I met him in the elevator. I don’t remember much about his appearance. I think he was short. I can’t be sure but he must have been about five foot five inches. He was wearing jeans I think. Or something else. I don’t remember his clothes. I don’t know if he was wearing shoes or slippers. Nothing striking. His face was fairly common. Small eyes if I remember correctly. He was bald or balding or somewhere in between. In one hand, he carried something that appeared to be junk food and an umbrella. In the other, he was carrying a book. That was the only thing I noticed and remembered.
I had finished reading the same book a day before and that was still on my mind. None of my friends or acquaintances seemed to be interested in the subject of human history. When I tried to share my excitement, I received a very dull or annoyed response from everyone. To see that book in someone’s hand was like a special gift. I was excited to share my thoughts with him. So was he. It was such a pleasant change to find someone interested in talking about the subject I find fascinating, which everyone else around me find boring. He missed his stop while talking and added another five seconds to our conversation.
We may have a more detailed conversation on the book someday. Or we may never meet again. The human connections can be made within ten seconds or take years. They may be small encounters or last a lifetime. But if we just drop the social layers, it’s easy to reach out. All you need to do is smile and say, ‘Hey, I just finished reading that book’.
There’s something very simple about a connection shared by book readers. It doesn’t demand friendship or emotions. It doesn’t demand awkward social meetings. It doesn’t follow the rules of society. It just exists.
Book readers mostly don’t recognize the definitions of social relationships. They meet, smile or talk for the love of books. They enjoy sharing new ideas or thought paradigms from their readings or the love for their favorite characters.
That guy in the elevator was reading a book I finished a day before and loved. That’s all I noticed and remembered; and that’s all that matters.
I don’t cook much. But every once in a while, I get excited about cooking and spend almost two hours in kitchen. I don’t cook a lavish meal; I just cook really slow and with lot of care. My favourite part of cooking is cutting vegetables.
There is something very human and real about cutting vegetables. In the current world of virtual everything including relationships, sometimes I feel unreal and disconnected. In our civilized settled society, we give overwhelming significance to multiple versions of unreal realities – culture, religion, caste, race, economic status and social status. Everything is more important than the air we breathe in. The sensory experience of the physical world around us seems to have little value in our existence. The superior technology of the modern world has created an additional layer of reality on our physical world that was already hidden behind artificial layers created by society and culture. We seem to derive more pleasure from the number of friends on social media or instant messaging on our phones. The physical experience of the world and a breathing living human being is getting taken over by a virtual existence. It’s easy to forget self. It’s easy to float in clouds. It’s easy to ignore messages from within and from the environment.
In this world, I sometimes crave a real human experience. Cutting vegetables brings me back to the reality. The sensory experience of feeling its texture, soaking in the colors and smell builds a special connection with food cooked and consumed afterwards. It brings me back from the virtual worlds to the reality of being a human – just a simple human that needs food, water and some fresh air to breathe in.
As a child, I loved making paper boats and watch them float away in puddles or streams created by rainwater. And then I grew up and forgot the art of making delicate paper boats.
One fine day, during a long call, I started fiddling with a grocery bill lying around and made a little boat. It remained there as a random piece of craft on my dining table. The next grocery bill also tuned into a boat. Soon enough half of my dining table was covered in paper boats made with grocery bills. Somehow they don’t look like a bunch of junk papers on table to be thrown away. They bring playfulness to the living room.
As a child, I didn’t have any bills to pay. And now my thoughts and mindspace are dominated by paying bills. Somehow turning these bills into boats brought back memories and smiles from the carefree days of childhood. Life seems a bit easier just by turning bills into boats.
Still immersed in the smells and sights of my trip, I came back home yesterday after twelve days. On way back, I was a little irritated by the return journey and worried about going back to normal life. An unclean house awaited me with an empty kitchen and fridge. The suitcase in my hand reminded me of mandatory upcoming laundry time. My mind indulged a bit in the memories of the people I met and places I saw. But the discomforts of the trip would soon be replaced by convenience of a home. I was looking forward to the familiarity of home while missing the strangers and friends I left behind.
Every time I come back home, there is a mixed set of feelings. Happy and sad. A little annoyed. Sometimes tired and numb. Followed by confusion. But as soon as I enter home, there is always something that brings in a sense of comfort. The turmoil inside settles down.
Mostly its a small item kept in my room that spells home for me like the Ganesha idol on my dressing table or a pile of books lying next to my bed.
Yesterday, it was just the balcony and the view outside. It started raining as soon as I entered home. The vast landscape was covered in mist. I stood there for a while soaking in the sound of heavy rainfall, cool breeze, misty view and gorgeous patterns of streetlights in rains with city melting away in the background.
Mumbai in rains. Life is back to normal.