The Town Bus
- Manasa Mahalakshmi A
Being called an inspiration is quite different from being one. Little did Maanvi know that her reputation as an “inspiration” would be put to the test, even before the flush of success faded from her cheeks.
It was a hot afternoon. Maanvi sighed and let herself drop heavily on the sofa. She had just returned from a trip to her alma mater, wherein she presided over a function as a guest speaker. “The rising star of contemporary writing”, “The jewel on the crown of our institute”, “a true inspiration” – she recollected the phrases of adoration with deep satisfaction, eyes closed.
Suddenly, she opened her eyes and turned sideward, to see the object she had
unknowingly been playing with – a crumpled envelope. In a flash, she recalled a
timid, round-faced girl pushing her way through the crowd of admirers, to force the envelope into her hand. She had vanished before Maanvi could respond.
She smoothened the envelope and ran her fingers across the words,
“From, Ms. Chaos”.
Curious, she opened it and started reading the letter.
Do you know what’s worse than being stupid? It’s being intelligent but feeling utterly useless. I know I have it in me, but, I just don’t believe in myself. It’s very easy for people to criticize. They think I am just being lazy & frivolous. But, life has not been easy for me. Bearing the scars of childhood trauma (which I do not wish to discuss, I somehow managed to reach college. Though I have almost let go of the past, the insecurities persist like stubborn stains. Fear of failure grips my heart. The constant anxiety attacks don’t help either.
And now, at a very crucial part of my life, I have no clue what I want. Years of
emotional suppression have rendered me incapable of knowing myself.
Will I make it in life, Maanvi? Will I succeed? Or should I just lead a simple life and depart when its time? What do you think?
Without taking her eyes off the letter, Maanvi got up and walked swiftly towards her writing-table, which was the cue for her domestic help, who had just brought in lunch, to retreat in silence.
“Dear Ms. Chaos,
I am not sure if saying “I can completely understand your situation” would bring you comfort. Instead, I would like to share an experience with you.
6 years ago, I traveled to my native village, which is still untouched by the
extravaganzas of the city. As I could not find a cab, I boarded the town bus.
Trust me, Ms.Chaos, if there is one thing that can put your title to shame, it is that bus.
With a capacity of 75, the bus carried 250+ passengers – some seated, many standing, and many more just hanging on to their dear lives. I stood pressed uncomfortably against several standees and barely had the space to move a leg. Sweating profusely, I prayed sincerely that I should be able to get off the bus safely once I reach the destination. In short, I was in the midst of complete “chaos”.
As the bus trundled on, my eyes, tired of the perennial greenery outside, slowly shifted to the chaos inside. The group of standees near me laughed boisterously over a joke & one of them doubled over and bumped me hard in the stomach. Eyes watering in pain, I craned my neck further to see a few seated passengers beckoning known ones from all directions & squeezing in as much as they can to make space for them. Turning around, I saw a 90-year-old granny elbowing her way to the center with surprising strength, cursing every single standee on the way. Behind her, two young boys got hold of the rods atop and performed gymnastics to the amusement of their toddler siblings.
I found it astonishing that the increasing crowd barely had an effect on the conductor. He managed to snake his way through the congestion several times, to distribute tickets, kicking several shins in the process. Packets of food and crisps were passed around, the contents spilling on several passengers, who in turn used every abusive word known, to curse them.
Giggling involuntarily, I felt my discomfort ebb away from me. Instead, I felt the
intensity of life & energy throbbing in that crammed space. It dawned on me that I felt pain and discomfort, only when I tried hard to distract myself from the “Chaos”. As I observed every happening in that town bus, I started becoming a part of it.
And once I became a part of it, I no longer felt discomfort.
At least once in our lifetime, we fall into the “I” trap due to personal loss, misery,
Can I do it? Am I good? Am I bad? Am I better than others? Will I succeed? Will I
fail? Will I be loved? – There is no end to this trap of “I”.
To be honest, I used to struggle with writer’s block quite often. I almost gave up on my dream.
But boarding that town bus changed my perspective on life.
I never faced writer’s block again, because I stopped relying on ‘me’ for inspiration.
Instead, I simply transformed into a medium, allowing inspiration to flow through me. I opened up to the world and realized I am already a part of something huge.
So Ms. Chaos, if you are still looking for a solid piece of advice, here it is.
Board a bus, drop the “I” & just observe.
Will it work? I can’t say that.
After all, experiences are like tossing a coin. The result can be heads or tails.
But, as you watch the coin flip, your instincts awaken to tell you what you want it to be.
Until then, keep trying.
Maanvi (ex- Ms. Chaos)