the start of the 177 Bus line – Kollupitiya to, er, somewhere I don’t go
I’m on the same stretch of Galle Road that I know by now, between Crescat and Kollupitiya. I walk past shoeless women and a few sore thumb tourists on my way to the place I know best – Kollupitiya Junction. I’ve had a long day and I wouldn’t mind springing for an air-conditioned bus. I get into the best available, a with cushioned seats and red velvety curtains. 1970s vintage, but comfortable. I sit by the window, arrange my bag on my knees and start dozing off. The man comes to sell me a ticket and I say Battaramulla, which I’m sure the lady next to me overhead. We go on the usual route. Past the tall Bank of Ceylon, past the hanging laundry, past the mosque and its 100 yard radius of beggars. And I doze off.
I wake up once and the lady tells me (in Sinhala) to go back to sleep. That’s very nice. I don’t feel that sleepy but I try, and do. Then she nudges me awake once again. I look out the curtains and see Sethsiripaya, the big government building that’s the chief landmark of Battaramulla. And also my stop. The bus is kinda stopped but I can’t get the backdoor open and – this is the odd part – people don’t look at me like I’m tarded as usual, they actually pass a message to the driver to stop and open the door. And I get out at my stop. Usually I feel like a sore thumb tourist in disguise, bumbling over the casual hooks of convention. I’m used to feeling like a dumbass, but that day they indulged me like a child. Which reminds me,
“To encourage fellow-feeling, Jesus urged us to learn to look at grown-ups as we might look at children. Few things can more quickly transform our sense of someone’s character than to picture them as a child. From this perspective, we are more ready to express the sympathy and generosity we almost naturally display towards the young, whom we call naughty rather than bad, and cheeky rather than arrogant. It can be as hard to hate a child as it can to hate someone we see sleeping. With their eyes closed and their features relaxed and defenceless, sleepers invite a care and a kind of love – so much so that it is embarrassing to gaze at length on a person asleep beside us on a train or plane. Their face prompts us to an intimacy which throws in to question the edifice of civilized indifference on which ordinary communal relations are built. But there is no such thing as a stranger a Christian would insist, there can only be an impression of strangeness born out of failure to acknowledge that others share in our own needs and weaknesses. Nothing could be more noble, or more fully human, than to perceive that we are indeed fundamentally, where it matters, just like everyone else.”Alain de Botton – Status Anxiety
This book is excellent, it addresses a feeling I have that I’ve never heard discussed, that is, ambition – or striving to get ahead. Perhaps even at the expense of God and man.
But on the bus sleeping – Tha and he said that when he was young an old woman once gave up her seat for him. He was sleeping standing up, hanging onto the rail and she offered him her seat. He, of course, declined, but it goes to show.