It's rare that one gets time, in this frenetic place, to talk to a stranger.
In fact, this seems to be a city phenomenon. Even when I was growing up in Cal, I don't know how often I had the time or inclination to sit and talk to the guy who ran the chai stall, or who used to sit in our lane in the evenings, frying samosas and p(n)eyaji... but each trip to some smaller place, and we'd be talking to all the local people, asking about their lives, their livelihood, trying to blend into their reality.
So, a few days ago, when the auto-wala started chatting with me, I don't know what it was that made me respond. But we shared philosophy over 15 minutes of inching forward in the rain - wondering whether the only 2 places man feels peaceful are indeed, as my auto-wala claimed, the temple and the crematorium...
Walked the last few steps home, smiling to myself, thinking of philosophy in an rattle-trap auto. To hear that my neighbour - an 82 year old woman who lived alone - had passed away. Alone, and found by the maid.
How horrifying, how totally horrifying to be that old, and to live alone, and die alone. Our whole drive towards nuclear-ness... you have to wonder, if this is where it leads, is it worth it? I have this deep, driving fear that the more the world progresses, the more we're heading towards this same thing ourselves, in one form or another.
Question then is, which would you want to do? Would you want to live a full life, and do everything you can, until you're old and infirm and have to die alone? Or would you want to cut it short early, so that you never feel that loneliness that age aggravates even further? So that the losses are others', not your's? It's like asking, do you prefer it hot, or do you prefer it pink - a question that gives you choices you can't choose between.
I have middle English dirges playing in my mind today, and that's been enough melancholy for a day anyway. More when I have the answers.