Sunday, May 1, 2011

are we there yet?

Recently, I had an opportunity to accompany a seven year old from Bangalore to Chennai.

He was a very well mannered child who would normally not need constant supervision and find things to do to keep himself occupied.

but, transit was different.

while we were stuck in slow moving traffic or at lights, i could see some impatience surfacing.

after boarding the flight, we were waiting for about 10 minutes before the doors closed.

the impatience surfaced again.

as a question that has been made a classic in family vacation movies : are we there yet? or how much longer? how much farther?

and of course, i was blamed to be the cause of this boredom, which would not have been there, if we had travelled by train!

that set me thinking. how did i change to be resigned to the endless lines, traffic snarls and progressive delays – some times due to the weather, sometimes, ‘chumma’, as no reasonable reason was provided.

i was reminded of a very interesting description that i had read in a book recently.

that frequent travellers attain nirvana by developing techniques to deal with all the uncertainties and resultant induced stress.

some of them – reproduced very loosely:

  • consider yourself as ‘living cargo’. you are just like cargo, except that you do not move on the belt
  • spin yourself into a cocoon, ignore the world around you, plunge yourself into a book or the newspaper crossword , that you may never otherwise would
  • imagining – the wilder, the better – about what some of the other cocoons would have done before reaching the airport or what they would do first when they reach their destination

i like the last one – watching others, guessing and completing their halfalogs or make stories with characters inspired by the cocoons i see around me.

we see these everywhere – very rarely have i had a meaningful conversation that lasted more than a few initial exchanges around common frustrations of the flight delays or rude staff or the evergreens of traffic or the weather.

train journeys, possibly because the travel durations are longer and the arrangement of the seating, where the passengers face others, create at these more lasting ‘rail sneham’ – or train friendship.

even in the pre-Facebook days, updates about everybody’s friends and pets and their friends would be exchanged and discussed in detail. if you are in such a situation and want to make a lively conversation, talk of personal privacy in a train.. and watch the effect!

all will be forgotten the moment the passengers step out and go their own ways.

p.s – a bonus tip to handle a seven year old’s question of are we there yet, etc..

keep track of the time and distance you mentioned in your last response. decrement it – even if it is by just one [minute or kilometre] for the next one.. you can see the relief on the child’s face, knowing that we are getting closer to 'there’.

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