Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Publicly Transported

These days, I take pride in claiming that I drive pretty well. I drive long distances, about some 40-50 miles at a stretch without getting a backache. I no longer fret at the thought that this might be my last day of life since I am driving. I no longer have to dress up in layers for the cold because I don’t have to wait outside for a bus. I save a lot of time, do not have to figure out bus routes and timings. All I do is feed my address into a GPS. This is what I call a hassle free life.

However, last week, I decided to take the bus for a conference in downtown. Downtown is pretty bus-sable from my place, and I would not have to go round and round in circles trying to find parking. I needed to start much earlier and have some extra time because I’d have to wait for the bus. It was getting cooler and I was already dressed in layers. I fidgeted through my hand bag, realizing I had forgotten my music player somewhere. I somehow found a book from the innards of my bag and tried to busy myself with it.

I cherished my one hour journey, realising how much I have missed taking the bus. For one, the bus stopped and picked up so many different people, dressed differently, speaking different languages. Some listened to music, some read a book, and some conversed. I had totally forgotten how much I liked sitting in a corner and observing people, what they did, what they said, where they got up from and where they got down. The bus stopped at so many places, giving me a chance to observe all the street signs and the shops and the people, sitting comfortably and without the tension of looking straight and driving safely. It was a joy ride.

Driving a car might be comfortable and time saving, but I’d prefer the bus any day over a car. It is an eventful life, watching and talking to people, or simply sitting quietly and watching the world go by you. The noise, the smell and the sounds, the traffic, the joy of sitting at a height and watching the world is stimulating to the senses. Some are headed for the office, some for schools. Suddenly I felt more social, participating in the things around me, smiling at the lady beside me, watching the person boarding the bus. By the time I got off the bus, I was smiling to myself. The hustle and bustle around me had energized me.

Slowly you get used to the comforts of a car and forget the eventful journeys while taking the public transportation. For me, I still like to take the bus or the train every now and then. Driving alone is boring. Riding with the world is so much fun.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Need For Speed

I always knew I would be writing this post, but did not know it would be so soon. Driving comes with its own set of experiences and accomplishments. There is a phase of driving when you don’t know whether to kick on the left thing or the right thing to stop your car, and every car pulling up behind you scares the hell out of you. And then comes the stage when you hit on the gas and never look back.

Unless you see lights flashing behind you of course.

I have always scoffed at cars being pulled over the shoulder and getting speeding tickets. They always felt like the school children who the monitors had separated out of the crowd to be made to stand up on the bench and hold their ears just because they talked to much or did not do their homework. Being pulled over by the cops was the most humiliating experience for me. Or so I thought.

And then I graduated to the next level – the level of a seasoned driver.

It so happened that I was on my way to the durga puja celebrations. I was running late because of the usual reason. It took me quite a while to dress up, resplendent with the red sari and makeup, not to mention picking up friends, my new chore as a car driver these days. The venue was a good 45 mile away. I was finally mastering freeway driving and had just gotten onto I-5.

Thrilled to be leaving past the cars behind me, I changed lanes till I was in the leftmost lane, the lane for the high speeders. I was following a bunch of cars. After a few miles of driving, I saw a uniformed guy standing at a distance. I thought it must be the usual traffic guy, directing the drivers to drive to a different lane because of shoulder work going on. Even before I knew, the cars in front of me flew away while I was specifically asked to stop.

And that was my first speeding ticket.

He claimed I was driving at 74 mph on a 60 mph zone. Could be. But weren’t the cars in front of me doing the same? I was merely following them. Or was I a better target because I happened to be the last car in the row? And isn’t 74 permissible in a 60 zone when you drive on the fastest lane? No traffic, no congestion, okay I was speeding, fine. But couldn’t they let me go with a warning?

I was fined $144. Not a great news, given my lay off and financial condition. I might contest it in court. I might defer it for this is my first traffic offense. But I am definitely not intending to cough up the money if I can avoid it.

I realized it was so natural to step on the gas once you are a seasoned driver and not even realize you are speeding. I always thought if I ever got a ticket, that would be a slow driving ticket and not a speeding ticket. Somehow, I am happy I have joined the club of speeding ticket holders. Makes me feel like the rest of us.

In school, I always carefully avoided the group of ruckus creating children who did not do their homework and were made to stand up on the bench, holding their ears. Now I feel I have joined the club.


Sunday, September 13, 2009


7 days ago, I couldn’t imagine in a thousand lives what my life would be 7 days from then. I was happily camping in Montana, never realizing that the next weekend I would be doing things different. For the first time this summer, I haven’t taken advantage of the good weather to do something outdoor. Instead, I’ve stayed home, finishing office work, looking for a job, and most importantly, packing. I am leaving home to relocate to a friends place closer to office, so I can spend lesser time and money on commute. G is out of town and let me stay at her place for as long as I need.

This is the first step I’ve taken towards downsizing and cost cutting. I have been packing clothes, food, and whatever I need. I don’t want to think about my apartment, because I miss it already. I have gone through the vicious cycle of being glum, feeling low, breaking down to tears, and then holding myself up and packing again. I don’t know what I will do with my apartment, maybe put it up for someone to take over the lease, sublet it, let it go, I don’t know. Ironically, packing has been fun during the numerous other occasions this summer, when I have gone hiking, camping, sightseeing, visiting other cities. Packing is definitely not fun this time. It is a sore, emotional issue for me.

I also cleaned the house and sorted out the clothes and shoes that I will donate to Goodwill. I have been meaning to do this for a while, but never really found enough time so far. I think I had acquired far more clothes and shoes than I am going to need. My apartment looks less cluttered now. My life has never looked more cluttered.

I thank everyone for your good wishes and your comments. Its been a difficult 4 days, but it feels good to know that there are people who feel your pain and pray for you though they personally don’t know you. I have cherished reading each and every comment.

Till next time.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Others

While growing up, I have witnessed a steady traffic of strangers aka temporary residents in our house. These were the uncles and aunties who came and stayed with us for a couple of days, weeks, maybe months. Frankly, I never did like the unknown faces that lived in the house, ate with us, and laughed with us. Some of them were office colleagues who were trying to find temporary accommodation, some were distant relatives trying to find a new home or job in the city, and some were even more distant relatives who according to me had no business of staying with us. This is one thing about dad, that he never did turn down anyone, never told a no to anyone. Anyone and everyone was welcome to live with us.

More than two decades later, I don’t think I am doing anything different. First, I hosted 2 people who were interning here and happened to be my cousin’s friends. Then I am currently hosting a new student who is starting school, till she finds a place to call home. 3 years ago, someone hosted me, helped me get used to the ways of the new country, and made my adjustment a lesser bother. I try to do the same by hosting someone at my place every year. And what do I get out of it?

Company. Friends. Observing someone at close quarters, seeing how similar and how dissimilar our lives are. I get to talk about so many things, learn so many things from them. It is not quite as having a roommate, it is better. With a roommate, there is a compulsion of staying together, even though you want to tear your hair or beat your head against the wall every time you saw them. You don’t have to be diligent about taking turns cooking. There are no such rules per se. You can still lead your normal life and have temporary company at the end of the day.

So far, I have enjoyed temporarily hosting people at my place. Yes, there were times when I longed for my own space, longed to come home and not see anyone. But the fun of living with someone has outweighed my solitary life cravings. Maybe we all are lonely, and desperately seeking company in whatever form. Who knows?