Reasonable Good Intentions
Reasonable Good Intentions10 mins 25.5K 10 mins 25.5K
It would be a ridiculously understated observation: the roads were bumpy. Am aboard a KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) bus my destination uncertain at the moment as the bus driver was on a road rage, travelling at 80Kms/hour on a two lane with a 90 degree sharp curve up straight ahead. I was never a religious man but at this juncture I am considering a possible inclination towards the heavens, quite seriously. We were high on speed; the bumps-don’t matter; gravity check - we were still on planet earth; for now. The aforementioned turn is now, surprise! It was an uphill curve, we were there already and there was no stopping this driver who has never heard of the salient features of that device called breaks. We nearly sent a lady on a scooter to the gates of heaven, one must commend the reflexes of an average Indian biker; they are road ninjas, dodging projectiles the sizes of bus and cars at 80kms/hr.
As the bus whizzed through the narrow two lane, almost kissing boundary walls of ugly looking modern renditions of houses in traditional Keralite architecture, all of them painted in shades of violet, pink, orange and yellow, I couldn’t help notice a stark similarity between them and a badly done Microsoft paint job. The bus just then made a sudden stop and I held on to the railing with all my strength so as to not fall on someone thus killing them in that act and be booked for murder with a bus full of witnesses. I was growing paranoid by the second, the sudden inertia bought back bad memories of a car accident I was involved in, we didn’t kill anyone then.
But what if we had?
Even if we did, would I tell it out in the open?
What if me being in this bus with a driver who was obviously high on cocaine a part of karma? No wonder they say karma is a bitch but lucky me! I have never met her, so far.
Now I admit, I am a fat man , with these sharp turns, bumps, and uninvited inertia , I was unintentionally crushing testicles of my fellow passenger gentlemen, brushing against oversized sweaty breasts and bare stomachs of sari clad middle aged aunties that give a feeling of touching wet rubbery leather .It was not a turn on, quite the opposite, I maybe a pervert but I do have standards, these unfortunate predicaments generate angry stares, snarls and curses from these crones such that I desperately try dodge with fail giving out flurry of apologies and smiles that are mistaken for me being sexually aroused.
As the journey progressed towards the city, more and more people boarded the bus, encouraging and showing support to the driver. The stench of sweat and human flesh all jam packed together into a KSRTC bus on a death ride. We were a bunch of people with a death wish. None of our wishes in life came true and so we are all dejected, the governments failed us, and we failed our governments. What better way to die than while travelling in a government owned public transport? We were entitled for compensations and benefits from the government had the drivers’ mission succeeded. I was living the Indian Dream.
I glanced at the bus conductor every now and then with a practiced fake smile so as not to fade away from his busy mind, the bastard owed me 1 rupee change for my ticket, but I was invisible to him and I finally accepted the fact that I will never see that 1 rupee coin I deserved, ever again. I tried mentally calculating how much money I had thus written off in my life time so far. I lost track of the amount and decided never to attempt the math ever again as it was surprisingly depressing. I then noticed that the bus conductor never retuned the change to any of us passengers, that sly looking fucker must be an Ambani of his own right with all the unreturned change he was collecting and taking home. I at first thought of accusing him openly, making a dramatic statement with near bollywood quality dialogues, pulling up his shirt collar, giving a knock on his bald head to put to rest my curiosity what sound it would give off but I was interrupted.
Yes! I was, by a question, caught off guard, out of the blue. I was suddenly gripped again by a spell of paranoia and the momentum of this now over crowded bus with everyone collectively sweating, huddled together with a common thought of uncertainty in counting our chances of surviving the ride made me sweat more than usual.
“What kind of dress are you wearing son? “
Was I naked? Definitely not!
Son? Whose son?
I was wearing a round neck with a Harley Davidson logo that was an obvious fake but was dear to me as it was a gift and shorts without an underwear. Who doesn’t like it a little roomy down there?.But I was sure my attire was not scandalous enough to threaten the fragile sexual tolerance of an average Indian woman. I'm a fat guy in shorts, what was so sexy about that? But I did have thick hair on my legs which I wasn’t quite sure if it qualified as sexually appropriate in public transport. But his question didn’t stop there it was followed by another question.
“Do you think this dress suits our culture?”
A double question, a double decked burger with no fries and no soda, just a double burger, a double question, why burgers? Must be the munchies talking.
