No sooner had I blessed myself for being first in the queue, and had dug myself into reading a noted historian’s much-talked about interview on ‘past is present’, my ‘present’ was shattered by a middle-age intruder who had unapologetic-ally pushed me into the second place.Before I could realize my relegated position, and prepare myself for an unlikely verbal assault, the occupant had blurted…. follow the queue……..it seemed to me a calculated defense by him to camouflage social infringement of breaking the queue. Reasonably well-dressed and presumably (re)tired, the intruder had a bag tucked under his armpit. Pushing and shoving the alighting passengers, I could hear him babble……follow the queue….. and found him seated much earlier than most others.
As luck would have it, I found myself sitting next to him. Once seated, then intruder and now my neighbor had unzipped his bag and pulled out an apple, rubbed it on his trouser like my favorite cricketer Glenn McGrath and quickly bowled it into his mouth. Six bowling attempts later he had fired his canon again…..had a desire to live……wondered, if it was some mixture of insecurity and ambition, pessimistic utterance on plausible optimism in life? Did he fire his cannon accidentally or had wanted to share something but not sure when, where and with whom!
Apparently oblivious of his doing, he had caught the attention of most fellow passengers. Most were indifferent but none could avoid him. Knowing well that the human mind seldom arrives at an objective assessment on any subject before first reaching the extremity of error, I had held myself from making any judgement. My chain of thoughts were broken when he had blurted again ……had a desire to live. Unless I could sense the nature, degree and duration of the psychological stress he might have been going through, it was something that I found hard to delve into.
‘Are you 65?’, he had surprised me with his unwarranted query. Without lifting my eyes from the interview I was half-reading, I had responded saying that I had been bad at mathematics and therefore could rarely achieve 60 (per cent) in my life, and suggested instead that I was quite some distance from making the ‘senior citizen’ mark. Not undone by my response, he had wondered if I was into yoga and regular exercises. My response in affirmative had prompted him to blurt again……..had a desire to live……before alighting from the train.
Isolation within families and loneliness in public has become routine, such figures wander the earth like vegetables in the businesswear of their lives. It is happening with such a regularity and is so common that most of us have become blissfully unaware of the serious malaise hitting the underbelly of our society.
I was left tearing the boundaries of normality in making a sense of his life and life in a metro.
(based on a true encounter in the Delhi Metro)
(Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma is the Director of Ecological Foundation, New Delhi)