It’s a cold January morning, the temperature a single digit when I board the metro train for Connaught place in central Delhi. A literary magazine has just rejected one of my stories and to gather my thoughts and reflect on the arguments I’d made about life in the story, I am on one of my freefalling trips in which I will do nothing but observe people. A woman is seated close to where I stand in the train. She must be about forty and her saree is torn in places. For the ten minutes I stand next to her, she keeps staring at an imaginary point on my shirt. Her eyes are distant; as if a dream has died in them not too long ago. She is frail and the old sweater that she wears over her saree surely belongs to a man. On both her sides are young executives who appear to be going to their offices, gel in their hair, scratching their goatees as they scan their smart phones.
An old man boards the coach at a stop. He is upper middle class without a doubt: a three piece suit, gold rimmed spectacles and designer watch. As the train starts to move again, the woman gets up and offers her seat to the old man. He slides into it, without thanking, and takes out his phone, all in one fluid action, and begins to speak. He is old all right, but he is fitter and happier than this woman. I look at her, but she is looking elsewhere.
At Connaught place when I get down I find myself a bar, drink a beer and take the metro back home.
Everything—and everyone—that’s good can’t be appreciated, and it’s all right to live with rejections. That poor, unknown woman, with a large heart, she taught me this simple lesson. The day has been more than fulfilling.
In Delhi—as also in Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, cities where I have lived at different times—if I have to gift something to someone I adore, I will gift the person an ordinary life. Ordinariness is completeness. Ordinariness doesn’t propel you towards success in a hurry, it helps you to calibrate your thoughts, accept rejections, urging you to try harder, to invent more.