Living and Walking Alone

I am somewhat on the introvert side on the line of Social Behavior ranging from Antisocial and then introvert and then reasonably-less-speaking-person on the left side, and then a normal person, extrovert, blah-blah person, and then Antisocial on far right. I do talk a lot given the opportunity, timing, and context but I am not much a fan of Small Talk. So if I don’t have anyone around me for a prolonged period of time, I can do quite alright. In other words, I am accustomed to the feeling of what over-enthusiastic (or just extrovert) people say ‘getting bored’. I am not familiar with the feeling of ‘thaasophobia’ which extra-enthusiastic people might have.

So coincidentally by chance of fate and luck, and some heavenly misalignment of planets*, I am living alone for last 3 months. Before that, I lived with 2 roommates for more than 5 years and even before that, I lived with a joint family of 14 people for over two decades. So for others, it might be a normal thing to tread alone but for me, it is certainly a new experience. Not that I haven’t lived alone for a shorter period of time say a week or two when roommates used to visit their homes but this is now the longest I’ve stayed on my own. Living alone is work if you ask me. One has to be responsible for everything and stay alert most of the times. Earlier one had someone to look after smaller things like shutting off the dripping tap or doing kitchen stuff or the most troublesome task of opening the door when someone knocked. One afternoon I dozed off and forgot to shut the main door. Don’t tell anyone as nobody came, not even the cat. I am still learning the nuances of living alone. And till the grace of some govt. bank HR department, I will continue to rule my apartment like cockroaches roam around Bengaluru, that is, like a boss.

Work-wise living alone is one thing and emotionally it is different. It is wonderful in a way because of several reasons as it gives you to sit down and think. This kind of thing is hardly possible when you have several distractions of people or electronics around. I don’t remember sitting down and pondering about the meaning of life in last 5 years. Nope, never. Now when I don’t have a TV nor a roommate, and when I am totally fed up with the Internet, I go out for a stroll/run. (Ok, whom am I kidding, not Running per se but brisk walk.) This happens in the evening and mostly in the night around 930-1130. Earlier when I used to go for a walk, I used to keep my headphones on with loud music so as to not get distracted by the noise of traffic. Not anymore.

After 930 pm, most streets which are not the main roads are generally deserted. People are inside and Dogs are taking their naps before they go berserk after a couple of hours or so. The place where I live has quite a number of small parks around. So when I go alone, without headphones, I get a chance to look around without any purpose to achieve as such. And I generally see this: Some people coming back from their offices tired and hungry. Some food places’ workers returning to their homes joyously giggling and making fun of each other and a LOT of couples. The average number of couples I see in a mere 2.5-3 KM walk is more than 30. Some slightly mature (30ish) walking after their dinner. Some cuddled up in some dingy corner of the park’s wall where light is rarely disturbing. Some guys standing on their bikes talking to their girlfriends outside Ladies PG Hostels (HUGE number of PGs around here). Some elderly couple walking together with them not talking to each other and men generally walking 1 m ahead of their wives, but still strongly together, if you know what I mean. Some sweet talking PDA types young couples who talk as if their vocal chords have been stuffed with marshmallows. Some sitting outside a closed shop talking with shine in their eyes and glee in their voices. Some quarreling because someone missed wishing on birthday. Some celebrating birthday outside the girl’s hostel. In general, I see more unmarried couples than married ones. This makes me feel kind of happy.

I sense the sort of happiness one feels that one feels after watching ‘Before Sunrise’. The craving people have to meet at least once a day and spend some time to talk is just beautiful. For some, just a glimpse from a window is enough, if it gets too late. I might sound weird as I am not some 90-year-old philosopher who has seen things but to me, there is a sense of innocence in these faces who, after spending their whole day in sun (sometimes office AC also feels like sun if you are not happy with the work) and relentlessly head-banging traffic, they still take time out to make extra effort to talk to the people they like. As I said, many people don’t make that extra effort. They just let it be and resort to technology instead of a good old face to face talk.

Nobody knows, how many those couples turn out to be legitimate couples in future. Nevertheless, this time never returns. After marriage happens, family life begins and the job becomes busier, nobody gets the face to face happy quarreling time back.

Now only thing I worry about is not worrying about this*

* Joking

The events of that night

Usually I don’t ponder much about life because I find the word ponder funny. But then sometimes, you experience certain happenings when you have to ponder on your life and jot down on your blog, for everybody’s amusement.

