The first time I walked into my ad agency life, I was greeted by the strong smell of coffee mixed with cigar smoke and orange essence. It was, up until that moment, one of the oddest combinations of smells I had ever smelt in my lifetime of smelling.
But eh, it doesn’t matter, right? I had a job; the most sought after luxury in this time of high unemployment, made worse with a handful of acute inflation.
Or so I thought… As any working slave would understand; I got a JOB.
I find this situation to be a mental conundrum; having a job is stressful but not having one is maddening!
Right now, I am at this taxing stage where I am being taxed mentally and financially! Moreover, ‘the work’ never ends! The client never rests! Since the day I joined, I have been writing copy and content for nine hours daily with a twenty-minute lunch break at four in the afternoon and there hasn’t been a single moment where I can just sit back and stare at a wall.
As you can imagine, or maybe you don’t have to imagine because you are living the same nightmare, by the time I leave the office there is no energy left in my body. Oh and on a side note, I always punch in two hours of overtime because a- there is too much work and b- leaving on time is a crime!
Anyways *breathes*, so yes, I leave at around eight in the evening. And this is my bracket of happiness. This is when the sun comes out.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had this feeling but when I step out of that building, knowing that I have the rest of the day to myself, my heart does chibi somersaults inside my chest. I look at the guard and feel sorry for him because I am going HOME! I pass by strangers who are entering the building for a meeting and rejoice internally. I let that wicked joy of going-home-before-others take over me.
I put earphones in my ear and play the music at low as I walk to the bus stand, inspecting all the other buildings on the way; which are mainly offices and little food joints.
There’s this huge, glass office with a red board reading ‘Script’ in golden font. I don’t know what industry it caters to but its employees are always busy on their phones. Another establishment that attracts me is a quaint house just near the bus stand. Every time I pass by, elderly people are seated on plastic chairs in the garage. There are no boards outside to suggest whether it’s a centre for the elderly or a clinic, or a black market that sells old dudes!
A house opposite this one has two German shepherds and I think they are too young because no matter who passes in front of their house, they do their best to bork off people as energetically as possible. They are cute though, in their own way.
When I reach the bus stand, I always go for the private bus instead of the government one. Why? Because I want to sit beside the window. But I gotta be honest with you, sometimes, if not all times, I hate buses. The air inside stationary busses is stuffy and I always regret taking the bus until the wheels start turning and that cool breeze hits my sweaty face. All of a sudden, I don’t hate busses anymore.
The people sitting beside me keep shuffling while I keep changing tunes on my phone. Every new song brings out a new mood as I observe life on all corners of the dusty roads. By the time my bus gets stuck in jam, it is nine ‘o’ lock. Jams are an everyday event in my city. From what I have been told, the government is ‘trying’ to construct ‘something’ causing roadblocks and hours of stagnant traffic jams.
Thanks to music, I have come to like this waste of time as well. It gives my imagination fuel as I peer into cars beside my bus. Just the other day, I saw a family of four arguing mutely inside their car. The grown kids in the back seemed like they might be louder than the parents in the front seats. The boy looked comparatively detached while the girl’s mouth was moving continuously. I enjoyed it like a free sitcom; adding dialogues to their running mouths. But then the girl started crying and I felt bad for the kids for no justifiable reason… stupid parents.
After about ten signal changes, the congestion clears and we are once again on track. I get up, stepping over toes and shoes as I make my way to pay the conductor. Even though I know how much change I’ll get for fifty bucks, I always redo the math mentally. After paying for my ticket, I get off the bus and start walking.
From here on, it’s a journey on foot towards my hostel. The dust goes into my hair, mouth, and eyes just when I cross the road. But I keep my focus and avoid life threatening-accidents, every day, without fail. It might not sound like a big deal but trust me, it is. What will I do tomorrow if I die crossing the road… I could die even when I am not crossing the road! I have seen those viral videos where buses and trucks just slam into people. So I keep my fingers crossed and keep walking.
In five minutes I reach a stretch of road that is genuinely dirty and difficult to commute on. Pipes are dug up in various places and anyone on foot has to walk on the main road, beside impatient, speeding cars.
Midway, I take an alternate route because the main road is under serious construction. This one cuts between residential houses and is a hundred times cleaner and more peaceful. In this neighbourhood, each house has its own personality.
One house that stands out is inside an alley to my left. Their balcony is always decorated with fairy lights. The first time I saw it, I thought that there might be a marriage going on in the house. But it has already been a year and they haven’t taken down the lights so either they have twelve daughters or they really like the lights.
Finally, I walk past a temple that is just adjacent to my hostel. While I dip my head once in respect to a God, I focus more on a wooden stall outside the temple that falls to my left. They keep fresh flowers for customers and among them is Rajnigandha, a white flower with one of the most refreshing fragrances. I always try to walk as close to the stall as possible and just when the position is right, I breathe in a lung full of Rajnigandha!
And that concludes my evening journey.
Of course, it is an unavoidable, tiring and wasteful journey, but from how I see it, even the worst can be turned into something good with just a little bit of patience and little more imagination.