I have just travelled on a London red bus for 30 mins or so. Nothing unusual or strange about that at all.
Except that in less than 30 mins, I saw and experienced a kaleidoscope of humanity in all its guises, forms and challenges.
As is my norm and my favourite hobby, I indulged in a bit of people watching.
One great thing about living in a multicultural city like London is that you get to see and meet people from all parts of the world.
And what better way to see such people than on a London bus?
Today was no different and I reckon that in those 30 mins I must have seen people of at least a dozen different nationalities. All humans – in different shades, dress and genetic makeup.
The other common thing of course is that everyone loves their children, even Muslims.
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power but in character and goodness. People are just people and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with basic goodness.” – Anne Frank
People, people, people everywhere right now in London. Tourists mainly, since its peak season here right now.
Public transport is a great leveller – and on this bus there were commuters in suits, tourists in shorts, mothers with babies and so on. All seemingly on a mission – to get somewhere fast.
Isn’t that how most of us are in life? Always rushing to get somewhere else, never stopping to smell the roses.
There were some old people in their special seats. Some babes in arms and one young child in a pram.
Most of the people were on their own. Funny how you can always tell if two people sitting next to each other are together, albeit as friends, family or in a relationship. There is a lot to be said for studying people’s body language.
Another striking thing was how serious some people looked, seemingly full of self-importance. They clearly hadn’t read my article about not being significant. 🙂
Amongst all the seriousness, what really stood out was the laughter of some children and also from a young couple, obviously in love.
Actually, the only happy looking faces were those of children – full of awe and excitement at the joy of being on a bus.
Look back when you were a child and you travelled on a bus. When did you stop getting excited about the adventure of being on a bus?!
Indeed, when did you stop being in love with life?
Also, I am always inspired by how helpful and kind people can be, even on buses. Giving up your seat for someone else may not seem like that big a deal, but it reaffirms to that person and also all those around you how we are all one.
There were people whose faces were etched with the trials and traumas of a life of burden. Or perhaps they were people with a life really well lived, though you wouldn’t know it from their anxious faces.
As I looked at these faces, I wondered what was going on for all the people around me. Where were they going and where had they been? What challenges were they facing?
What were their dreams and hopes?
Were they still excited by their lives or had they given up on their dreams a long time ago?
At what point does a life of joy become one of drudgery and boredom?
Most looked distant and in a world of their own, eyes always averted, and being ever so careful not to see you in the eye.
At what point do people stop living and begin simply surviving?
And yet they are just like you and me.
Next time you are on a bus or even a train, look around at your fellow passengers. Look beyond the superficial wrappings and their personal armour. Look for the real human being within and their core humanity.
You get my point – people are people – regardless of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, country of birth. They have the same hopes and dreams – and they face the same challenges as you and me.
Of course don’t stare intently! You don’t want them to think you are strange, which you are definitely not.
By simply looking at all the people around you, you will learn a lot about them – and about yourself. You will learn a lot about humanity – and what it takes to be human.
Please share below in comments your own learnings about what it takes to be human.
Image courtesy of Elsie
People watching is one of my favorite pasttimes, especially in airports. I see a lot of airports all over the world and I’m always in awe of the diversity of people. I watch people go by and try to picture where they’re from, what kind of house they live in, what their families are like.
A thought that often comes to me is that we are only who we are (religion, nationality, skin color) because we happened to have been born into a certain family in a certain place.
I had to laugh when I read “Everyone loves their children, even Muslims.” How can anyone even come up with the idea that any group of people wouldn’t love their own children?
Travel is a wonderful way to become humble and to learn to understand and respect people from backgrounds different than our own. A lot of hatred is simply based on ignorance. My two cents.
Miss Footloose, good to know that I am not the only one who indulges in people watching:-)
You got it spot on – we are only who we are because of the sheer fluke of where were born.
As for even muslims loving their children, that was in reference to my article about Muslims a couple of weeks ago. If you haven’t read it yet, please do check it out below.
Indeed one of the points I tried to convey in that article was how a lot of hatred is simply based on ignorance.
And shame on me, I did not start my spiel above by saying I loved your post!
