Scientists – those relentless beings who keep improving their own achievements, like Yelena Isinbayeva, have now found out that it takes just 13 microseconds for the human eye to comprehend what it sees. That’s pretty fast! So what does the brain do, the rest of the time? There’s an answer for that too. They say our brain is thus, in a constant process of “finding concepts” based on what we see.
“Finding stories“, I’d like to correct.
What used to be a peaceful getaway had now turned into a bustling arena of disturbances. Throngs of people, their vehicles, then the sellers of ice-cream and freshly cut fruits, all bordered by a highly occupied road, the traffic of which was catalysed by the city’s waterlogged, and thus vehicle-logged roads.
All these, quite audaciously killed what the geography offered. The backwaters rippled towards the now indifferent shore. The shore from where, if one faced the horizon, a beautiful landscape looked back. Thin strips of land were lined with coconut trees, which always made me wonder as to who planted those trees all along the available space. Then there were islands – seemingly desolated, thickly green and mysterious, like they can house a Hollywood thriller. Not to miss are the moving entities – rowed boats that punctuated the water, ships like blurred dots in the horizon, birds with incredible synchronisation, and the glorious Sun – always generous, yet diligent.
All these, nullified by humans. Family humans, laughing humans, crying humans, photographing humans. And a handful of lost humans.
I had had enough. I kick-started my bike and moved past the humans.
Soon, I realised that even if the place had been deserted (let the lost humans be allowed), I may not have felt the peace like earlier times. So much was clotted in the head, that even the awe-inspiring nature could not calm me.As I negotiated through the traffic, I wondered how it would have been, if an hour back, that one particular fist had made contact with my face, and if the peace-making humans were ineffective, and if I had cracked.
Adrenaline thumped along with the bike, as I spontaneously indulged into the visions. His fist had made contact; the first move was made. The line was breached. I glare back, and yet, the idiot is still wanting to close-in on me. Escape now, buddy, my empathetic ego tells him. But of course, he’s an idiot, incoming. As my right fist squash his ribs, evading his foolish swing, I can see fear dilute his pupils. But that’s just fear, buddy. Pain is yet to bear-hug you! Now, with my left hand – the favoured and stronger one, I hook his jaw. His short length didn’t allow a full-fledged blow, yet, his skull’s bottom-line took it square. His eyes are now scrambled, body unwillingly endorsing the pain, confused as to where to send the emergency services to…
That was when I spotted the auto rickshaw, foraying into the road from a cross, rather oblivious. I knew I would hit it; I can only limit the damage, I realised. I applied both the brakes, so did the auto, as I skidded and screeched, yet upright, collided with the curved front of the three-wheeler. It was like those imminent, hasty kiss between the hero and heroine; one that was not vulgar, but necessary for the story line. Of course, I didn’t think of the analogy then.
Once I was stable, I looked up towards the auto. A middle-aged man, heavily bearded and with a messy hair, was on the driving seat. He was lean, with a rounded nose and eyes that were blue. Cat eyes, we call them. Those eyes were now on me, locked with my ordinary ones.
If I counted, it would have surely been for six seconds at least, that we stared in to each other’s eyes. Unmoved and muted. That was remarkably long for an after-collision scenario, especially in Kerala. But the (estimated) six seconds did not merely pass; it was a discovery. He, was me! I never knew how my face portrayed my thoughts, but what was on his face felt like a reflection; like that was how my face would have been, at that moment. Not because of the collision, but because of the humans. And from his stare, I was being his reflection, perhaps. It was an unheard, unseen phenomenon. The closest I could think of was Priori Incantatem, as J.K. Rowling had coined it. Again, I didn’t think of it at that moment.
He spoke first. And incredibly, he asked, “You want to have a tea?”
A few minutes later, we were at a roadside shop, both of us sipping paper cups, I was holding a lighted cigarette too.
“I’m sorry.” he said, after half the cup of tea. Neither of us had spoken until then, except he asking me if I wanted tea or coffee. There were no further eye contacts either.
“It’s alright.” I said, rather instinctively. The damage was minimal on the vehicles.
We drank the tea in silence. He then collected my empty cup, paid the shopkeeper and walked back.
He then told me, calmly, about how he was distracted and did not notice me coming. I listened and nodded. Then as if an invisible button was prodded, he spoke about his child. The four-year-old had a rare condition and a surgery had taken place, days back. His woes were around the six lakh Rupees he now owed many, and need for more, nevertheless. His grief was at the unfairness of life. And his frustration was at the humans. I’m sure he had reasons about the humans; I did not ask. Teary-eyed, he apologised once again; I patted his shoulder in understanding. Having vented-out, he walked back to the auto, to rekindle the misery.
He hadn’t asked about my story. Though it felt a tinge sour, I was soon sure that he had sensed the presence of one. Our eyes had detected stories of mutually persisting grief, and anger perhaps. As I kick-started my bike again and moved, there was the sound of metal scraping the rubber. I rode on, unbothered. Everything was fixable. The mudguard, the cancer, the marriage, even a broken jaw of an in-law. Solutions came in many forms. As tea. As invoices. As endings.
As I turned into the empty street, which was dark and deserted, I thought of the seven lakh Rupees I had just paid for ending my painful marriage, and the six lakhs he had paid to refuse an ending which he dreaded.
The difference, was amazing.
* * *