In The Woods

He got into the slow train that would take 90 minutes to complete its 34 km long journey. It was 11.45 and the night was just starting to do its thing.

Many people would say it was too late. But for him it was the perfect time. He didn’t mind the late hour. Nobody understood why he loved travelling so late at night. Nobody could fathom why he lived 1.5 hours away from his office when he could easily afford places near it. He didn’t care. Or he did but it didn’t bother him. Or it bothered him but it did not bother him too much. He was a complicated man.

He never sat. Although the train was empty, he preferred standing next to the open gate. He loved feeling the cool wind brush against his face, taking away all the tension built up over the day and carrying all his problems gently away. He loved how the gaudy yet jaded orange light fell on everything, giving banal objects an eerie edge to their existence. The lights that dotted the buildings comforted him, as he visualized families going to sleep, safe and secure, the parents comforting their children and tucking them in their cozy blankets. He was happy. He was liberated. But he felt something more. He couldn’t describe what he felt. It was too deep and too complex a feeling to describe. The closest he could come to describing it was acceptance. For the duration of that journey, he accepted the world as it was. There were still people everywhere but less of them. That helped. It was like seeing the city in its stripped down original state. The city revealed itself to him. The city looked vulnerable yet elegant. He could see a double row of auto rickshaws parked at least one kilometer long. The sheer sight of it amazed him. So many people, milling about like ants. To him, Mumbai was like a giant anthill with all the people busily going about their unimportant jobs.

 

The darkness gave an aura of mystique to everything. He would use his imagination and try to think about what usually happened in the city. How could the once imperial mills have become so ruined? What darkness lay in it? What did the calm waters of the backwaters hide? Why did the slums look so dead at night when half the population of the city lived there? What secrets did it hide? What secrets did it bury?

Everything was so trivial. At the end of the day, nothing mattered- art, music, his job. All that mattered was living. He understood why somebody would pay millions for a painting, and it saddened him that he could justify it. Maybe all art was so beautiful and touching because it was so pointless. Maybe we cried when we saw movies because we understood that our life was as pointless as the movies we saw. Living was awesome- life, not so much. He didn’t care if anybody got the difference. Maybe there wasn’t a difference. Maybe he was a rambling fool. It didn’t matter.

But what did? He had always wrestled with that question and it had preyed his mind since a young age. But lately he had thought more about it and come up with a reasonable answer- nothing and everything. He didn’t have a reason for the answer. He didn’t need one. Deep down he was content with it.

He had too much inside him. Too many feelings, too many ideas, too many thoughts. The train ride home helped him come to terms with the fact that nobody would truly understand him. Or that he would never be able to express himself fully. The darkness soothed him. The darkness wasn’t evil or malicious. It just was. That’s the nature of all things- they just are. He knew all this sounded bullshit and cheesy. But he didn’t care. Life was how it was and you had to be cheesy sometimes. It didn’t matter to him. All the challenges he faced during the day were justified at night. If he didn’t feel awkward once in a while, how would he overcome the awkwardness? If he didn’t feel depressed once in a while, how would he know the true meaning of happiness? If he didn’t kill people at night, how would he feel alive again?

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