Some of the trams here have seats where you sit and face the other passenger. Since I commute alone most of the time, I usually end up facing a stranger. Sometimes that gets awkward and weird, like it got today.
I was returning home from school and ended up in one of those seats. A guy came and sat in the one opposite to me. It’s odd to look straight in front so I decided to look out the window and he did the same as well. But because it was night time, we could see, along with the things passing by outside, our own reflections too on the tram’s window.
For some reason, it just felt so strange today. Here I was avoiding staring at a stranger, but was doing exactly that even when I was facing away. I couldn’t help noticing his clothes – blue fitting (almost small) corduroy coat with a brooch in the shape of a dog pinned to the left; maroon shirt, maroon bag, grey pants and sony headphones. Like many tram passengers in Göteborg, he kept checking his phone.
At one point, I noticed him looking at my bag. I remembered that I had an ‘Ek Saye Ath’ clothing tag hanging in the front. He was looking at it quite closely. I think he was making a note of the website. Who knows? That’s just my hunch.
All of this happened between three or four tram stops which is less than 15 minutes.
After he got off a few stops before mine, I started thinking of the micro buses back home…and when you ended up in those ‘ulto pharkera’ basne seats in micros, which actually aren’t even real ‘seats’. I smiled reminiscing on that discomfort…the hot summer evenings when you are squashed between strangers and your knees are crushing into someone else’s…when you don’t know where to place your hand, but you are very aware that you are slipping right out of your ‘half-seat’…those awkward positions of trying to just hold on, lest you turn into grundruk or keema. it’s only few minutes more..only few minutes more…and then i’ll reach home.. and then it’s such a relief to finally reach home.
I reach home here without being crushed and without the smell of a stranger’s sweat on my clothes. There’s enough space between the stranger and me, so that our knees don’t touch. And then I hug my heavy bag, as if it were an armor protecting me. But I do that only because I’m afraid it might touch another person and they might get mad. It’s strange. In Kathmandu, I’d offer to hold other people’s bags if I were the lucky one in a proper seat. Other people have done the same for me, when I’d ended up standing.
On a different note, I have started painting after four years. It feels good.