LIFE - COLORES INFINITUM (16)
He had decided he would take the Combined Admission Test (CAT) organized jointly by the Indian Institutes of Management. The admission brochure was available from the State Bank of India branches.
His father had a friend in city’s main branch of the bank. Given the rush to get the admission form, he asked his son to get it from that branch though it was not the nearest one from his place.
Way back in the history of his life, it was a summer month. He rode his bike at leisurely pace as he was aware that he would get the form easily and even would be offered a cup of tea while the uncle, his father’s friend, would send some office boy to bring the brochure.
It was so relieving for him for he would not have to toil hard in that scorching sun. So he was there, enjoying the bike ride on a stretch of road that he had already mapped countless number of times.
But this was different. What was the reason he couldn’t understand. Life tries to find breathers in small moments and such reflexes are natural. Probably it was due to the thought that he would get something easily others would spend a hell lot of time for. News reports had told him that there was great rush and it was taking three-fours hours in the queue to get a single admission form, as if, the country’s whole younger lot was determined to be managers of a changing India.
Though he was not sure if he wanted to be one of the lot, he had taken in the caring advice and thought to give it a chance. So he was there, on the way, to procure the CAT brochure when India was into second decade of its reform phase and things were quite on and off.
The bank branch was in front of the city’s court premises. On left to the main entrance was the place where he had to park his vehicle. Some 100 meters away from the parking lot was the main doorway to the main block of the bank housing the section selling the CAT admission brochure and he could clearly see the queue trudging out of that doorway and was expected to get longer with time as more and more aspirants were still downloading their bodies onto the brick and mortar pathway connecting the main entrance of the bank premises to the main door of the concerned building block.
He felt a different kind of calm he did not know why. Probably it was due to reason that he knew he had not to be part of that long column of faces waiting for their number to come.
After parking the vehicle, he headed to the section where his father’s friend was. The uncle was already informed. While passing through the different sections, he could see the column was at least three hundred faces strong. If one face took even 30 seconds to register, it was going to take 150 minutes. That would the ideal situation. Practically, it was not going to be less than three hours of wait in the line.
Thinking and calculating all this, he reached to the chamber of the uncle. He got a fatherly welcome there. After the customary salutations, there came the round of some this and that chit-chat. All this while his eyes were glued on the queue of the young faces waiting for their turn. He could see through the glass window shields of the chamber he was sitting in. They were talking, crooning, making body movements; one normally does in such long hours of wait. Obviously, cellphones were much less in number then. Some of them were complaining of the long hours of wait but overall the situation there told him they were quite okay while waiting.
Something else just had initiated in his thoughts. What, he was not sure of. Meanwhile, he had handed over the cash to his father’s friend. Soon, an office boy came and was asked to bring the CAT form from the section. But before that he was sent to bring tea and snacks. All this while, thoughts were doing some good trekking in his mind.
What was it he didn’t know but he was certain of one thing – that the natural reflex that had put him in a state of ease owing to the fact that he would get the admission brochure in just five minutes was not there.
Instead, he was feeling a growing unease about it. He could see the faces in the column, lined up, but disciplined, waiting for their turn, to get the booklet, like the column of soldiers during a battle. He could feel they were laughing at him. He could see they were making satirical gestures about him. He could listen to their jibes on him getting the form out of the queue.
Okay, it was not any battle sort of thing. After all, it was just a long queue for a CAT form. In India, hundreds of thousands apply for an examination like CAT while just few select could make it to the final tally.
But it seemed to him telling something. Suddenly, he felt he was deceiving his own ‘self’ and not them in the queue. After he was done with the tea and biscuit, something from his inside said he needed to be part of that queue. Lost in thoughts, he slowly stood up and started walking towards the section selling the form.
He was brought back by the voice of his father’s friend. He found the uncle staring at him with a puzzled face but he could not explain it to him. He simply requested that he thought he should try to get the admission packet the way others were trying. After some denials, the uncle surrendered to his this sudden change of thought.
And suddenly, all the growing unease vanished as took his position in the queue.
He could feel he was able to roam across in his thoughts freely as he was doing while coming to the place and parking the bike. Yes, the context of the thoughts had totally changed by then.
While reflecting later on, he didn’t feel that bad about what he was thinking while en-route to the bank branch, but he did feel good about those three hours or so waiting in column, quiet and disciplined, like millions of Indians do every day, for their turn to come. It is the one of the routine events of their day-to-day lives.
Why did it happen? How did it happen? He is still not sure of. It doesn’t matter even.
But he tries to follow earnestly what happened to his thoughts then, during a routine day, way back, in the history of life.
Sometime, the mundane holds the vital keys to the life and its existential questions.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/