Thanks Miss Footloose:-)
Arvind, It must be especially wonderful to be in London during the summer when people from all over the world come. I seldom ride buses these days, but like Miss Footloose I spend a fair amount of time watching people in airports. It is fascinating to see the great variety of shapes and sizes and attire. Of course, I don’t stare, but I love the way babies stare and stare at people before their parents teach them that it’s rude to do that.
To be human is to love the way people are basically the same but all a little different.
Madeleine, it is indeed wonderful to be in London during the summer when people from all over the world come:-)
This summer I did my fair share of partying because of the world cup and I connected with a number of people from around the world.
It’s so true about babies having their staring habits stamped out by the adults around them. Quite often I do play a game with babies whereby we stare at each other – and then I become conscious of their parents giving me funny looks!
And thanks for that lovely quote – “To be human is to love the way people are – basically the same but all a little different.”
Madeleine, I just tweeted your quote and also included your twitter handle:-)
People watching is an occupational hazard for me. I spent most of my career in safety and security where this ability helped me understand why incidents happened.
Most people will avoid eye contact and many are uncomfortable with their private space being invaded by strangers. I guess that is a western by product of what we were taught as children; Don’t talk to strangers.
Pity that we cannot be like children and enjoy the delights of life when we are adults, but society tends to frown upon such minded adults. Don’t be childish is another maxim we all know.
Lovers could care less what others think so perhaps we should be lovers of life with the believing heart of a child.
Andre, I have never before heard of anyone having people watching as an occupational hazard! But I can see how it could be a hindrance in what you did or still do, in safety and security.
Most people do avoid eye contact and are also uncomfortable with their private space being invaded by strangers. I agree with you that this is a western by product of what we were taught as children – don’t talk to strangers.
I do tend to talk to anyone and am able to break the ice and build rapport easily. I find that once you have broken through the initial reservations, people are glad to connect and do open up easily.
Oh, what would it be like to be children once again in our adulthood. Life would be so much freer. And guess – we can be just that!
I actually agree about not being childish. Instead, be childlike:-)
Let’s all be lovers of life with the believing heart of a child:-)
I enjoy your observations..
Because you are not a “regular” bus rider..it seemed special to you..I think that’s when people tend to lose their magical outlook..when they allow their days to seem ordinary, mundane even..they forget magic…
I thought how fun, you are on the bus..and how if I was on that bus, i would have spoken to the people around me..laughed with the children, asked the couple in love how long they’d been together, spoken to the elderly, asked the people around me where they were going..it’s ‘how I roll’ *grin*
I haven’t lost my magic..it’s right here sprinkled throughout every single day…I love life, I love the world, I love being in it..*This* is where I am today, here on this Earth, so I shall enjoy the experience and share as much as I can while i’m here..
I would *love* to be on a bus in London!!! Or pretty much anywhere that bus ticket took me:)
Joy, thanks for your observations about my observations.
I am actually a regualr bus rider these days but each journey becomes special when I take time to look around, rather than sticking my head in a book.
I believe that there is magic all around us, if only we cared to look around.
And yes, I can just see having a lot of fun on that bus, speaking to everyone and laughing with the children etc! But on a London bus, you might have got a few funny looks:-)
Let’s arrange for you to be on a London bus soon!
Love the way you have described the scene . It’s almost like being on that bus. Irrespective of the choice of the mode of transport we are all on our own unique journeys..
Savitha, I just knew that you were there on the bus with me:-)
Love your post. I love people watching, too. Haven’t been on a bus lately, but I used to do a 45 minute commute to/from work.
I’m one of those that gave up my seat, and smiled back at the children instead of being upset at the noise, and started conversations with the other “regulars.” Even made a couple of friends that way.
When I’m people watching, no matter where, I always make sure to smile at those who look out of sorts, whether tired or sad or irritated or whatever. I do it with a little prayer that the smile will help lift them up at least a little bit, making a difference in the rest of their day.
We don’t have as much diversity here in St. Louis, except for all the college kids — we have 3 large colleges here (Washington University, St. Louis University, and University of MO at St. Louis). Two have very good medical schools, and one has an excellent law school, so we get students from all over. But it’s like night and day between the school year and when school’s on break.
