I was reliving my childhood two nights ago, watching Tom and Jerry. Among many episodes, I rediscovered one of my forgotten favorites, “Mouse In Manhattan”. During childhood, it was innocent happiness to watch how dear Jerry managed to end up at the wrong place at the wrong time in his bid to escape the country life. Skip to present and watch it again, and it seems the tall cities and sheer pace of life so depicted connived with the background setting and apparent coincidence to make me laugh at the poor country mouse’ travails in the big city. However, I just smiled at the end.
You see, I got the real joke this time, and that joke was on me. More so, because I had been able to observe myself and my life as a static and detached observer, a bird’s eye view of myself you might call it, and thus, the episode provided only the much needed impetus to reflect on my experiences more profoundly. This opportunity to review my life knocked at my doors in the form of an unplanned but immediate trip to Nepanagar, a journey of eight hundred kilometers, a side, from Delhi and via Itarsi by train.
Nepanagar is a very small town, which is literally the geographical center of the country, in Madhya Pradesh. With a population of about ten thousand, it is centered about a paper-mill, which was set up in 1948. Anyway, history-onics apart (please bear with my sense of humor), the atmosphere in the town hung about lazily and the roads were silent, marked with a conspicuous absence of metro-like noise. There was a perceptible change in air quality and I could easily feel the cleanliness of the air as it gushed into my lungs (I didn’t even know one could perceive such differences in plains). And so, three uneventful days went past in the blink of an eye, and I had fallen in love with some aspects of the city which I simply couldn’t put my finger on.
As I boarded the train back, my heart was left behind in some street, but my thoughts had come back to the impending report submission in my college, and my placement, and my emails and blah blah. My thoughts were interrupted when our local connector train was halted at some station. I jumped down the train and onto the tracks just to get some “lung-full” of fresh air. I overheard that some Rajdhani was about to pass us, and it did zoom past us barely a meter away from me, probably as fast as the lives of its passengers, creating a raucous that only a metro could match. And it suddenly hit me like my ex’s shoe in my face (just an expression); I had fallen in love with the slow moving life of the people. They seemed visibly happier than me all the time and it was due to the fact that they simply had time, a slow life, living without stress and deadlines. For three days, I had thoroughly enjoyed wild greenery. It wasn’t the lush greenery of the mountains but random weeds and trees that sprout up randomly, that you would chop-off in Delhi due to an apparent lack of aestheticism. I felt the austere guest-house was brilliant because I didn’t see a need for an artificial view against the raw wilderness. I realized my after-dinner strolls were the isolated and peaceful time periods with self that remained unsatisfactory till then.
The next morning, I was still enjoying my unusual destination of vacation in my lucid dream when my mother shook me up as we had arrived at Delhi. As we stepped out of the station, out of the bustling crowd that was struggling its way to reach wheresoever in time, I tried to absorb it all in for I had returned to my life. It is here that in hindsight I can relate to dear Jerry as he went into the city for the first time. However, I have lived this way since forever and it is exactly why it is even more amazing that how a three day departure from my daily routine, since I cannot claim I have a life, could turn it into a total stranger to me. Nevertheless, I am back to being just another mouse in Manhattan, blinded by its city-lights, deafened by its baritone and poisoned by its breath. I am not demonizing my metro but I just don’t see the point of it all.