Chocolate Bus. Robert Lynd Essay. Reintroduced By P. S. Remesh Chandran.
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.
Omnibus was the old name for a bus. When city buses were newly introduced in theLondonstreets, they were uniformly coloured chocolate. Robert Lynd disliked them for their colour which was dull and non-interesting to the eyes and also because they deprived him of the delights of walking. Like A.G.Gardiner’s Bus Conductor, Lynd’s Chocolate Bus reminds us of the many virtues which are leaving us one by one. And buses too may say farewell to us just as row boats did when bridges came into being.
The delight of walking is meeting persons on the way, spending a few minutes with them in small talk and having enough psychological delights for the day.
Suppose we are used to walk long distances and we are used also to like walking those distances. We shall meet so many persons of our acquaintance and not, shall spend a few minutes with them indulging in small talk and serious talk, and before we reach our destination, have enough psychological delights for the day. But when buses begin to ply the route we begin to become lonely on the road. Moreover it would be embarrassing for us to see a person whom we passed on the way walking in front of us at another place after alighting from a bus. In no time we will begin to hate buses. That was exactly what happened to Robert Lynd. He began to hate buses. Lynd’s essays are deep in thought but lucid in style. His essays enriched English language and literature much like his counter part Gardiner. Chocolate Bus is included in his collection of essays ‘Solomon In All His Glory.’
Birds of the least brilliant colour may sing the most brilliant songs.
Do not anyone think that Lynd is blind in his observations, due to his prejudice against the dull coloured Chocolate Buses. He makes several strange observations in spite of these buses denying him vibrant colour patterns pleasing to his eyes and deprives him of the delights of walking. Chocolate which is dull and boring to the eyes of course is charming to the palate. Their delicious taste is savoured by all. Birds of the least brilliant colour would most probably sing the most brilliant songs. Sweets of the poorest favour may sometimes have the richest flavour. In this way perhaps the dull coloured Chocolate Buses also could be of the most beneficial use to mankind.
To see sights for ten miles from a running bus, the focusing muscles of the eyes do the equal labour the biceps muscles of the legs do to run the same distance.
When we travel in a bus most often we will prepare ourselves to see all the sights along the way. So we sit ourselves on a convenient side seat and begin seeing things. If we do it, before we are not over many miles, we will see that our eyes are closed and we are asleep. When we see sights from a running bus, the actual labour the focusing muscles in our eyes do to focus images before our retina to provide a stable picture is equal to what the biceps muscles of our legs do to run the same distance. No wonder the focusing muscles become soon tired and we fall asleep before long.
Thoughts originating while travelling in a bus will have high voltage and decisions taken then would be coming from a very kinetic mind.
But travelling in a running vehicle stimulates our thoughts too. The speed of the vehicle adds speed to our thoughts also. We know that weight into velocity is momentum. Momentum of the bus can be spent on the road but we, sitting with our fixed weight without the liberty of movement in the confines of a bus, will feel the momentum enter our mind and take off with it. Thoughts originating from us while travelling in a bus will be high voltage thoughts. Decisions taken then would be coming from a very kinetic mind.
Dante ought to have included bus travels as one of the Torments of the Inferno.
Bus travellers will often have bitter experiences. The buses would be overcrowded and there would not be empty seats. Sometimes there would not even be a foot of floor space empty to stand on. The passengers would feel they are imprisoned in a black hole that is a bus that is rocking also on the pot holes. Mechanical vibration of the bus would enter our heel, head and bones. One will wonder whether this is the fulfillment of the travel dreams of the Greeks, Romans and the other civilized races. Lynd says that the South Sea Islander lolling lazily in his lagoon is unfortunate to miss this unique experience of bus travel since there are no buses in that remote part of the globe.
If buses were made prisons the prisoners would object and crimes would cease to happen.
A bus is a mechanical rhinoceros to travel inside which one has to pay also. Bus travellers get no wind except one composed of half dust and another half other people’s breathe. If buses were made prisons the prisoners would object and crimes would cease to happen. Criminals in the ancient world were put in barrels with spikes and rolled down the hills as punishment which was far lighter than to have been condemned to have a bus travel as the punishment. Lynd wonders why Dante did not include bus travel as one of the punishments among the multitude of torments in hell he described in his classic, The Divine Comedy.
The sheep in the field, the fly on the window, the sparrow on the road, all constantly keep moving. Movement is the manifestation of life.
When compared to a travel in the bus, walking has a number of advantages. Walking is a rhythmic and pleasant form of movement. There is a natural rhythm in walking. We are free to walk as lazily as an old dog or as fast as a cock picking food. Walking gives us enough time for sight seeing and thinking. One can stop at shop windows and look into things displayed there, or can peer inside. A walking man gets news also. The greatest pleasure of all in walking is the realization that there is no hurry. It is the law of nature that living things must keep moving. Movement is the manifestation of life. The sheep in the field, the fly on the window, the sparrow on the road, all constantly keep moving. This movement of limbs and wings is the very basis of life. It is pleasanter to move constantly like the planets than to sit still like a heap of stones. ‘Man is the only animal that escaped from perpetual motion and stiffened into stillness while he is yet neither a cripple nor dead.’ Sitting inert has now become a habit to man.
The desire of man to travel with the least body movement caused the invention of vehicles. His inertness is now complete.
It is the desire of man to travel with the least body movement that caused the invention of vehicles. A survey of the vehicles he developed in their chronological order would reveal his inclinations. First he rode horses which provided an overall rhythmic movement to his muscles. Then came the row boat in which the hands alone had to move and the legs rested. With the invention of the wheel and the sail he became able to move without moving him at all. Cycles and automobiles followed and then came motor cycle, car, bus, ship and aero plane. And now there is the rocket too. His inertness is now complete.
The flowing streams, the playing children and the singing birds no more touch the bus traveller.
It was this inertness and laziness of man that gave a chance to men with mechanical minds to make inventions. Thanks to these vehicles man is now able to transport people in bulk numbers from place to place. In all these vehicles man needn’t move his body. He only has to buy a ticket. But he no more enjoys the various amusements on the way. The flowing streams, the playing children and the singing birds no more touch him. He is now shut inside a box on wheels and carried away at top speed. One has no more life than a posted letter so far as he is sitting in a travelling vehicle. It was great movements of mind and body matter that created renaissance inItalyfour hundred years earlier. Henceforth there would be no renaissance. Riding in buses has killed the kinetic minds in our society. Thus this essay is really Robert Lynd’s ‘Ode to Walking.’
Many fear the channel tunnel will gradually destroy the euphoric and pleasant isolation England enjoyed for many ages.
However, he is not a cynical critic. He concludes his essay wishing every success to the chocolate brown buses newly introduced in London streets. After these omnibuses the tram cars and the road trains came. Then there was the tube and now there is the channel tunnel which all fear would gradually destroy the euphoric and pleasant isolation the great island nation of England enjoyed for so many ages.
[First written in November 1994]
Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
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Translations of this article in French, German, Spanish and Italian published in Knol.com can be read by clicking BLOOM BOOKS TRANSLATIONS here.
To read about the life and people and their follies of the author’s native land Kerala, read Kerala Commentary
Appreciations, Articles, British Authors, British Essayists, British Writers, Channel Tunnel, Chocolate Bus, English Essayists, English Literature, Essays, Old London Transport, Omni Buses, P S Remesh Chandran, Reintroduced Literature, Reintroductions, Reviews, Robert Lynd, Sahyadri Books Bloom Books Trivandrum, Solomon In All His Glory, Trams
Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of ‘Swan, The Intelligent Picture Book’.
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