“No wait. What’s the name of the other God?” she heard someone say.
San Francisco, a city that is forever bustling with energy. A city that has finally convinced me that my love for New York was transient. A city that I love to observe because it continues to amuse me.
Once you step outside your enclosed environment you become a part of a maddening crowd. A very incoherent crowd. You see tourists with their small, large and humongous cameras, joggers, mothers with strollers, day care personnel escorting a line of kids, business executives, bankers, start up owners, hippies, drug addicts, the 1%-ers, the 99%-ers. And no matter what was on your mind as you were coming down that elevator, you forget all about it and join the madness. Almost anyone who walks the streets of this city every day has experienced a certain sense of uncontrolled chaos that I am describing here. It is not up to you to withdraw from the environment that persists on the streets of San Francisco. It is half hysteria and half bohemia. It is unique.
The night before, Agam and I were talking about the merciless beheading of the American freelance journalist, James Foley. I sheepishly asked him if he had watched the video. I did not have the guts to do so myself. He said he didn’t. I felt relieved. Don’t ask me why. We ended up talking about it a little and somewhere in between I fell asleep.
Early next morning in a meeting I was informed about the perfect (read imperfect) timing of one of my project’s release date. I have been associated with the project since last January, and somehow I had never once in this time frame imagined a scenario where I would not be available on the day of the release to see it all happen. But given where things stand today, there is a good chance that I won’t be able to see the finale. The thought was quite depressing. And I spent a good chunk of my time in the bus brooding over it. At some point the brooding gave way to tears. I have a very good and beautiful reason why I will be away on the day of the release. And instead of thinking about that, I was spending energy and now even tears thinking about my project. I questioned my priorities. Even though I know it is too premature to start doing that.
With these thoughts on my mind, I got off the bus and was compelled to join the maddening crowd. The walk from my shuttle stop to my office is a short one, but it takes me through a high energy area. A walk that I always look forward to. It is a superb way to start your work day.
Everyday I find at least one tourist lost in his map, one parent tugging away at a stroller, a couple of men getting their shoes shined and lately I have found at least a few people standing in the middle of the pathway with a huge preachy placard and some Bibles to sell. Also on good days, there is this homeless guy who parks his cart right next to the BART station and lights an incense stick. The smell of his incense sticks is very dear to me.
There are fragrances that I cannot delete from my memory, like the one that was burning in my Nani’s house, the week she passed away. We were there for an entire week for her last rituals and I remember feeling each day to be just the same as the one before, because of that fragrance. Also the fragrance in Sai temple in Wardha will always be special. And of course the one from the day of Dad’s fourth-day ceremony. I associate fragrances with memories. And this particular homeless fellow’s fragrance will always remind me of Market Street, San Francisco.
As I walked by the Bible people, I was beginning to lose my connection with the feelings I was experiencing in the bus. The depressing thoughts were fading, giving way to a more positive outlook. But suddenly these words hit me like a stone – “No wait. What’s the name of the other God?”
I looked up and saw a young chap with a backpack, leaning over his bicycle making conversation with one of the Bible people. She was a sweet girl and I wondered if that is what triggered his interest. These were his words. The two of them continued to talk as I walked past them. The snippet I had accidentally heard, probably had a beginning and an end. Just that I had only caught the middle of it and hence it appeared so jarring to me.
Now it is unfair on my part to judge a portrait by just looking at a sliver of the nose, but that sliver was sharp enough to pierce through my skin and rekindle my thoughts from the conversation with Agam, the night before. I was reminded of the image from the video circling the internet, of an orange clad journalist and an ISIS agent.
I wanted to turn around and tell that gentleman on the bike – “You are what is wrong with this world.”
“The other God”, you ask? Who is this “other God”? How many Gods you think there are? How many Gods do you need? And why? So much evil in this world stems from this damn confusion of several Gods.
As I entered the doors of my office I realized how deeply entrenched this confusion must be, to persist even here, amidst all this maddening chaos on the streets of San Francisco.