A Benign Infatuation

To realize the place that noise, nonsense and infatuation have in life, I had to lose them and rediscover them.

After a long long time, there came into my life this fleeting infatuation. I had almost forgotten what it was to have a crush. I had tucked away all memories of love and infatuation; they seemed to have been from a past life. In this life, I looked upon them as a luxury that I couldn’t afford. I felt too worn-out to look beautiful or appealing. My mind had sunk into some abyss from which I couldn’t see any way out into the sunshine. In the darkness of that abyss, the only sound I could hear was my own. It was frightening to hear my own voice in that eerie silence. My heart pounded so loud that I thought it would pop out! I felt terrified, uncertain and thoroughly muddled. I was so exhausted from fear that I wanted to sleep, but every time I closed my eyes, I saw myself. I had never imagined I would be terrified of my own reflection. The conflict within me threatened to break me into a million pieces. I fought to be left alone…to be rid of my own burden…to close my eyes and go off to sleep. But my mind fought back to confront me with nightmares…to keep me awake…to echo into my ears a million voices that sent me into a chaos. I had never before known that the most fearful vision was to stare into the abyss of one’s own unconscious. I almost thought I had left the realms of reality and crossed over to the opposite side. I dreaded the setting sun…the dark hours of the night…and its deafening silence.

It was at that point that I pulled myself together, realizing I had to stop looking inward. I guess I had been forced to look inward for a long time now. I was progressively moving into deeper planes of my mind, failing to see how deep I had travelled. It was time to look outward. I booked my tickets to Bangalore.

The night I left, I felt lonely and sad because I had no one to drop me. At other times, it had never mattered. But this time, I wished I had someone with me- a friend or a relative or a neighbour. But there was none. It had never been like that in Bangalore. Once in the bus, I felt better as I preoccupied myself with thoughts on how I would spend my days in Bangalore. I slept eventually and when I woke up, it was to discover that we had hit Bangalore before sunrise. It was 4.30 a.m. when we reached our destination. I hopped off the bus and smelled the air, as I always do. The question I always ask myself as soon as I land is – ‘Can this city succeed in its magic again? Would I still relate to it? Would it still instill in me all that I wish to feel?’ The breeze felt cold and nice, almost as if answering my question.

I don’t know why, but my first memory in Bangalore is always of dad. Perhaps because right from childhood, I would follow him dutifully as he took me around the city, lost to my perceptions of the city, trusting his ability to find his way around, irrespective of which part of the city we were in. The consequence was that I never learnt to find my way around, left to my own. To this day, I feel lost when commuting. Yet, I love exploring the city to dig out familiar vestiges….and collect as many as I can.

I guess I stood frozen there, lost in thought, my eyes silently caressing this vision of a city that has always received me with open arms. So I was a little startled to realize that I was being spoken to. I looked in the direction of the voice that had broken my reverie. A man with a boyish gleam in his eyes was the source of this voice. He was stretching his arms and legs and he probably realized that I hadn’t really been on this planet for the last several minutes. So he repeated,” Where do you have to go?” Someone from the travel agency patted him and walked by, and I realized that this man who had spoken to me was from the agency. ‘Hebbal’, I said. He looked away, stretched again, and then stared into the distance. For a moment, he too seemed lost, almost as if captivated by the feel of this beautiful city. And then he suddenly replied, ” We don’t have our buses going to Hebbal”. Meanwhile, another man from the agency walked towards me and suggested I take a rick. It was just 5 a.m. And I didn’t want to barge into my friend’s house that early and wake her up. I thought for a while, but there seemed to be no other option. I started walking towards the rickshaw stand, when the first guy called after me, ” Hop on to this bus.” I turned back to see him point at a bus that was parked there. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I boarded the bus. I asked a passenger where this bus was off to. Marathahalli was the answer. To my surprise, the man who had asked me to board, hopped onto the driver’s seat and started the engine. He turned to me and said,”You can get off at Marathahalli. You will get enough buses to Hebbal”. I nodded and sat back. Meanwhile, the other guy who had suggested me to take a rick came running and asked me why I had boarded this bus. “She can’t walk to the rickshaw stand with all that luggage. Instead, she can get off at Marathahalli and take a bus right there”, the driver answered for me. He took off with the excitement and exhilaration of a teen driving his first motor vehicle. I looked at him as he drove. He had a boyish charm and an infectious happiness that were hard to ignore. I looked out of the window- Bangalore city awakening from its slumber, gathering momentum…striking a chord with the momentum of the bus…the music playing up to this momentum…the boyish zeal of this man percolating my heart…my heart soaring. It was too good to be true. I wanted to hold on to this moment forever. I had forgotten what it felt like to be happy…zealous…light hearted.

When it was time to alight, the man gave me directions like I was a retard, but I absolutely loved the attention. As I walked towards the door, I could feel the happiness spill into my stride…the smile lighting up my face…and perhaps a tiny blush that burnt my cheeks. I summoned the courage to look up and thank him. He flashed a smile that made my heart skip a beat. “Happy?”, he asked, pointing at the bus bound to Hebbal. I was tongue-tied, so I just smiled. For a moment, time stopped as i met his gaze. This was the magic I had wanted to feel. “Stay happy always”, he said. I came around and hopped off the bus. As the bus moved off, I could see my reflection in the mirror. The reflection shrunk and the bus finally disappeared from view. But I was aware that my reflection in somebody’s mind would last a trifle longer. And that was the magic of a benign infatuation.

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