Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Manifestations of Transportation

Public transportation speaks volumes about the character of 'public'. The depiction is not even metaphorical. The filth, stink, harassment, sense of entitlement, or apathy experienced in a public vehicle literally represent all that about the nature of human kind that resides within geographical or communal confines of a society.

I am an entity of contradictions — a trait I share with metropolises. Maybe that is what attracts me to them. The list of my failed conquests of big cities has only three names - Karachi, Bangkok and now Toronto and I have been fortunate to have experienced the public transportation in all three.

I remember.
Once, I tried to get on a crowded bus that would stop for passengers but really wont. I remember hanging on for dear life as the heedless driver watched me in his sideview mirror with my clothes torn from the sudden blow of movement that had hit me when my toes had barely even touched the steps. When I finally found ground under my trembling feet, I remember my bottom being pinched and those stares of the surrounding crowd, snickering at my torn shalwar as I frantically tried to cover myself while balancing in an unforgiving mob. This was Karachi.
I have memories of how I would look for a motorcycle taxi driver with relatively fewer bottles of beer scattered around him and ideally find one who wasn't holding any in my particular moment of interaction with him. I remember how I tried to get over my debilitating claustrophobia in an overcrowded train by watching and thinking people — wondering how can so many people be staring at their phones that had playboy bunny ears; maybe this time someone wont sport a peace sign or a fake pout for every single selfie taken. I think I must have lost my sense of smell during one of such train rides as my brain tried to shield me from losing my mind. This was Bangkok.

The driver is cracking jokes on his microphone about the weather. Even when its not about the weather, the humour comes back to it eventually. Some of the seats are visibly withered and seem to have had their share of regurgitation over the years. A woman is speaking violently to herself, by herself. Other than her, no one is talking. Earphones are blocking all ears, screens are choking all eyes. Occasionally a dog or a baby comes through and everyone takes a moment to look and smile. People seem visibly annoyed with the speed of the vehicle as it is not compatible with the speed of their lives. In the silence, annoyance and crowd, they still remember to offer their seats to anyone in suspected need. Some times someone would start singing along loudly, and often not melodiously, to their earphones...probably because they cannot hear their own voice, or maybe they just doesn't give a fuck. Nobody cares about what you are wearing or how you look as no one ever looks the same as the other anyway. As I step off through the doors that open and close automatically, a man who has climbed down just one step ahead of me choses to hold that very automatic door for me just out of habit. My third metropolis, Toronto.

I have come a long way.