10 strangers and 2 snakes
They were ten of them, mostly corporate wallahs, who were perched at various points of the corporate food chain. The journey was by choice, the meeting by chance, and the companionship purely by discovery. Each one was peculiar in his/her own right, with dissimilar plots, subtexts, nuances, characters, twists and turbulences,bound only by their peculiarities. They came together the way people come together in a long distance train journey, awkward to begin with, getting close to each other meal by meal and conversation by conversation. Sometimes its easy to share with strangers because they are not burdened by common memories, there is no fear of being judged and most importantly there is a comfort that you will not face them often enough.
The eleventh member of this story was its settings - far removed from the din and bustle of civilisation, in the middle of wilderness, surrounded by dry fields and rocky mountains, bereft of human company and its more ubiquitious cousin - mobile signals!! There was a strange stillness in the air, a lack of sound and noise that the average urban ear is so unaccustomed to, broken only the chirp of the bird, and the deafening chant of a thousand grasshoppers together, a sound that can be ear shattering in that stillness. Its like the roar of a mighty riverfall in the middle of nowhere, one second one is councious of the the abyss of stillness, and in the next of the roar of the waterfall.
A thousand ants in the soil everywhere, the company of multi coloured bougenvileas, low hanging mangoes, tall coconut trees, and a distant pond added to the surrealness of the settings. The 10 strangers negotiated with the settings as much as they did with each other. Nights were dark, still and soundless. The stars shone brightly and full moon appeared brighter and bigger in the clear sky. They were almost rediscovering new joys in familiar things like the stars and the moon almost as if they were seing them for the first time.
They were waking up at dawn and going to bed latest by 10. The bodies had much to revolt against - against pure air, against silence, against normal waking hours and against so much purity and serenity around that they had not experienced since the time they left the comforts of the womb. They slept in tents, on the floor and within mosquito nets, used common bathrooms but uncommon facilities. Collective discomfort broke the ice and collective trauma brought them together. And they lived happily thereafter - or so they thought.
A few days of pristine living later they had two guests. A cobra and his cousin from a different family, who both chose the youngest and the only lady amongst them. The next 48 hours were mayhem. If the snakes had a particular agenda in mind, they did not let them know, and if they did let the lady they visited know of it, she did not share it with others. Since no news of the actual conversation was forthcoming, conspiracy theorists had a field day. Some interpreted the significance of snakes, others recoiled in horror about the possibility of snakes diverting attention to them. Every one let the lady and the snakes to thier own means. If the men felt a bit ignored by the snakes and experienced a gender discrimination against them, they did not express, not at least to the snakes. Every event was dissected and had its own impact. One was reminded of the Bog Boss house, where even a small vibration had a tremor like impact.
Much more and ten days later, and with a little help from the snakes, the strangers forged bonds and built friendships, something they had not done for a long long time. That is the beauty of proximity in wilderness - it robs human imagination of all fears and pretences, allowing the person to let be. The strangers have since then returned to civilisation, and i have a feeling that despite the comforts of everyday living and presence of familiar things around, the strangers are missing each other, if not the snakes. I wish them well.