I rarely take a bus to any place. It’s exhausting, it’s not safe and it makes me feel uncomfortable. I have earned enough to not go through that torture. Privilege OP. Of course, I used to travel via buses when I was younger. In fact, I used to travel bloody every day. From one side of Delhi to the other side. It used to take me a good 50 minutes in one of those godawful Blue Line buses. You remember them? Those Blue Line buses used to run over so many people in a day that a joke went around that the safest place in Dehi was to be inside a Blue Line bus. Why did I travel in a bus? I had enrolled in one of those coaching classes because my parents thought that teenage life isn’t torture in itself. Let’s just make his life worse, Sumitra, I feel he isn’t getting bullied enough in school.
I was in Nainital a few years back. Nice place. I don’t remember why I was there though. Does that happen to you? Where you forget the key information from a memory and all that remains are bits and pieces? It happens to me often. I should get it checked. I remember walking towards a hill in Nainital. Alone. I don’t know where I was going. All I remember is seeing that hill and that I was going towards it. I often do that, so it’s not as weird to me as it might come across to you. I go for long directionless walks. It’s comforting and makes me realise I am an animal after all, just a really, really structured one.
And I was walking and walking and walking. There weren’t many people on the road. In fact, from what I remember, there weren’t any, but that seems highly unlikely so let’s just say there weren’t many. Suddenly a bus came from behind. It was honking. I remember thinking why was it honking as there was neither a person nor a vehicle in sight. I turned around to see that it was honking at me. I stopped and looked at the bus conductor. He was an old man, wearing lots and lots of sweaters. If I had to guess his name, it would've been Ramlal Winter Collection.
He asked me if I wanted a ride. I said no and started walking. Bus ride? In a different city? Never. The bus driver was this tall guy with a scruffy beard and he looked familiar, though I don’t know how. I tried to stare at him, but he drove the bus right past me. As if he was furious at me for rejecting his offer. I managed to take a quick glance inside the bus and it was empty. And by empty I mean it felt like nobody had stepped a foot inside it for months. What a strange bus, good that I didn’t get on it. Next day, I was going back to Delhi. On my way back, the cab driver informed me that a bus had fallen off the cliff last evening. Two dead. I wondered about the past evening’s incident and thought about it for the rest of the journey. Strange. Anyway. That was the end of it and I didn’t think about that evening again.
A few days back, I was in Coorg. Nice place. At this point you should assume that I only go to nice places. Haha. This time I went there with a couple of friends. We went hiking and stuff. Good weekend. While coming back from a restaurant there, I asked my friends to drop me 200 metres before our hotel. Our hotel was located on a small kind of hill. I wanted to walk and also click some pictures. It was evening-ish. I started climbing towards the hill. There was not a single soul in sight. So peaceful. I should come here every month. Lost in my thoughts, I kept walking. And then a certain sense of Deja Vu hit me. It felt like I was walking in Nainital. That same evening. I knew these were different places but they looked exactly the same. Deja vu is creepy somedays. I tried to distract myself from spiraling. And the view helped. It was gorgeous.
The property we were staying at was chosen by a very rich friend of mine. Frankly, it was way out of my budget and I was kinda hoping that by the end of the trip, the guy would say that the stay was on him. There were orchards and fruits and coffee and stuff like that all around. You could literally see the horizon without a fly in your way. I clicked and clicked and clicked. All of the pictures were instagram-worthy. To remember this moment, I decided to take a selfie with the fields in the backdrop. I opened my front cam and that’s when it hit me. I looked exactly like the driver I saw that day in Nainital. Literally the same. The thought gave me chills. For a moment I started wondering if that was real or if this moment was real. Is it even possible? Was that a sign of something which eas beyond my comprehension? Was I even alive?
I walked quickly towards the hotel and met my friends. This moment indeed was real. Of course I didn’t say any of this to them. That would make me seem crazy. That night the hotel staff made a bonfire for us. It was so pretty that I almost wanted to flirt with it. We sat around the bonfire, some of us were drinking, some of us were just lying around, looking at each other. And at the sky. At some point in the night, my friend, who had recently lost his sister in a freak accident, looked me in the eye and asked me, “Does this grief ever end? Will it ever end?”.
My friends somehow think that I might have answers to these serious kinda questions. Sure, I don’t talk much, but not every introverted guy is a deep thinker. Some of us are hollow from inside. Maybe we just don’t have anything to talk about. I thought about his question for a bit. And then a few minutes later I asked him, “Do you want it to end?” I think that was the best I could do at that moment. Because really, isn’t grief what makes us human? Makes us stronger? Makes us sort of vulnerable, but in a good way? Is it really a bad thing?
As I was thinking all this, the night grew darker. People started singing songs and shit. I don’t like this part of the party. Not because people are bad singers, but because they force you to sing. I am terrible and I am running out of excuses now to not participate in this sort of activity. After my repeated “No's", one friend asked me why am I so sad all the time. I remembered my walk towards the hotel earlier. “Maybe I am grieving for myself”, I answered. I took a bus back to Bengaluru next day. Nothing strange happened. Or maybe everything did become strange after that day at Nainital. Nobody knows.