If you live in a crowded city like Mumbai, or given the population of this country, just about any place in India, it can be a fairly amusing exercise to pay a little attention to the people around yourself. The co-passengers in the train who can’t get their heads out of their mobile phones. The Iskcon people selling the Bhagvad Geeta at a hundred rupees a copy. The person who offers you the book and claims that it will change your life; then responds to your smile with an ever larger one. The shoe polish guy on the railway platform. The random distant uncle whose sole life purpose is to preach to you the importance of getting married at the ‘right’ age. The guy on the road with the inverted Nike cap and a guitar on his back. The couple on the side of a lake. The guy with the receding hairline who can’t stop looking at other people’s heads. The girl with the pimpled face who can’t take her attention off other people’s cheeks. The short and the tall. The slim and the obese. The weird guy who observes everyone.
One may then try to go a step further and imagine people outside this small circle of one’s current physical vicinity. Prevaricating politicians and haranguing spokespeople on meaningless television debates. Long bearded spiritual gurus and bald authors of self-help books. The tea seller who becomes the prime minister of the largest democracy in the world. The cheerleaders who dance to the successes of an alien game. The one-club football legend whose career comes to an unceremonious end. Successful young entrepreneurs and ass-licking corporate junkies. Publication obsessed academicians and noble prize winning researchers. The guy on the street who gets run over by an alcoholic. The children with pencils and notebooks in a school. The ten guys with guns in their hands. The child who oversleeps and misses school that day. His classmates who get shot in their skulls.
Further, one may try – if one has, as one indeed does, the time and the inclination – to think of their life stories. Different ideas of what they want to do with their lives. Different goals and aspirations. Different friends and foes. Different joys and sorrows. Different physical appearances and different lifestyles and different sexual preferences. Different ideas of perfection. Different ideas of how things ought to be. Different favourite colours and ice cream flavours. Different favourite songs and movies and books. Different accents and different ways of laughing and sneezing.
And yet, one can think of the commonality. The basics that remain the same. That they all eat and shit and urinate and sleep and breathe. That they all yearn for sex and money and power and fame and satisfaction and love. Well, maybe these also change to an extent. There are people who like spicy food and people who like bland food. There are people who prefer Italian or Chinese or Indian or Mediterranean food. There are people with regular bowel movements, but there are also people with constipation and people with diarrhea. The yearnings for sex and money and power and fame and satisfaction and love are in different measures in different people.
What really refuses to differ is the breath. We inhale and a volume of air is sucked into the dominant nostril. It travels further via the throat into the windpipe before splitting into the two bronchial tubes. From each bronchial tube, the air then goes into the thread-like bronchioles that finally end in the alveoli sacs, where the air exchanges gases with the red blood cells – gives up oxygen and accepts carbon dioxide. Then, it follows the whole path back – from the alveoli into the bronchioles into the bronchial tube into the windpipe to the throat and back into the atmosphere from the dominant nostril. Then, the same journey in another person’s respiratory system. From one co-passenger in the train playing with his mobile phone to another. From the random distant uncle to the random distant aunt. From the entrepreneur to the academician. From the child with the pencil to the guy with the gun. Then to the other guy with the gun. Then to the other child with the pencil. Finally, only between the guys with the guns.
It matters not what is the colour of one’s skin. It matters not what is the balance in one’s bank account. It matters not whether one has a thousand degrees and qualifications and awards or none at all. It matters not how many books one has read or how many countries one has traveled. It matters not what God one believes in and it matters not if one believes not in any God. It matters not whether one is attracted to the same or the opposite sex. It matters not if has constipation or diarrhea. It matters not what one’s thoughts are or what one believes in. It matters not what one thinks is important and what one deems to be trivial. Everyone breathes. All the time. Without stopping. Like fish in water, we are in air. And every moment of our lives, we are breathing in or breathing out.
PS: The bearded guy once spoke the sentence that is the title of this blog post. He says things like this. He talks about celebrating differences and culturing a sense of belonging. He talks about deepening roots and expanding visions. He is fun.