on my way to Candies to go about my usual business of typing away while I watch the crowd. Himanshu says I stare, which is not true. I watch. Yes, occasionally, my eyes might linger on someone - a woman mostly - longer than what is considered appropriate. But I think the universe needs to know that it has done a good job.  And who, but us, as its subjects would reassure her of that?

I try a different route again, hoping to find a short cut. My sense of direction is still hopeless, but don’t hang on to this statement, for it will change soon. Some kids are just being sent home and I barely notice their faces, just that they are there. An auntie heralds me on the street. I prepare myself with the ordeal of giving directions. Once this girl in a car asked me where Bagel Shop is. I pointed somewhere and said some something and then I pointed to an angle thirty degrees different from the first one and said something else. And she said, ‘Ok, so you don’t know.’ Is there an exclamation mark for rude? A lot of strangers are rude, and somehow a good percent of them want something from you. ‘Beta, do you have change for a hundred?’ ‘No, auntie.’ ‘Dammit! Nobody has change.’ Strangers, you see, in any particular moment, are a reflection of the rest of the world. You can’t ever take that position slightly. The reason why people think the world is f*d up is because the strangers they meet are all f*d up.

The auntie, thank goodness, did not want my naturally disappointing advice on direction. She came straight to the point.

Beta, do you give tuitions?

What? Err…

Can you teach? She asks with an urgency that says I need to rise to the occasion. I nodded noncommittally. I had every intention to teach one day. My dad is a lecturer and those good genes aren’t going nowhere (pun intended).

I mumble something that I could give it a try and she waits not a second longer to drag me home with her. Don’t be scared, she says and damn right she was at that. There was a tiny gully filled with Mumbai’s famous one room kitchens and then another gully of them. A left and a right and some more directions I’ll never remember and we’re at her place. She has three kids. A girl who writes anime fan fiction. Auntie was quite glad she brought home a writer to introduce to her daughter. The boy I was supposed to teach was about ten or eleven. And then there was another boy.

I get six hundred a month, two hours a day. Auntie will tell me everything about how to make the kid study when I start tomorrow.

I tell her I need to think about it. What’s there to think about, she says, commanding an answer. I might have some appointments I need to push, I lie nervously. Come, teach and go back home half hour early, she dictates, don’t worry about the money. If I like your work, I’ll pay you extra. I’m a fair and generous person who always helps those in need.

Shook to my core, I try to show gratitude. Who doesn’t need help?

I’ll see you tomorrow then.


Go on, run now.

Going…just looking for my wits. 

Take a right when you get down and walk on straight.


I walk on straight from right. I hit a wall. I take a left. I hit a puddle. I keep walking. Amazingly, I land up at the same road the auntie whisked me away from. Mrs. Abbas, sorry, I don’t think she prefers to be called Auntie. And then I get on the hill and down again towards Pali. There I meet another strange old man who kissed me on Carter Road the other day. He said Happy Friendship Day before he did that and gave me a warm hug before doing it. Today, he tried to repeat the same routine, but I stopped him and told him kissing is bad. How is your health, I ask, for I remember last time he told me about some problems with intimacy. Do you live with your boyfriend, he asks in return, and suggests we can live together when I say no. I find out he used to have a cable shop and now he’s not doing anything. Well, apart from losing his mind.
I tell him to take care of himself and walk away. I take a right just when the road starts getting busy and now I’m here.

Tomorrow, I teach.

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