“…a bit player in someone Else’s nightmare”
– Stephen King, Insomnia

Cityscape and slums, dangerous traffic and trafficking, the national highway cuts into the narrow city streets. Every highway is a tributary for the pulsating city. When life in country roads gush into the gaping black hole, the city is caught unaware, the arterial streets get clogged, the traffic is jammed. Flyovers and subways are open heart surgeries on the city, they move the fat a little further but the the terrible sounds, vast ugliness and the sickening air remains. The smell of gasoline and smoke in the traffic blocks, vehicles going slow, the dust – traffic snarls pisses us off more than anything. We feel we don’t deserve this. We asked for a trip on the national highway at super speeds, here we are wasting time in a traffic muddle. Irony. The time of the day when traffic moves the slowest, rush hour.

Then it’s the mad rush to get our vehicle off the traffic block. Maneuvering, twisting the wheel, expletives like flying kisses. We shout – what that lady in the blue car is thinking she is doing in the traffic block; what are we doing? We wriggle out somehow and take a deep breath as if one helluva constipation is all over. The sad part of the bargain is that we come to the same place, the very next day and race around in a bloody maze.

Ha ! but the lure of the city, despite its cruel hand. There once was an army man who loved the smell of napalm in those humid Vietnam mornings, he used to wonder how he will survive after the war gets over. I cannot survive a day without the city, today I was bumper to bumper for two long hours. Ironically the road is called ‘the Bypass’. Tomorrow I’m going again – with dreary eyes, with nowhere else to go, like a loser, like a bit player in someone Else’s nightmare.

That tree said
I don’t like that white car under me,
it smells gasoline
That other tree next to it said
O you’re always complaining
you’re a neurotic
you can see by the way you’re bent over.

Allen Ginsberg

The Volvo journey from Bangalore to Trivandrum is something I really enjoy on the national highway, especially the movie they play in the bus. I get to hear the audience react to each scene and dialogue. I note down the stuff I would need to avoid when I make a movie (not now, but after selling all my dad’s property). The other day,(after several rounds of offerings in the local temple), its a girl (my lord) sitting next to me. *How stuff works : Girl in the next seat-start conversation-bus falls into ravine-LOST (second season)- DHKMN – found – final scene – you, baggy jeans,100 cc bike,Pooja Bhatt*. So I start the conversation in T minus three seconds.

She : “blah blah”
Me : “I started the conversation, so i should talk more”
She :”blah blah…..you ought to do an MBA, otherwise you are a worm”
Me : “see..can I talk for the next five minutes?”
She : “blah blah….MBA should be in finance man”
Me : “Its 5:20 now, can I start talking at 5:30 at least?”
She : “Investment banking sucks man..they think girls are dumb…blah blah”
Me : “If you had so much to talk then you should’ve started the chat”
She : “…its not quant…its different….stats man stats….”
Me : “I’m deaf in both ears, I understand the words that come out of your mouth – not”
[after being mercilessly defeated in the conversation game, I say “bluha bluha” to myself so that I don’t hear what she is saying]
By the time the movie started I knew everything about her except how she got that cute scar on her right elbow *Maybe fell off a cycle or something, wish it was a cliff or something*

It was a Dilip starrer movie, *He’s ok – just* but I made all kinds of noise *like everybody else* when the hero was introduced. And then she said,

She : “I hate malayalam movies”
I felt like the Volvo bus just ran over me.
Me : “hey but Dilip movies are fun” *I’ll never marry you now. Not only that – I’ll definitely kill you*
She : “but these are not my kinda movies…blah blah”
Me : “Its my kinda movies, I’m gonna watch now”

I sat there planning the murder, then I felt I was missing something. I knew I was being irrationally prejudiced, I could look foolish with such a wild guess, but I had to ask her that question.

Racing along the National Highway, you see these sad houses. They look dark from the highway, sad houses in the rain. Beautiful spaces covered by walls and filled by boredom. Husband is a wall, wife another, the son and daughter are walls, mother and father. They silently fight for defining the little space within; call it home. Our basic instinct is to break those walls and search for the sky, but when the lightness becomes too unbearable you want a confine, you need that comfort and warmth. Little houses by the national highway, each has a story.

Across dinner that night, I pop the question.

Me : “btw, you didn’t tell me – which school?”
She : “Holy Angels Convent”

The two eggs in my curry became ducks and ran out saying “quack!quack!”. I started laughing uncontrollably.

She : “what happened”
Me : “forget it…I get crazy on the national highway..hehe”