As the bus approached the traffic signal, the light turned red. The bus gradually came to a stop. It would be a long wait. Most traffic signals these days in Bangalore do not change lights up to 3 full minutes. The driver cut the engine. The noise now was one that of the neighbouring oncoming traffic who got the green.
I looked inside the bus at my co-passengers. We all were heading towards office. It was about 8ish and I knew many would have boarded the bus at about 7. It was still an hour’s journey, and hence more than half of the people were dozing. To catch up on the lost sleep; to be fresh to tackle the day’s work when they reach the office; to just avoid being a part of the annoying traffic.
Strangely, like a vacuum, or like being within a sound-proof bus, the noise within the bus itself was next to nothing. Pin-drop silence, as they say. Not a single person was talking on the phone, not a single cell was ringing, not one person talking. Everyone was immersed and involved in his or her own world. Sleeping, or listening to radio or reading a novel or just blindly staring at the traffic. Although we all worked for the same company, at that instant, none knew their neighbour. For all practical purposes, each one was a stranger to the other. This is what big companies do. One’s identity gets restricted to one’s project team.
For some reason, this scene reminded me of a number of instances which I had experienced in my life. There was this first week of my engineering college, when we used to travel in college bus. None knew one another and awkward, pregnant silence prevailed everywhere. Each wanted to do better in the course. There is always the desire to do better during studies.
There was this time when I was sitting in an interview room with my peers – all unknown to me. Each one wanted to do the interview well to get a job. We were all strangers. There was an expectant silence. Expecting to get their name called for the dreaded interview. There is always is an expectant silence in the waiting room prior to undergoing interviews.
There is the hospital waiting room. All are strangers with their near and dear one’s struggling for life in the ward. There is nothing to talk, but there is hope that things will get well. There is always hope in a hospital waiting room.
And then there is this bus. They are all my colleagues. But I know none of them. Hence there is no conversation. No idle talk. Just people. I am just one among the crowd. All hoping to have a good day at office. All wanting to do better. All wanting to achieve something.
The light turned green. The driver started the engine. The bus filled with the noise of the engine. It was like oxygen filling the vacuum. People almost sighed with thankfulness. Perhaps because it was our turn to go.
But I felt the thankfulness because it evaporated the silence. Silence was weird. Uncanny. Uncomfortable. Lonely. Noise was so much better...