(As a side note, I have little tolerance for intolerance. Buses are one of the places I’ve heard people grumble about “foreigners,” especially if they’re speaking their native language. It’s usually “They oughta learn English if they wanna live here.” I’ve won many a verbal smackdown on buses with intolerant people. I kind of miss it. 😉 )
Annie, I can imagine you would be the life and soul of any bus journey!
You would be a real hit on the London buses here. Even more so if you were to sort out the intolerance amongst the commuters:-)
I LOVE people watching!! And you are right, London is a great place for it, the variety you see is phenomenal, completely at odds with the bland, airbrushed idea of beauty we are fed in newspapers and magazines. I think it can make us realise what is really beautiful in the world – the child clinging to mums hand, the character lines etched on the old ladies face, the guy who looks like a thug giving his girlfriend a tender kiss, those samll moments of interaction which show people are living – and not just existing.
I would have definitely put you down as a people watcher! And indeed London is the perfect place for it.
Lets hope one day soon, we can do a spot of people watching together:-)
Arvind: I really like this post and completely agree with you. People are people and we are more alike than we are different. It is just about being able to look beyond the surface and see people for who they really are. If you really look though, you will always be able to see the similarities in terms of values and great traits, such as kindness. I think that is a great exercise you recommended as well in terms of observing people in everyday situations. There really are not just ordinary experiences if we choose to see things in a different way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights.
Sybil, glad you liked this post.
People are people and we are more alike than we are different – we just have to look for the similarities and common values such as kindness.
And there are no ordinary experiences:-)
I think often people lose their dreams due to fear, ruts and addictions. They give up on themselves and then on others and life. TV is a popular drug that blares negativity. We were visiting friends a week ago and their TV was on in the background. Who wants a ton of negativity blaring into their life full blast? It’s immobilized many people!
Tess, yes people definitely lose their dreams due to fear, addictions and being in a rut.
Apart from them giving up on themselves and life is when others also give up on them.
Televeision is a great culprit for spreading negativity – indeed whilst visiting friends, I often have to ask if we can turn the TV down or even switch it off.
Hi dear friend! It’s interesting to notice all the journeys we’ve been on (on a bus or otherwise) and the people we’ve encountered. Each encounter is a blessings in one way or another. What I mostly notice from looking at others is that we are all the same showing up with different faces and clothes.
Thanks for taking me along your bus ride. I enjoyed the ride! Loving blessings!
Thanks Andrea for joining me on my bus ride:-)
If only more people were aware like you and truly seeing others for what they are.
I think the key is always compassion … “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
Welcome to my blog J.D. 🙂
Totally agree with you – compassion is always the key. I love your definition of compassion – all about empathising with the pain of others and wanting to do something about it.
Perfect timing for me to come across this lovely blog. I will be traveling by car, bus and plane in the next couple of weeks and will remember to try to see into people instead of look at them. 🙂
Emma, happy travelling!
Seeing into people rather just looking at them is sure to make your journeys fly by:-)
Arvind, I did what you did on the trains in Switzerland – We took roughly 15 or 16 train rides in 3 days and went all over Switzerland and while not half not even a fourth as diverse as the fabulous London – one of my favorite cities – it has its shares of hustle and bustle and the color spectrum of humanity – I loved taking photos of the people and enjoyed so much my people watching – which is one of my favorite pastimes in every country I visit……
Farnoosh, welcome back!
I can imagine whizzing around Switzerland on trains must have been quite an experience. All that people watching, even with less diversity must have been fun and invigorating for someone like you.
I look forward to reading your articles soon about your observations and key learnings for the rest of us: -)
I do like your post. It’s very touching. You somehow reminded me that life is beautiful no matter how simple it is for you or for anybody else. All I need to learn is how to treasure small things and give importance to every details in my life.
We all look up at the same sky, regardless of where we are in the world.
We all have to feel that certain exhaustion of exercise if we want to keep fit, regardless of the level of comfort in our lives
We all have to sleep, no matter how productive we are.
In a world of such contrast, humanity is still very connected by shared experiences.