If we had time to ‘stand and stare’…

We sat there on the road by the lake, in the dark. We sat there looking on the silhouettes of motorboats floating still in the murky waters of the lake. It was day two. It was our first time…

We sat there for hours, contemplating on and off about the same things (maybe), without any conversation. Things didn’t seem to trouble me as much in the quiet of the night. The only worry then seemed to be that nights were shorter than days. We looked on the emerging shapes and colors of the boats as we were about to fall off the brink of yet another tranquil night into the horrors of the day.

As the morning began to unfold it brought with it beams of sunlight and people onto the road by the lake. The kind of people that plug music into their ears. People who venerate music and enslave it at the same time. People who can afford to walk and jog every morning and also, choose music for unobservant company. Sunshine streamed through the fog and foliage and fell on the road in warm patches. We looked on the road as one man walked right into a sunny patch opposite us. He turned towards us and glanced for a moment, briskly pulled out a device from his shoulder-bag, and pointed it at us with a firm hand. Assassination? Before I could scream, “There must’a been a mistake…”, he held it across his face and clicked, with what was only his camera, a bright flash at the lake behind us. He didn’t look back at the lake or us. He walked on, looking at the digital image, busily assessing the beauty of the representation of the lake and (possibly) cropping our heads out to enhance the same. Nature photography. One of those men with a morbid taste in nature, I thought.

We looked on as a hefty woman walked past us with long strides, with sweat beads running down from head to toe. She had two tiny dogs, on a leash, walking ahead of her, seeming to guide her way while she prepared a mental list of ‘things to do at work today’ with eyes shut. A few meters behind her we noticed a little girl, slightly smaller than her two pretty dogs, running-limping-stumbling. The girl was the woman’s daughter, neither old enough to grasp the technique of tying a knot in the shoelace, nor loud enough to intercept her mother’s thoughts hard at work, she was struggling to keep pace. As if on a long invisible leash tied to her mother’s broad waist, the little girl continued to be dragged along.

After the early morning hours were wasted thus on these indifferent populations of the big city, the day got hotter and the people more indifferent. Different sorts of vehicles, a few without air-conditioning systems, substituted the early morning joggers and walkers on the road. We
looked on as a motor-bike zoomed past us, on it the man with the camera. He seemed not too pleased with the sun or the trees or the traffic. After a short while, owing to a logjam somewhere down the road, a car came to a stop near us. The car was as huge as any of the boats in the lake, except it wasn’t chock full of people as the boats were then. In it were the mother and daughter from the early morning scene, being driven to work and school, respectively, by their uniformed driver. The mother spoke into her mobile phone and seemed displeased with getting late for work. The daughter stared out of the car towards the boats in the lake and seemed not too pleased with going to school. As the jam cleared, the car passed hurriedly with many other vehicles to offices and schools and other such places amid chaos, smoke and grossly unheeded music playing here and there.

For six long days, we looked on and on at that never-ending loop of people, without an exchange of word or emotion, till we began to feel hungry, feel alive, feel like going to work with them to earn our daily bread. My wife and I vacated the bench that very moment to go home from our successful little vacation and prepared to go to office. Our boss would be happy to see us
’emotionally charged‘ again, said my wife, breaking the ice. The next batch of colleagues took our place on the bench for the next six days, next to other such ‘vacation benches‘ placed there for employees of other companies…to sit and stare.

I was not surprised to see my wife happy to be back in the loop, back to being semi-human, as I drove our small car to office, with air-conditioning turned on. But in my heart I realized I was not ‘emotionally charged‘ to go to work, I would never be, I didn’t enjoy what I saw, what I was, I was not programmed  as the others were; I was not like my wife; she didn’t see things as I saw that early morning, she never did, she enjoyed what she saw – she was motivated by the sight of the woman who was obsessed with her work, by the sight of the photographer who was only concerned with his boss’s comments on his nature photographs; the vacation bench works for everyone. Not for me. I’m defective. I feel more dead, more horrified every time I sit and stare at what the world has turned into … because my defect, my dark secret is that I’m completely human.

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