Where is Everybody Going?

Image (c) Arti Agarwal
Image (c) Arti Agarwal

 

It’s past mid-September in Bangalore. It’s around 8 in the morning. I take my breakfast of vada, Sāmbhar and chutney and sit at a free table. I am at the Bangalore International Airport Terminal. An elderly gentleman asks me if he can sit at the table. “Ofcourse, please”, I reply.

As I eat, I look around. In the same moment I both see and hear – birds! Twittering ( No , I don’t mean on an android ), chirping, hopping away. Flying around all over the café. Flying from the supports in the ceiling to the chairs in the café. Landing on the floor like little kids landing dangerously on the ground from a slide swing, while people munch at their food absently, their bodies and minds having no connection with each other, shown by their blank, distracted gazes into the great nothing.

I am slowly feeling deafened by the incessant announcements for people who will miss their flights if they don’t rush now and reach the boarding gates in time. People look at me with a confused and curious look. I am smiling. They look around me to see why. They don’t seem to be able to see it! They don’t see the birds! The birds are now sitting on the chair right in front of me, twittering away. I wonder if I have some mighty power by which only I can see and hear them. I look around and take a 360 degree view of the place and the people moving about in the place. Nobody is looking at the birds! There are atleast two dozen birds. A whole airport is missing such a riot of activity.. how is that possible?

People all around. Their faces say they are either busy socializing with their bosses and colleagues, planning their next strategy or move, or worrying about the never ending, all possessing work. I’m now sitting at the boarding gate. The man sitting next to me is wearing a beautiful suit, and playing with a big phone. Have we, humans, totally lost the capacity to enjoy life? We are either worrying or trying to keep our hands and minds occupied withsomething. The man just discovered that we have started boarding. I don’t think he paused to think before going and standing at the extreme end of a very long queue for boarding. What’s the rush? It doesn’t seem possible that the plane will leave without collecting everything and everyone it is supposed to take, proven by the many announcements.

I wonder if anyone paused to look at the very huge screen display with a beautiful photograph of the colors of holi, the festival of color celebrated enthusiastically all over India. Everyone tells me they “appreciate photography” and have very recently bought the xyz camera by Nikon or Canon and want to know more about it. But no one here seemed to pause and look around or see the beauty in the tiny things. How can anyone learn photography if they don’t know how to appreciate beauty, I wonder. Another man in a chair after mine just wakes up from a very deep sleep. Again, no thinking, wakes up startled, sees the boarding queue, goes and joins the queue at its end.

There was a time when people used to enjoy travel. When people used to look around, observe and cherish the little things that make a place, a place. That make a city, a city. Now, it seems, travel has become just another mundane part of life. Now, people just dress up in expensive clothes to board flights after flights and walk into meetings and business tours without even having a vague idea of where they are. They could be anywhere. They would still be doing the same thing – worrying, planning, missing sleep, missing family, missing life. Where does this lead us? Where is everyone going?

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