Slaloming and snaking through one of London’s innumerable underground tunnels, I come to a somewhat sobering conclusion as I try to avoid the throngs. On this particular day, I’m one of the worst of all the scurrying rats.
While cursing those who push, shove and fight for an inch of real-estate in the labyrinth of passages people navigate on their daily commutes to work, I realise, at times, it’s hard not to get dragged into the dogged underground tussle.
A few days ago I saw a cumbersome woman racing for a vacant seat on a Piccadilly Line. Despite her tumult and effort she failed to secure a seat and stood disconsolate and visibly dismayed. Anyone who makes the daily commute on the tube can surely relate to her desperate plight.
The winner of the dual wasn’t the least bit concerned about scoring a seat, the Holy Grail of the underground. A sense of satisfaction, like a plume of smoke from a wildfire, emitted from the seat winner.
And while nobody hops out of bed at the crack of dawn and fancies standing all the way to work, so close to a stranger that you can smell his breakfast, the repugnant waft of tuna and eggs filling the air like a toxic gas, is a modicum of civility too much to ask?
Competition starts at the crack of dawn in London and if you’re not willing to battle, scratch and claw for every spare inch of space, you’ll quickly be left in the dust.
People compare living and working in London to a “rat race”, summing up perfectly life in the big city. You’ll more likely come across twerking Siamese twins than catching a glimpse of someone smiling on their morning commute. There’s an omnipresent and ubiquitous stoicism on the tube, a sombre aura more suitable for a funeral procession.
Doing my utmost to avoid unleashing devil-like death stare upon fellow commuters, I focus unwaveringly on my iPad. Suffice to say, I’m not immune to the underground blues.
If someone sat smiling opposite me – had I somehow procured a seat – I’d find it somewhat unnerving. We’ve become so used to miserableness pervading that I would perceive a mere smile as eerie, abnormal, even perplexing.
It makes you wonder how many of us our actually happy. I travelled to Asia a few years ago and what struck me most was how incredibly happy, hospitable and accommodating the locals were.
It gives even more credence to the old adage that happiness is not achieved through a wealth of possessions, toys and money but the fulfilment in your heart and soul, the state of mind with which you awake every day.
I dream of escaping the rigid and robotic lifestyle a big city comprises. I yearn to live in a place where the thought of Mondays don’t give me night terrors, filling me with angst, a place where everyone isn’t purely working for the weekend and where smiles replace scowls.
And I’ll sacrifice all the material goods money can buy to feel free, at peace and not only exist, but thrive in a state of tranquillity.