The Road — a short story

Though it sounds strange, but sometimes I think that the local bus transport corporation drivers, even buses and conductors in Kashmir are secretly taught the concept of Différance by hardworking academicians. Otherwise the journey from Dalgate to Dargah/University is not as long and tedious as it is dexterously differed and deffered by them. More than us – the students, it is they who practice abstruse theoretical postulations, I think. To locate distinctly, there are just five or six permanent stops throughout the journey– first Dalgate itself, then Khayam, Khanyar, Rainawari, Rangar Stop and lastly Dargah/University itself– (not to talk of the intermittent hand stops that happen when every time the bus sees the passenger/s and stops reverentially). Here in Kashmir, I find it respectfully amusing that University and Dargah fall both in one and the same place – otherwise in other parts of the world it seems somehow obligatory to keep academic buildings away from the religious grounds (at least geographically). But here, when you are in a bus that is taking you to Dargah/University, just as I am in one right now, and the conductor asks you where you are going so that he can cut the amount from the sum you have given him, some students prefer to say University instead of Dargah and some Dargah instead of the University – all at heart faithfully conscious of the holiness of the both places. 

 

The bus has not started yet which is a bit disturbing, knowing the fact that all buses come from somewhere and no bus germinates from Dalgate itself to Dargah/University. Well, it may because of the snow. Yes, as I am sitting in the bus, it is snowing outside. The residue of the heavens is falling on my bus and it reminds me of my mother cleaning rice with a traditional Kashmiri Shup, remains from which fall to the ground without a sound. I am happy today. Yes I am, not utterly because of the snow, you may think, but because last night I read something very interesting which today I intend to discuss with a professor in my department. Though, usually, I am not the kind of person who would barge into the room of his/her busy professor and start all the naïve presumptions that I have regarding my subject with the erudite professor who has his/her own specified room in the department – a department which is always busy conducting academic activities for the benefit of its students. Together with this, I myself am also a tad nervous, thinking what if I am not able to convey my ideas to the professor as precisely and accurately as I have been practicing since yesterday in my mind. What if I am not able to utter a single word? What if my mouth just disappears like that of Neo in the Matrix movie when he is questioned by the agents of the system. I am thinking this, because it has happened several times with me in the classes. And it has nothing to do with my personality – I am not at all shy. Whenever the teacher used to ask some question the answer to which I knew, I was, at many occasions, not able to utter a single word. That’s why the image of my mouth disappearing. But then, I say to myself don’t worry I will pray at Dargah first and then go to the department. God will help me. Who else? Plus, the professors in the department love me, they always encourage me to express my ideas. After all Professors can be good/bad, beautiful/ugly, free/busy but they cannot be agents, as in the movie,who are searching for Neo – plus I am no Neo. Why would that happen to me? No. No that won’t happen at all.

 

As I look outside, I realize that my bus is still in Dalgate – I look at the seats of the bus, and to my surprise they are all empty. I ask the driver why there are no passengers coming and he opens his mouth attributing some curse words to the conductor who he says is of no worth. As I look for the conductor, who is still in his teens, he seems not at all interested in calling the passengers to the bus. I tell myself, well he has to call passengers, he has to raise his voice, he has to utter in a loud voice Dargah/University! Dargah/University!, otherwise I won’t make it – first to Dargah and then to the University, not at all. He should call and guide the passengers to come to Dargah or to the University in whatever voice – it is not as if he is calling people to prayer that his voice should be perfectly tuned so that people would come, if not to prayers, but to see whose beautiful voice was calling them.

 

Meanwhile, the snow has started falling arrogantly now. In these circumstances, I am sure that I won’t make it. I move out of the bus to catch another bus bound to Dargah/University and the conductor grins at me. I move forward. But I see none. I see no one out there, no people, no buses, no cars, no sumos, no bikes.  In fact, I see nothing in this snow. What I can see clearly is the snow. I take out my phone in order to ring my friends and see whether they have made it to the university or not and to my surprise I discover that there is no signal on my phone. What the hell has happened to Srinagar?,What is all this? I question myself. Look at me; I am still stranded in the first stop of my journey. I think for some time in the snow and start going back to the only bus from which I had alighted earlier – the only available option I have to complete the journey.

 

But now, how would I go back to the same bus?I ask myself, won’t the conductor smile sarcastically at me? For I, was the only passenger who came, as he roared his voice earlier, not once but twice for the same long journey. Will the bus start in this horrific cold? What will the driver think of me? How will I cross the other stops? I am sure now; I won’t be able to make it to Dargah, let alone to the University, to the department, to the fountain, to the parking, to the room, to the teacher, to the idea, to the words. I won’t be able to open my mouth let alone talk.

 

Outside the bus, the conductor and the driver have started fighting. There is even some blood on the snow. Meanwhile, I am shaking and utterly disturbed. I am back in the bus on that same seat and trying hard to think what was to be discussed with the professor.Though it sounds strange, but sometimes, I think that the local bus transport corporation drivers, even buses and conductors in Kashmir are secretly taught the concept of Différance by hardworking academicians. Otherwise the journey from Dalgate to Dargah/University is not as long and as tedious as it is dexterously differed and deffered by them.

 

(The author says his story is inspired from Franz Kafka’s short story ‘An Imperial Message’)