The Top Topic
In some buses there are seats near the middle where people sit facing others, like in the train compartment. That provides a good setting for some public conversation. I've wondered what topics do people, strangers and from different age groups and home states, have to discuss in common. As far as bus travel is concerned, I've got the answer. The most common topic of discussion in the bus is about buses themselves. The most important questions have the format "Which bus goes there?"
So on one day I hear some kids on way to school discussing about where and how does the 164's and the 166's go and which takes lesser time. As usual, there was one boy leading from the front, mapping numbers huge enough for him to places he has probably never seen, and taking pride in it. There were many ones among them he was seemingly not sure of (or had no idea of), but he handled them cautiously with casual glances around to see who among the unintended tall listeners looked dangerous. There was the other boy beside him, who was chipping in between with his limited but genuine knowledge, but listening intently to the former one seemingly trying to memorize what he heard. Then there were the two girls in the opposite seat, who may have been the only real intended listeners, one of them nodding in agreement and asking some questions to both the boys, and the other little one who seemed to be flying around somewhere in her own small beautiful world (was there a gentle rhyme on her lips?)
And on another day I see a man in his sixties talking about the same to an audience in their twenties. The listeners seemed to belong to the newly landed forward looking young crowd of bangalore having little idea of its history and geography and more gravely, of bus numbers and routes. So the old man took on the responsibility of education and seemed to be doing it with conviction and genuine interest. He seemed to know as many bus routes as the number of grey hairs he had, and seemed to enjoy this opportunity to talk. And the three young listeners again seemed to consist of a learner, a listener and a dreamer. Just that the learner was finding the job easier, the listener was asking more questions than needed and the dreamer was getting slightly irritated by all this discussion.
The universality of a topic depends on what the universe is.
The Curious Twins
The young boys were looking outside through the window and talking to each other, each one having one arm over the other's shoulder.
They hear the sound of nadaswaram into he distance and get up from their seats to get closer to the window. Soon they spot the marriage crowd near the temple and watch them with curiosity. They notice the decoration and the colors. They see a lot of happy faces. They try to imitate the music. Boys, enjoy the music of hope and union!
The bus moves forward from the stop. Another few minutes, and they here another loud sound. They look out of the window again with same curiosity. They see the ambulance struggling to pierce through the traffic. They see the flash light and the white paint. They see a lot of largely indifferent faces. They attempt to shut their ears with hands to block the sound. Yes boys, that sound reminds of despair and separation.
Childhood is bliss!
It was a crowded bus and passengers were struggling for space. Rains and traffic were at their peak and the bus was moving like a snail. The air was cold and smelled of frustration. The conductor came to us near the rear of the bus for giving tickets. Suddenly he seemed to have remembered something, looked outside and then started shouting aloud "Left, left" turning towards the front of the bus. The bus then took a left turn and he turned and explained that the driver was new on this route. This seemed to enthuse some youth at the back seats who took up the job from the conductor. They started shouting the directions in unison "Right, right", then "left, left", "straight, straight" and so on. They got supported by some voices at the front as well. The air was becoming warmer and happier and there were a lot of smiles around. Some more mischievous ones started shouting out wrong directions as well, inviting laughter from some and anger from others. The bus suddenly was livelier and seemed to be moving faster. Well, not sure what the driver was feeling amidst this though!
On another day, and in another crowded bus, there were again smiles. The bus had just left a stop and was fast accelerating when there were some shouts from near the door asking the driver to stop the bus. The driver did shouted that there was enough time to get in or out during last stop and now he will go on. Then someone shouted out that it was none other than the conductor himself who was left out at the last stop. That provoked laughter, multiple shouts of "holdeee, holdeee" and combined bangs against the roof. The driver put the brakes and there were many smiling faces looking out of the windows welcoming the conductor woo was running towards the bus from behind.
When God send man to live, he gave him a powerful weapon. It is called humor.
I stand and listen to the voices. Kannada voices discussing bangalore and work. Tamil voices talking of the latest stars in movies. A Hindi voice sharing his dreams of job, car and family with his yaar. A malayalee arranging friends' get-together over the phone. Telugu voices talking I understand not what of. An English voice whispering metropolitan love. And others too, which I fail to identify.
I look for signs of Silicon Valley, I see a young man reading "C Programming" very intently at the bus stop while waiting for the bus. Inside the bus I hear discussions about SQL, java, windows and Linux. I hear of placements, foreign trips and salary differences. I hear call-centre experiences.
I feel the population. The big rush when the bus arrives to get the seats. Is it the sense of accomplishment, victory over others that we seek or the actual comfort of seat? Or is this fight for space simply natural for us necessary to move ahead? The bus moves slowly disadvantaged by its size in the vehicles' fight for space to move. And more often than not, in wars there are no rules.
I'm still sampling!