Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Fourth of July

Ten times out of ten, I will get up at 10 a.m. on a holiday, but I got up at 6 a.m. All the sleep seemed to have gone out of me. I got up, freshened, and upon sudden inspiration, decided to go brisk walking. Something I had never done for years.

I went walking in the nearby country club which hosts Marlborough Golf Course. The walk was good. It kept my mind busy. I viewed hither and thither, appreciating the birds chirping and the lush golf greenery all around. Anything and everything to boost the spirits. I walked without thinking. If I found a trail, I went into it. I neither cared where it went nor was least interested to know. Some trails were scary. It was like being in the middle of a forest, with no signs of civilization nearby. Hard to imagine in India, but very common in US. Yet, I walked on and on, almost running.

If I found a deviation in the trail, a mud path, I went into it. Just to dare going on the "road less travelled". Sometimes I had to revert back as it led to a dead end, but sometimes it led to an even more interesting path with more shrubbery, thick trees, strange noises, and what would otherwise cause a chill of fear. But I felt nothing. And I went on and on and on. Walking fast somehow felt nice. It was like running away. The physical agony was somehow acting like a compensatory relief.

After an hour's brisk walk, I found a path which I recognised to lead back home. Sweating all over, I reached home after 1.5 hrs of a cleansing exercise. I felt good about myself. I had bath, had cereals, and, again, upon sudden inspiration decided to go out and be out the whole day, far from everyone and from any means of contact. I switched off my cell. But realisation dawned upon me that there might be someone who might need my help and it would be unfair to have the cell switched off. So, I turned it back on.

I left home with one of my best friends ever - a novel. Its something that has stood by me through more than ten years now, and has never caused any pain. Perhaps its because it doesnt talk and just listens and doesnt leave me. The one I was reading was one of the best: P.G. Wodehouse's Fish Preferred. Very hilarious. Just what the doctor ordered.

With no destination in mind, I set off in my battered car. Today is one day I am hoping against hope my car wouldnt break down. The last thing I wanted was to call someone to help me out when all I am trying to do is just be with myself.

One of the best pastimes in US is to go to a nearest mall and sit in one of the benches and watch the world go by. Its more like sitting as a bystander and watching your own life passing by. After all, every one was fighting some kind of a battle.

With the novel in hand, I realised, the best place to go would be a bookstore, where I can sit on one of those comfortable sofas, sip a nice coffee, and read the novel for hours without no one bothering me. Borders was the nearest bookstore.

Once comfortably settled in a cozy settee with nice leg rest, I started reading the novel. Hundreds of things tried to conquer my mind, but I wouldnt allow it. If I start writing about what had actually happened and what went on in my mind, it would be a separate blog, and if I wanted people to read it, I wouldnt be beating around the bush like this! Suffice it to say that I realised what I was and who I was. Rather, what I was not and who I was not. And since it is not a pretty tale to talk or think about, I read on and on and on.

Sometimes I would drowse off and let my eyes rest. And then I woke up again and continue reading. I lost track of time and place and I was moulded in my own world of P.G.Wodehouse's wonderful intricate happenings within Blandings Castle. I did not feel like stopping but it was noon time and tummy was rumbling.

There was a foodcourt nearby. But I had to go through a shopping plaza. I suddenly decided to shop, which is very rare as I hardly have any desire for shopping. On an impulse, I went to JCPenney. I searched for a T-Shirt for about half hour and finally saw one shirt beckoning me at a far corner. I walked towards it as I liked the colour and design of the shirt. Even before I came near the shirt, I had decided upon it. When I saw its catch line, I was amused. I bought the shirt.

I then went to Sears. And Filene's. And multitude of shops. I shopped and shopped. After buying some more domestic items, I headed to a Subway and had a nice contemplative lunch. I took my own time. I let the thoughts come drifing towards me but I felt nothing. I felt numb. In a way, I was tired of running, but I was not allowing myself to get under the burden. Home, although seemed a comfortable option, was not where I had decided to be all day, rain or sunshine.

It started raining.

I sat in the car and thought "What next?" I have no idea how long I sat. All I felt was the pitter patter of the rain on the car. Then, again on an impulse, I decided to go to Boston to see the night's fireworks. When one wants to be alone, its best to be in the middle of a crowd! Its as alone as one can get.

I headed towards Boston with blazing music on the car stereo. Again something that I hardly do. I had gone for about 10 mins when there was a road parade and all vehicles were being diverted. I went with the diversion hoping that there will be an indication later on to catch onto the same road. Alas, there were no indications whatsoever. Thats the sad part of US. Once you get lost, you really get lost with its complicated road designs.

However, today was the day that I didnt care. I practically challenged the Hand of Fate to roll the dice as worse as it could. I wished a hundred wrong things that should happen to me. Alas, the Hand of Fate never rolls the dice the way you want it to. The road wound over miles of miles of greenery and quaint little houses. I went with the flow and drove on and on.

The rain increased and I thought enough was enough and parked in a fuel store and asked where I was. The guy gave me perfect directions to a place which I knew. Barnes and Nobles in Framingham. Another book store. Perfect.

I parked the car, found another settee and happily nodded off. Perfect thing to do for one who has just lost his way. Completely. After finishing few more chapters of the novel, I again headed to Boston. This time, I was a master at self navigation. Breezily, I reached Alewife, which is like an entry point to Boston through subway trains.

Lots of people were on their way to see the fireworks and almost all the locations were getting filled up by the time the subway pulled up. I went and sat on a bench with the novel in hand. One can spend hours and hours by looking at different people doing different things at a public gathering. Its quite amusing. It was a great pastime. It sometimes is better to spend time with those who do not know you at all than with those who know the real you. I watched and watched.

It was a long wait for the fireworks. Almost 6 hrs. The duration in which one can travel 250 kms in India and 400 miles in US. I did not move more than 60 steps. I shifted the place when there was a brief downpour to a sheltered bench, then onto the asphalted road, where I slept for some time. Time and again, I would read the novel and have something to eat. I waited and waited.

I then got a call that a few of my friends were nearby and decided that I might as well join them. Thankfully, the view from their place was much better from where I was. Another hour's wait and it was time for the fireworks. At the outset, let me tell that it was not good, nor was it worth the 6 hr wait. But then, I did not regret it, as it was the crowd that I needed more than the fireworks. Most of the fireworks got shrouded with ensuing smoke and most of the display was missed. However, for the efforts' sake, people applauded at the end.

Back with the crowd to Alewife, and a nice concentrated drive back to home. I hit my bed and felt that it was a day well spent. Forrest Gump ran and ran. I walked and walked, read and read, drove and drove, waited and waited, watched and watched, but in the end, both of us were doing the same thing. We were just running away, as far away as once could and as much as one could and trying to divert the mind from what it wanted to badly think.

As I began to lose consciousness and drifted onto state of sleepfulness, I had just two thoughts in mind. One was the fact that, ironically, its the Independence Day. And, another was how apt the catch line on the T-shirt was.

"This is the worst day of my life."


Sneha Kurpad said...

This is amazing Harsha!! Loved the last line!!

Keep writing...

Pari said...

Well written ... lots of depth