Saturday, September 20

A Drive With No Destination!

I’m on the passenger seat. The highway is dark and foggy. Our flight landed an hour ago and we were greeted with the sudden chill of Delhi’s winter. They told us it was going to be cold, but I didn’t know they meant we would be cracking our jaw. There is no stop to this. Madness. We are enroute Jaipur. It will take us this entire night to reach. I’m sitting on the front seat and when I look out of the glass, there’s nothing else but this darkness fighting with our Innova’s headlights. I’m scared the Innova would surrender and we’d be stuck in this eternal darkness. It’ll embrace us from everywhere. A big dark blanket and nothing will matter ever again.
I’m driving. Rain has paused. I hate driving during the rains. Those torrential downpours. The wipers of my i20 could have been manufactured with more love. They give up on wiping pretty easily. There’s no fight in them. I keep on flicking my headlights stick to ensure people driving alongside me know I am scared. I am really really scared. Rain finally stops and the world is beautiful and calm and pure again. I get out of my car. I think, the people who invented slow motion cameras were inspired by scenes after rain. The world sort of slows down. People folding their umbrellas, wiping their foreheads and spectacles, birds making their music, animals shaking their body to get into the groove, tree leafs holding on to those smallest of water droplets and there’s laughter somewhere, you can hear it, kids, some kids are always there, swimming in the rain puddles. Kolkata streets are full of them, the kids and the puddles.

beautiful driving spot near nasik mumbai
I am sitting on the passenger seat. It’s hot. It’s summer. It’s Rajasthan. We have a long way to cover. 300 kms. The stone by the road reads. This is how my tombstone might look someday. What would it read I wonder? This journey is going to tire me so much. There’s vast barren land on both the sides. We pass a few villages, but it’s afternoon so there’s no one out. Everyone is hiding in their semi-concrete homes, waiting for this time to pass. The ground is burning and if you look close enough, you can see the heat radiating off the surface. You have to look closer to find it, to find the answers. But will anyone look, will anyone read? ‘It has stopped hurting, finally.’
We are in this jeep and they have made me sit on the last seat. The road is wide and empty. There’s no friend here and no family. This whole world, empty and alone. I wave goodbye to every vehicle we overtake. The drivers, they wave back. We cross various army trucks. They salute back. I think we have a tendency find like-minded people, friends along the way. I wonder how the army people feel when a random kid of 12 salutes them. It must feel nice. I’ve heard they loot sometimes and that frightens me, but I’m prepared. When, if, they come, I’ll tell them about our country and its pride and its glory and so many things that a twelve year old thinks can convince bad people. Do words really have that sort of power? The power to make you do things, the power to stop you from doing things.  
It is quiet all around. I am driving. It is dusk. The sun is setting on the horizon, and we are on the outskirts of town. She's singing my favourite songs. All of them, one by one. There’s no destination really, we pick and take turns. ‘We took a left that time, now take right.’ Sometimes, we take random roads and still reach the same destination. It makes me wonder, if I was destined to reach her no matter what road I took. We drive on. This is our idea of running away. Once in a month, we go around the town and just drive. She holds my hand and brings herself closer to me, she looks at me and tells me to stop stealing glances and concentrate on the traffic ahead. She keeps looking at me. I am scared. Can she look inside, deep inside, through those eyes, to a place where they say, the soul resides? What will she find there? She resumes humming. Her favourite songs. My favourite songs. We have similar choices in music. She kisses me on the cheeks. This is our idea of protest.
We were told the roads will be narrow and windy. I assumed it would take us 4 hours to cover 220 kms. 60 divided by 220. Average mathematics stuff. The driver had smiled. The average speed must have been less than 30. We are nearing Ooty. I can feel it. Here, the wind is different. Ooty, our escape from all the school activities. A bunch of guys on this high-school trip. Ooty. This word makes your mouth work, sounds so pure. I have heard about this place, not much. It’s a hill station and there’s tea production. We have our teacher in the car, he looks at the trees and tells us about their kind. He tells us about Ooty and travel and love and life and death. There is one more car with us. Students only. All brats, seniors, show-offs. They told us they’d watch porn in the car. I was curious. A mass orgy? People coming together for the greater good?
We are in a bus. All dressed up. Cousin’s getting married, and we are the baarati. We play the only game we all know since birth, antakshari. Radios, television, music systems, mp3 players. Music is everywhere, a connecting force in this divided world. We sing songs and tick-tock to ten. We are sweaty. Our super expensive suits have spots, sweat spots. We try to impress each other with our song choice. We blush when someone appreciates it. ‘Vineet, this was a nice song!’ We try to humour things. We eat and enjoy. This is picnic. We think about the cousin getting married. We are young and hopeful and we have a different perspective on love and life. How will he stay with a girl in the same room? That’s just unfair. No wonder why adults say marriage is a headache. What will he do? What will they do? What if I don’t want it, will I have a say? Will I ever have a say in things done to me, things done by me?
I’m riding on this bike. Karzima. Or Karzma. I don’t know. It’s the first model. Pretty heavy. My brother is riding. While I wrap myself around him. This is scary. I don’t like speed. I don’t like bikes. There’s a mechanical failure. The brakes won’t work. There’s an auto. There’s our collision. I’m going to die. That’s fine though. I wouldn’t mind. But I hope my brother doesn’t die. He is a sweet kid. He doesn’t mean harm to anyone. Pretty misunderstood. Life’s made him bitter. I hope he doesn’t go away. I wake up in heaven. So soon, the Lord says. It smells of hospital. Oh! I am in this hospital. My father is staring down on me, there’s relief. Something’s wrong. Now, there’s anger flushing from every inch of his body. It’s all right after all.
I’m all alone. I put more force on the accelerator. Surely there must be a nicer way to go. Off the bridge, really? Why! Why! The landscape is confusing. It is not like I had imagined. It was supposed to be easy. Like they show in movies, there has to be a gap somewhere so that souls who are lost can easily glide away into the river and end their misery. But there’s not. My whole life has been a lie. I don’t comprehend. Is it so unfair to expect death to be easy? Why am I dying? Why? Can’t I start over? Yes. But won’t it be the same. Won’t I come to this point again, maybe a little later with new lessons and experiences, in another car at another bridge? This is going to repeat. Any path I take, it will lead to this point, me sitting in a car looking for a gap to fly off into the river. It’s how the Universe has designed life, a not so easy endeavour. Life will never be easy. People searching for eternal everlasting happiness are chasing a mirage, there’s no such thing. It’s all propagated by people to sell you books and parts of their souls. You can have all the money you want and you can get more, take my money and his, and hers, and tell me in some days if it makes you happy, if it makes you wear that adorable smile a little more throughout the day? We are chasing wrong things, driving to wrong destinations. The problems will not go away. Not now, not in the future. This is a fight. This will always be a fight. Your fight. Your protest.  


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