Thursday, May 14, 2009

90% Metaphor

"Us people are just poems...
We're 90% metaphor...
With a leanness of meaning approaching hyperdistillation...
And once upon a time we were moonshine..."
- Ani Difranco 'Self Evident'

This incident happened to me a couple of years ago. I don't remember most of the details. I don't remember exactly where I was or who I was with. But it has stayed with me over the years and last night it came to me suddenly again.

I was walking down a street somewhere in the CP area, with a friend-who-I've-forgotten. I remember we were laughing about something. The kind of laughter where you throw your head back, open your mouth up wide and don't care how your guffaw sounds. We saw a lady coming at us with great speed. She was really tall and thin, mid 50s perhaps, short cropped, peppered hair. She could've been a lawyer because of her black and white suit (were we near the high court, then?).
What I do remember clearly is her face. She looked like a sprightlier version of Miss Havisham and she looked so, so angry. As we laughed, my friend and I, she charged at us and when she was close enough, yelled, "Shut Up! Shut Up! You rude bitches!" Then she charged off muttering for us to 'fuck off'. I was stunned but I remember my friend becoming really pissed off, turning back and hurling choice abuses back at the woman. The whole exchange would've lasted not more than 10 seconds.

I know that my friend was indignant and angry and reacted the way most people would've have at being needlessly assaulted in that manner. But the more I replayed that instant, the more I realised that what I got from the lady was a deep, deep sense of sadness. Yes, she was a little unhinged perhaps...but obviously she'd thought we'd been laughing at her. She looked like she'd fought many battles and hadn't exactly emerged in one piece. Even now, what remains with me years later, is the bitterness and absolute lack of softness in her eyes. She was somehow different from every other angry Delhiite I'd ever encountered.

And I think about the times that I have walked through this world with maelstroms of emotion churning inside me. Sometimes deep sadness, sometimes hopeless frustration and bitter hurt. Often I am ecstatically happy and bubbling over with excitement. Either way, I walk through this world with my own story, my own metaphor. Yet, when I engage with another human being I fail to give the other person the same consideration. They've all got - we've all
got our own metaphors. Some make us hurl abuses, others make us give up our seats for the elderly in a DTC bus.

We are nothing but a mass of dreams - some fulfilled, some left by the wayside, some still to be looked forward to.

"I would have returned your greeting...
If it weren't for the way you were looking at me...
This street is not a market,
And I am not a commodity..."
- Ani Difranco, 'The Story'

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