Monday, October 07, 2013

Face Values

Some folks go through life wrapped up into themselves.

And some folks go around as if life is a buffet to be enjoyed, rich with assorted folks crossing your paths with a variety of faces,  hiding behind them a variety of stories and stuff.

It might be an interesting game to have people guess from your writeup, which place you are writing about...

A self absorbed, half dormant look, occasionally shifting as the backpack shifts, a demeanour of someone averse to baths, ironed clothes, and chappals in proper pairs,  a random smile/laugh as he adjusts a wire stuck in his ear, and mutters about submissions.

A square middle-aged countenance, a safari suited look of importance, traversing through impatient crowds , to unlock places of study. A heavy lidded look exuding power of controlling entry, face-up walking through the entrance, the Pied Piper where rats are replaced by students.  A nod, a smile, and suddenly a straightened respectful look, as someone else with power and confidence personified walks in, nodding to all.

A few ladies in similar colored Navratri coded silks, confident in their own, but an imperceptible sideways glance at some new jewellery sported by one of their group; an occasional deep breath , wishing away the tiredness of an early rising, to cook festival stuff for the family dabbas. A clear disapproving look at the last minute girl rushing into the lift,  with narrow jeans and a tee.

A bored face on a tired body on a stool inside the lift;  he has had it with the pervading festival scents and perfumes and the camphored silks. He stares at the closed steel doors, with a disgusted sideways glance at a lady occupying place for two. The exodus on the upper floor, and he smiles at the despatch person, who starts on his paper rounds , office to office. The lift is not for going down. But he smiles with a look that says "Gravity, go to hell!" and they both continue down, stopping only for a chaiwalla lugging 25 paper cups and a teapot.

A sudden straightening of folks,  crisp in uniforms, a self twirling moustache helplessly doing its thing, and folks with a powerful proud demeanour follow a smiling person , as he walks in from the porch. Salutes, nods, and they turn back, pumped up for what they might do best; wave and whistle at badly parked cars, note down licence numbers of vehicles,  and  stand guard outside the local Kendriya Vidyalaya as 15 big buses, assorted cars, and an exodus of  school kids create a daily chaos amidst 70 Rs/kilo onions being unloaded outside a vegetable vendor's shop.

Some, with a fresh look, much aided by a fresh change of clothes, running shoes, rackets, and "we don't want to be late" expression of urgency, fast walking towards the grounds. An expression of  clear disregard on their faces, of various folks  disapprovingly noticing their attire,  a sudden grin and rushing to hi-five  someone, a speeding up in apprehension as they note the time.   In direct contrast, to the foot scraping , wet hair, laugh-filled,  fun walk  back, in anticipation of what might be a decent meal at their mess, as they dodge senior citizens on their sedate walks at dusk, on the now well populated road.

A few pint sized folks, in raptures over the loss of training wheels on bicycles, blissfully rattling down the sidewalks at speed, with various parents running behind. A few tired pint sizes, with plastered hair, and tired hungry looks, and dripping plastic bags, straining up the slope on their way back from the swimming pool, fibbing to each other about how they would bunk the next day, suddenly making way for what looks like a uncle teacher type, out on his daily run, who thinks they need to walk in single file and not block the road.

An occasional rickshawalla, with a beatific look on his face,  stunned by the greenery, the limited willful traffic  , the very Film City type ambiance due to the lake  and gardens,  as he stops by  at a no-parking roadside, one foot outside on the road, crushing something in his palm, before popping it into his mouth. Shaken back to reality by an empty rickshaw going the opposite way, he gives no one-in-particular, a "ah, life is like that" look, reverses minutes before a Maruti Gypsy with security rolls up, and accelerates away to the gate.         
And then there is a puffed up little school girl, cycling home with single minded pedalling, her face impatient with the interference of so many four wheelers freewheeling across the roads; polite waves to aunties, grins at classmates , hair falling across and sticking to her sweaty forehead; the thrill at having topped the class is difficult to hide, and it shows in her eyes, as she holds out a hand to indicate a turn, wobbles a bit due to her heavy schoolbag, dodges a random dog, and is now on her last leg, her face simply waiting to burst with her news.

A few folks in no-nonsense looks and nine yard sarees, plastic bags in hand, steps accelerating towards their destination,  their face a mask that hides a home trauma that consists of a drunk husband, a jobless son, and  sick ma-in-law; they sometimes cannot read or write, but always make it on the dot at the given time in a given house for housework.  Always acknowledging similar colleagues with a smile,  waving to kids leaving for school,  from places where they work with the kids' mothers; you sometimes see anger and grief blacken the faces as they talk to friends, pouring out their woes in troubles  in building compounds, and then the mask is back. 

Of course, there are those with determined strides, conference bags on shoulders, name badges around their necks, shoes nicely polished , apprehension present but trying to hide it on their faces; it is their first day here,  they quietly observe the more loquacious amongst them, and make their way to the conference venue.

Then there are those supremely confident folks, who are seen sometimes walking at a leisurely pace, nodding to themselves, fingers curved on an imaginary blackboard,  perhaps sometime humming a classical song, looking at the watch, and suddenly speeding up, nodding at young folks en route, shaking their heads at a situation that implies more construction means more progress.  They sometimes go by on two wheelers and four wheelers, nostalgical about times when you could park closer to your work   place. An imperceptible straightening as they enter the hallowed precincts, and its time to get chalk dust on your trousers by then.

And finally, there are some, who actually do not understand what the fuss is all about.  This is their land, since time immemorial, their ancestors roamed here, and they see looks of incredulity on the faces of supposedly smart folks, with 2 legs, a swollen head, messed up digestions and less than half their energy. They wander around with inscrutable expressions, ideal for kings and rulers, they give dangerous looks to two wheelers daring to change gears in their vicinity, and almost do a lumbering  catwalk through the long corridor that is a landmark of the area, shooing off dogs trying to latch on. They relax on the mowed lawns chewing the cud,  ruminating on the sudden high density of two legged folks that  they see around them.

Over the years, they have noticed one huge difference.

Earlier, people walked with groups, and friends. Today, they have wires in their years, they talk to themselves, and   some even have their elbows permanently bent as they hold on to their ears with some contraption.

Yes, another difference too.

These days, they also sense something dangerous , particularly on hot days at nights.  Their faces show fear.   A fear of the striped, roaring , black and gold fast one, that encroaches from the jungles surrounding the adjoining lake, and looks for prey.

Theirs is just to carry on with life, with a brave face. 

But sometimes, just sometimes,  they wonder, why no one has projects to "save"  them , and there is so much fuss about the gold and black fast one.....

And they realize, that one must simply learn to  face it all..... 


  1. Interesting post for the day. I had to change email address -- thought I had let you know???

  2. Love this post
    and see often those who walk with wire in their ears
    they talk to themselves
    and many with those permantelly bent elbows
    as they hold onto their ears
    with some contraption.
    Also small hand held contraptions
    that they are punching with their fingers.
    These seem to fill my home when they make rare visits.

    It is some of the above
    and wish they would put everything down
    and just talk to their grandma....

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  4. the contraption stuck to the ears baffles me too particularly when the wearer is oblivious to the traffic and crosses the road as if he is the 'road ka raja'.

    do they consider themselves immortal?