Wednesday, 13 August 2008

In praise of the unscheduled stop..

y'know what i like? waypoints.. not the planned sort, those random ones that you make in the middle of journeys. i've always loved those, i'm a big sucker for an unscheduled stop. there is nothing i love more than a train stopping at a remote station for another train to cross it, or when a long distance bus pulls into a gas station or a restaurant, or when your flight gets diverted to another airport 'cos there was a thunderstorm over your destination. there is something strangely alluring about these places, even though they may not be particularly beautiful or interesting if you look at them from outside the perspective of an unscheduled stop. yet when the train pulls in at a station whose name i'm not sure i can pronounce, i run to the door at the risk of losing my seat, even.
i guess it's sorta like meeting someone you know you're not gonna meet again. like those strangers you strike up conversations with when travelling. you might find them interesting and try to talk more, or even end up talking more yourself knowing there's the safety of anonymity. you're only together for so long. they might lead dead ordinary lives outside of that interlude, but you might think they were the most interesing person you met. its the same with these places.
i step onto empty platforms with nothing but bored and sleepy dogs that are actively ignoring me, and i think i've reached someplace i might want to spend a long time in. i linger on the platform, trying to understand the smells and sounds of the place, and often stand transfixed long after the train has started moving, only to snap out and reluctantly walk, then jog and hop on the footboard of the coach that will take me to the destination. when the bus stops on a highway for passengers to answer nature's call, i get out even if i dont have to go and then play this little game of walking as far away from the bus as possible before i hear the driver honking and then rush back. when my flight to ahmedabad stops at bombay on the way, i walk down to the rear of the aircraft and stand as close to the open door as possible, and i can tell you that's about the only time i wish that i could be in bombay. cos i already know i'm going away.
similar things happen on the bike too. i'm an estimates guy. when i set off on the bike, i've got numbers running in my head. distance, estimated time of arrival, time enroute on various legs, fuel, mileage.. time being the most important. i get disturbed by people who want all the pencils on their desks facing the same direction, but i get pretty cranky if these numbers of mine get disturbed. which usually means the stops are pre-planned, and i zoom past for most of the journey. yet often, something catches my eye about some places. its more often a small rock or water filled ditch than a scenic mountain, but i stop for the couple of mintues allowed by the confidence that i can catch up with my numbers by riding faster and drink it all in.
i guess destinations dont hold that charm for me. i mean, when you get on a vehicle to go somewhere, you're most likely going to reach where its taking you. factor in all the obstacles and possibilities you could possibly think of, but even then the probability is well in the high nineties. and that is what bothers me about thinking of life as a journey, from birth to death. we forget wandering, we look at waypoints as just things to pass through, not to linger and savour. we are often too bothered about saving our seats than going to the door to see new stations waiting.

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