Last week, I got an opportunity to visit a Hill-Station-y sort of place called Coorg about 220 KM from Bangalore. The place is good if you like riding across hills with light drizzling and in need of a much needed respite from Bangalore’s traffic. Actually I had gone to Coorg to attend a friend’s wedding who happened to be a Kodava. They’re very unlike usual stereotyped South Indians and usually drink a lot as if it is free. Apart from the shock that they don’t use spoons while eating rice, the affair was pretty nice as everyone ate a lot of pork, got drunk and came back home happily. And vegetarians like me had to live on just rice and regret about lack of respect people have nowadays for vegetarians. And apparently, if you seriously ask, I can tell that the appearance of the Kodava people and dressing are quite pleasant, if you know what I mean. Anyways, let us not digress as we have to travel 220 KM back and we have no time.

So while coming back from there, I was supposed to take a bus from Virajpet Bus Stand. The departure time of my bus was 11.45 PM and I had reached there at 5.30 PM because it is assumed that I am oblivious to the practice of getting bored. To add fun to this exciting journey alone, I had no earphones or any book to read to pass time. So to drag patience for 6 hours, I had no option but to see around the place. Usually bus stands in India are quite chirpy and full of life. This Virajpet bus stand was very small and you could do nothing but seeing some of the people getting on and off the buses without much hoopla. It is often said that when Murphy was about to jot down his laws, he ran out of the ink. Similarly, when I thought of seeing in and around the Virajpet Bus Stand, it started to rain which went on till bloody all night. After deliberately spending time in counting the number of time I bit each biscuit of a Good Day pack, I could only reach 7 PM. Soon the roof just above the seat I was sitting started to leak, drop by drop. After that I got in conversation with a local plantation guy who told about degrading Coorgi culture and that guys in Bangalore are weak physically for sometime. He left shortly though. As I was wearing shorts it started to feel a bit chilly and wet so I had to move my place to another seat near to which a person was sleeping and snoring at regular intervals. He kept on sleeping till 11 PM by the way. Before it starts getting boring, let us quickly fast forward to 11 PM. One bus arrived which looked similar to mine so I went there and asked whether this was it. The driver said no and asked me to stand on the main road outside the bus stand as buses towards Bangalore don’t enter the bus stand after 11 PM usually. I don’t understand why they call the bus stand the bus stand as buses don’t enter and stand there at all.

I picked up my stuff and stood outside the bus stand under a shed as it was still raining continuously. Under a neighborhood shed, another guy was standing who asked me ‘Bangalore??’. I nodded in agreement. Raining, I am sitting alone under a shed and one guy. Nice setting no? No. The guy came closer. Not that closer but in one-on-one discussion distance closer. Yes, I am offending you all but that guy was probably a squint. He was also travelling alone so he thought he could lure me into a discussion. Heh, poor chap because as soon as he started talking, I realized that it was all Kannada and I was getting nothing. I told him ‘Kannada barailla’ because ‘Kannada gothilla’ is too mainstream. He looked very disappointed so I asked him ‘Hindi? English?’ He smiled and said ‘Toda toda’. But he knew nothing actually. It was getting darker and rainier and bus stand across the road was now almost deserted. The guy told me something from which I could make out ‘Single person standing at bus stand can invite trouble’. Well done man, well played. Then he made a hut like gesture and asked me where I lived. I told him and he felt satisfied as he now understood that gesturing is a better way to pass your message across instead of just talking gibberish to me with eyes pointing in some other direction. Then we talked, ahem, in signal language about jobs, family, Rajasthan, rains, Electronic City, Coorg, etc. Then he said something that he didn’t have reservation in the bus and was being tortured by his father so he was traveling to Bangalore. I just gave an ‘oh’ and started looking into my cellphone as it was now 1145 and my bus should have been very near. At around 12 AM, a bus arrived and when I stopped the bus and asked about the scheduled bus, the driver said that my bus was about to arrive shortly. Meanwhile, there was one vacant seat in that bus so that guy who was supposedly running away from Coorg boarded the bus and went away.

I stood alone now as the roads and the bus stand was now almost fully deserted, I could just see few groups of workers passing by and occasional auto-rickshaw zooming around. Few drunkard also passed by apart from some weirdos who chose the bus stand as smoking zone. I could see a couple of Policemen who also wandered to check any ill happening. Now I wondered what if the policemen interrogated me about my intent of standing there alone at such unholy time and that too in Kannada. They didn’t which first I felt alright but then realized that they could have been of help as well. It was now 1 AM and I thought that end is nigh and I should do something about it. I tried calling friends but the call couldn’t reach. After trying a couple of times, finally I was able to call one friend and told him about the situation. I also asked whether I can go back to the city and stay there for the time being so that I could start in the morning but the call got cut again. Just when I was about to lose all hope and cry :’-), finally the bus arrived.

I boarded the bus and eventually reached Bangalore in the morning without getting robbed and whatever is famous nowadays. Some lessons were learnt and also it was noticed that even if you’re a guy, you are as vulnerable as anyone if you are alone in a place in the night where you don’t know the language and have no idea about the geography and you are just unfortunate. Ponder over it.