Usually the conversation starts with, “where are you from?”
“..Meaning Mumbai, right?”
My imagination zooms back to the two monster-cities that are growing cancerously, almost into each other, Sigh, “Uh, yeah, close enough…”
“Are you here for a holiday?”
I definitely do not look like a jolly tourist, not with frizzed hair and smears of gober on my ragged cloths, “No. I work here.”
“What is there in the hills to build?!” accompanied with laughter.
I silently look out for the direly awaited, late night bus to show up.
“Who are you travelling with?”
I feel like saying, “With myself” but I am not hungry or nasty today, so I say “Nobody.”
“How much do you get paid?”
“Nothing, so far… But with time, there will be something.” now really trying to sound polite.
“Are you from an NGO?”
“I work for an Architect.”
A long awkward pause, while I do my best to ignore that top to toe scrutiny….
“How old are you?”
I can almost catch them sigh this time, oh…there is no hope after all…
Mostly by end of this question they classify me solidly into some category and start feeling comfortable….almost sympathetic! Then the rapid fire round takes a turn into checking my ancestry up….
Often my skills at shamelessly sleeping through any bus journey save me from this endless interview. And with time I have learned that albeit strangers, most of them are simply good natured and curious about this strange woman travelling alone at night. Their questions, too probing and unnecessarily personal, actually harm me in no way, but might open a new world of possibilities that they have never even considered…. I have seen some of these random interviewers drift into a silent musing, trying to relate with me… mostly, they shrug the thought out with an anxious jerk and fall back into their comfortable, sympathetic zone!
But yes, I admit, there was a time when I used to fire up and fume inside, being judged by strangers like that… Once an over-smart, ten-year old looking me up and down, had asked his mother, “Is this how a spinster looks like?!” I had felt a jumble of emotions varying from violent rage to careless laughter and then, squirmy pity….
This is not about questioning the conventions… or rebelling for or against anything… that activist in me knows that there are far graver things than facebook relationship status, to fight against.
Relationships and their social contexts have become far too controversial and debatable issues lately, for poor me to even dare writing upon.
Do I wish to be in a relationship with anyone or not? If yes, then with whom and why?
To start with, does a relationship (let us call it matrimony, if it comforts) truly complete my life?
For those who bother to raise such questions, these are too personal choices to generalize broadly into socially acceptable frameworks that we live within…. This is about those who silently choose to live their lives by their own rules, without preaching others to do the same… without setting out to destroy the very fabric of our faiths and subsequent comforts.
With time, now I have come to a point where life has started weaving into a beautiful, melodic rhythm of its own. Although delightfully unpredictable like a dance sequence, life has continued to gift me with moments of grace, beauty, warm affection and lasting friendships…. It has brought me to believe that any day that has not been driven by the utmost love for life, is not lived at all.
Life of this 27, single woman, travelling architect is full and satisfying…. Filled with immense questions and challenges sometimes beyond her strength! There is color, glamour, beauty and humor along with mistakes, blunders, failures and massive goof ups!
They have said that I am wasting my life, that I am taking all the wrong decisions…. They have said that this path that I am choosing goes nowhere…. And I promise, this nowhere is so much more beautiful than anywhere! Through this chaotic, rattling bus journey of life, my closest ones have always stood by my silly decisions….
My exceptionally cool-headed father with his flawlessly practical advice, offered only when asked for…expecting me to make truthful and honest choices in life, and nothing more, in return of all the emotional and financial investments he has continued to make…
Friends of family and families of my friends, who have unexpectedly risen to help, guide and shelter me in the worst hours of life….
Teachers who have patiently watched me fumble over the easiest of lessons!
My best buddies who have watched me fall and get back to my feet… taught me to use phones and tracked my crazy travel itineraries… laughed at me and lightened up my gloomy moods!
Silent admirers who have defended and protected me, from a distance, without hurting my independent spirit….
I have always known how much courage it has cost them all to watch me struggle. I know how uncomfortable they have felt late at night, in their comfortable beds, when they knew I traveled, hungry, dirty and cold out there….
For me, they represent love like nothing and no one else…. They give me strength and hope for the great times…. many beautiful futures that we will be building together….
Along with women of exceptional courage and character, many of them are men of varying backgrounds and age groups. They have loved me in their own ways…. Accepted my fussing, hangry, eccentric way of loving them! And they have never offered me a humiliating choice that most women are often offered, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly, between being an object and being everything else. And at every moment, if there was such a choice, they have laughed and nodded, as I chose wholeheartedly and in complete consciousness, to remain hungry, dirty, cold and loved as I am!