Frame of the Marshrutka.

Georgia, 2018 - ongoing

To meditate refers to the act of measuring with the mind: a self contained cycle in which the ideas, opinions, fantasies generated, filtered and pondered by our mind are in constant movement: some slowly crawl deep into our unconscious to be chaotically disposed in dreams, others vanish in a memory void, others persecute us until we take action.

Meditation thus can be conceived, in other words, as a re alignment of our inner state: an act of strength that lead us to clarity.

According to the Tao clarity can be achieved only if we remain quiet in the presence of chaos, only by enduring the disorder around us, by remaining tranquil, is possible to learn to gradually let the muddy waters to settle, only then the proper answers are revealed.

In this regard, in a process of revelations and practices of different methods of meditation the Marshrutkas of post soviet Georgia appeared as the right candidate to prove Lao Tzu sayings.

On the formal level Marshrutkas are part of an intricate transportation network: highly organized, with a fairly float of vehicles in acceptable shape, decentralized, easily available, cheap, democratic, in continuous movement, that pales down the Georgian railway system.

A Marshrutka can take a traveler virtually anywhere: they represent the first line of connection towards smaller hubs scattered around the country, the ideal mean to a last minute decision.

On a more concrete level Marshrutka are a non place of extreme adrenaline: drivers are often sleep deprived, overworked, reckless individuals who in a lazy attempt to fulfill their religious duties, their desire of forgiveness in the eventuality of a fatality, and the desire of protection and good luck, cover the dashboard of their cars in a parade of stickers, and figures depicting the cross, saints, Madonne, and Jesus.

Seats are assigned by a precise distribution: women and children often on the first row of seat. Poor clergy men, younger women, and close friends, or relative of the driver, usually seat next to him in which are probably the most comfortable seats. The rest of the population is scattered to the back, often in random order; the worst seats are the middle ones at the end of the car and the ones by the window on top of the wheels, individual seats are golden, sharing the space with someone sitting next to pushes the limit of patience and tolerance: cheap perfumes, body odors, food aromas, the endemic smells of the car, it all compose an odorific collage that completes the inner geography of the car.

A Marshrutka is not only a people mover but it also serves as an unofficial courier for the most imaginative minds: small packages, puppies, tombstones, building materials, gas canisters, car parts, bikes, or even a dog house: as long as there is space and imagination there will be the possibility to sending across the country anything: the driver acts as a bona fide delivery man for a fee.

Georgia does not shine for the presence of educated and attentive drivers, on the contrary their roads are instead a competition ground of small egos with old, half modified, half wrecked cars trying to flex in front other small egos with newer, faster, shinier cars, transforming the traffic in a sort of driving amusement park, a macho playground of carefree driving.

Although Georgia is not the only country in which traffic rules do not matter, its dangerous driving is to be included on the list of the unofficial prides of the nation along big hairy bellies.

An experienced Marshrutka driver will try to navigate this scenario by driving in its own style: a fast, smooth, continuous driving: he avoids obstacles, he overtakes everything in front of him. He avoids and hopes to be avoided.

A less experienced and less responsible Marshrutka driver will multitask: attentive on his phone, on his conversation with the copilot, attentive on the road, skillful and lucky enough to react at the very last minute to dangerous situations, his rides are disconnected, bumpy and stressful.

A criminal Marshrutka driver is often younger by few decades compare to his colleagues, he projects a mixture of frustration and arrogance in his driving style, resulting in a complete disrespect for the passengers: the road, he believes, belongs to the fittest driver and will do whatever it is in his power to maintain the status quo of his ride: he will race whoever will try to overtake him, he will tailgate whoever dared to overtake him or whoever is not willing to be overtaken, he will insult anyone that interferes in his driving.

This three common categories have one thing in common: the ability to stop anywhere along the road, be it a highway or a normal road, to pick up a standing last minute passenger who can fill an empty seat or to drop a passenger who requested a sudden stop.

Passengers on a Marshrutka are a procession of uninteresting human faces: few foreigners, many vagabonds without luggage, old ladies that seem to appear and disappear from thin air, middle age men, single mothers with children, young women on their way to their lover or on their way from them, few students, rarely a couple.

Who can afford it prefers to take a shared taxi (not less dangerous but perhaps more comfortable).

The trip is often silent, not many people talk to each other, everyone is concentrate into themselves, some are on the phone, some manage to sleep, to listen to music, some seem to meditate, some manage to smoke.

The trip rarely last less or more than the designated hours, it follows a rigid schedule, pre programmed stops: for refreshment, or petrol, or smoking (smoking happens in any case, at any stop, in any circumstance).

A Marshrutka never leaves a passenger behind: we are sheeps.

Often music is part of the trip: from a mix of neo melodic Russian dance folk pop songs to a random selection of poorly made remix of poorly made remixes of unkillable commercial tunes from around the world.

More Zen Marshrutka will avoid playing any music resulting in a trip filled with natural noises, engine rumors, wind, rain (if there's any), traffic cacophonies of sorts. At night lights of bright blue, or green, or red color, pollute the inside of the car.

A Marshrutka in this regard represents the muddy chaos, the disorder, the annoyance of a situation in which our personal actions are limited to a small and not very comfortable space, immerged in an adrenaline induced ride, surrounded by an alienating group of fellow passengers, cacophonies, our thoughts, our fears, our desires.

There is not much to do in a Marshrutka but to wait: reading provokes nausea, phone connections is not always guaranteed, sleeping rarely can happen during the whole duration of the trip, admiring the panorama last until the ugliness of the road starts to pour out.

To meditate, remains perhaps, the only sane option, and the greatest exercise to keep the feet together once the final stop is safely reached.