By Trilokjit Sengupta
Sardines gasping for breath in perspired synchronisation. Collective gasps. Silent gasps. Unheard. Drowned in a decibel level so high that to truly understand this point you might have to think a little louder. Maybe even scream. Your 36,987th time today.
Bombay has an uncanny ability to outwit you. It’s like that irritating algorithm in a computer game that makes the monsters immortal. Your cheat codes are rendered useless. And nothing you hurl towards it can diminish its power.
In fact, it just seems to be getting bigger. All the time. You sweat. You mutter. You give in.
Sometimes when you think the city is sleeping, you even cry. Only to awaken the next day with a forcibly generated vigour to live through the day. All an effort to stay alive, till the next time you cry. And we complain. About the workplace. The Sunday traffic. The rising prices. The turtlish auto rickshaws. The cancerous roads. The rampant corruption. The unseen mafia. The dumb bimbettes and the guys who fuck them. The lack of civic amenities. The deathly shadow that seems to follow us all.
Quite like the gigantic guy standing behind you in a crowded, public urinal. You don’t look at him. But you can’t ignore him, so you try to finish faster. Almost semi-consciously. We are consumed. Forever afraid. Of that young turk in office. The man standing at the bus stop. The muslim taxi driver. The ad that says, “Get this pimple cream or you won’t get laid”. Of the cell phone company. The policeman at the signal. The cable wallah. The shopkeeper who overcharges you on MRP. Of the internet provider. Of your building society. The stubbornly irritating maid. Of your girlfriend leaving you. Of loneliness.
Very afraid. And yet we wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. Most of us anyways. Because it’s okay. Because the paycheck at the end of the month seems to be making it worth the while. I don’t think we get paid because of what we do in our collective offices. It is not just the remuneration for nine hours of cut paste exercises. But for enduring the pain.
For taking complicated calls from credit card companies who are going to refuse your application anyway. For trains squeezing your life out of your lungs. For missing your family. For the poor eating habits. For buying factory seconds. For people taking you for granted.
For dirt that settles in so deep that you can’t wash it off. For the tear stained face you go to sleep with.