I could try on any number of personalities. Disenchanted youth, hyperactive person, responsible adult, sophisticated woman. I could be anyone.
On a recent trip to Coonoor, I decided I could be Writer In Hill Station. I assumed this was fairly easy. I had to sit with a pencil and notepad on any one of the chairs in the carefully manicured lawn, stare at the hills in the distance and look thoughtful. Maybe this is how I imagine Ruskin Bond. Or I had to put my head out the window of a moving train, sniff the air and confirm that those were eucalyptus trees, and blink as the rain drops hit my face. Maybe this is how I imagine Paul Theroux. Definitely doable, if I wasn’t so distracted by empty packets of Haldiram’s Spicy Chips placed strategically across the hills – used paper plates providing distinguished company. Of course, all this dialogue only plays out in my head, because the illusion is shattered the moment someone calls out to me, “We need to leave now if we have to get there on time.” But why do we need to get anywhere on time? Viewpoints don’t cease to exist because you were thirty minutes late.
I can’t seem to decide if I like people or not. People can be interesting, of that I have no doubt. They have stories. I like to collect the little bits of information they reveal. I like to catch the way their voices dip and soar, the way the language sounds in their mouth. When no one’s watching, I may repeat a word I like, to see if it sounds as pleasing coming off my tongue. And then I realize it is these same people who are bulldozers, decimating the landscape with their loud chatter, leaving behind the worst of themselves for someone else to pick up after. They pretend disposing their plastic waste is a javelin throw event, and they look at you like you sprouted an extra head when you tell them off. And I sink further into despair when some of my own family complain about the food, the crowd, the difficulty in getting somewhere, demanding nature acknowledge our presence because we cared to visit.
We are greedy. When we tour a tea factory, we think about the tea we can take back, to brew and sip comfortably in our homes. We look away when we notice the man whose job it is to take us around has disproportionately large thumbs.We idly wonder if his thumb isn’t swollen from the minuscule buds he picks, that go into white tea. We pay him a little extra, to make ourselves feel better. We buy everything we want, thoughtless consumers thinking bottles and boxes show up by themselves, we are too busy to think of human suffering. (And what good would thinking do?)
Feeling a bit like a trespasser, I wandered through a graveyard. I wanted to commit to memory the way the light came in rays through the trees. I gave up after a while and took a picture. It was a piece of history, a time capsule for me to discover one hundred and fifty years later. It was glorious, until I stepped on some soiled underwear, rolled and discarded. This is the sort of time capsule we shall leave behind.