Nobody other than that bespectacled, rapidly balding middle aged man who had the look of an underfed hyena, and those who heard him ask me the question noticed me. As there was no other on board entertainment other than the ongoing bets on life of those in the bus and on the roads, there was a sudden renewed excitement among these select few who were now active listeners. It was slightly scary to notice that they were all sheepishly smiling, at me. I tried to study this man before I would answer him with a cunningly devised pun intended smart answer that he would remember to his grave for questioning my lack of fashion sense. But there was not much to study about him; he was perfectly ordinary and ignorable.
“No , my dress doesn’t suit the our Indian sensibility. It is a western attire that degrades our Indian culture, morality and sense of dressing. These shorts leave my legs bare for the world to see and I agree it is an aberration, so are half folded lungis. We should get rid of these shackles that chain us in servitude to the cotton industry. Let us get rid of shorts and lungis and declare ourselves free.” This isn’t what I told him, but is this what I wanted to tell him ? Was that a fair come back? I didn’t think so.
The questions bothered me; it bothered me more than it should, for a woman was raped in a moving bus and my shorts were responsible for it. Naxals blew up a school and my shorts was responsible again. Female feticide-my shorts, corruption-my shorts, Modi-my shorts, farmer suicides-good guess- my shorts, no jobs-my shorts. The world was in chaos because of my shorts. ow could I be not be bothered? And so I replied
“Sir it’s a Sunday and these are casuals.”
What a lame response, I thought and laughed later. What followed was another question asking what I did for a living, I quite can’t remember how he articulated his question but I replied saying “ am an engineer.” To which he instantly remarked, “Is this how an engineer is supposed to dress?”
“Why not?” I wanted to ask, but that would prolong this increasingly pointless rape of a conversation. Oh yes! I knew how an engineer was supposed to dress, formal pleated pants and shirt, freshly pressed, shiny shoes wrapped in plastic bag until one reached office, oiled and well cropped hair (if available) and a moustache (if at all it grew) to appear older than a freshly baked university graduate, I have been there minus the moustache. I ended up locking my manager in his cabin to teach him the rotten side of English vocabulary and quit the job before the bastard could kick me out, close shave oh yes! I remember that episode quite well. i was an abomination to the social standing of engineers in society, I couldn’t care less but I did. His questions made me insecure and self conscious which made me want to jump out the window of this over speeding bus to run home to find my pants and kiss them.
I once attended an event while in school where we had to meet the then president of India- Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, from a sniper distance. He gave a speech to which we cheered, asking us all young minds of India to dream and dream big. The man toured all over the country and abroad delivering the same message, inspiring and molding our then young minds to dream and dream big and so we did dream, and we did dream big long after the speech was done. As we all grew older we woke up one day to find all our dreams melt together to form a monster , a nightmare, as none of our dreams came true and our dreams were big, so was our nightmare, our monster. We woke up in each other’s failed dreams, my dreams were someone else’s nightmare and their dreams where my nightmare. How do I tell this man that being an engineer was never my dream it was someone else’s and that my shorts was as innocent as the dreamer?
“How else should an engineer dress on a Sunday? There are bigger problems in this world than my shorts, get your priorities right, sir.” Yes that was how I replied. I didn’t receive any standing ovation or any applause but those looking for entertainment were surely entertained, their faces said so.
The man obviously didn’t expect nor approve of the sudden change in tone of my answer. what must have he thought? I wondered.
I decided to cut him off "Go fuck yourself!” extreme levels of paranoia leads to sudden unpredictable mildly explosive outcomes.
He was visibly shocked the way he said “What?” made that clear. As such a rude reply was unwarranted and extremely degrading to our Indian sense of morality and social norm of respecting elders but I had never ever claimed in my life to be considered a model citizen. I was far from it, had anyone checked my pockets the bus would have dropped me off at a police station.
That was what I last told him, looking him straight in the eye, for a moment revealing what side of the law I hailed from.
The man got up from his seat as if to protest but then hesitated, right then his seat was ninja booked by one of the entertained opportunist, a true Indian in spirit- the opportunist made me proud. The gentleman stood before me as if slapped by the situation, now having lost his seat and because of my sudden hostility. I had ready in mind a verbal diarrhea episode good to go at a moment’s notice had he tried educating me on the cause and effects of unholy words on Indian moral sense for public ears. But he didn’t, the gentleman jumped out of the bus without warning landing on his feet, fairly agile for a man that age, must be the yoga and the missionary sex. He walked away without a glance to the bus without a farewell or a goodbye kiss, looking opposite to the direction of the bus.
In my self defense, I just saved that man from ever asking again questions of such obvious triviality to any unsuspecting fellow Indians wearing shorts. His intentions were good; I shouldn’t steal that away from him but my intentions were reasonably good as well.