Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bus tales

  • I’m sitting in a bus for about 16 hours, cramped and exhausted and grimy. The bus is full of villagers who are coming to the city, probably to work as labourers in the construction sites. They have a haggard and unwashed look about them and they talk rather loudly. Obviously, some passengers were not too pleased when the bus stopped to pick these villagers. But, after the long overnight journey all are quiet and exhausted. Then, just when the bus is entering the city and passing by the railway station, a man shouts out to the woman sitting in front of me. He’s asking her to look at the train outside. This woman balances a child with her one spindly arm, lifts her veil, and looks out of the window. There’s a look of amazement in her face mixed with awe, curiosity, and excitement – everything that showed that she’s looking at train for the first time in her life.

  • The bus I take out of the village square is being driven by an avuncular and jovial bus driver (a rare combination, I guess). He smiles easily, and smokes constantly. Holding a cigarette between his fingers, he often negotiates the sharp hilly bends with just one hand. Even with both hands, I realize, these roads will be considerably difficult to drive. To complicate things, this is an ancient bus that creaks with every movement. But then, he may have been driving all his life on these roads. He even seems to know his passengers. The teenage girls sitting by his seat bursts into giggles at something he says, villagers we pass by wave at him. All these, somehow, reminds me of this scene.

  • On an extremely crowded bus, I am standing and trying to keep myself steady by holding on to the overhead rods. It doesn’t help. The roads are almost non-existent, and they pass through sharp bends on the hilly terrain. I’m barely standing, swaying more. But, my co-passengers of the bus, the local villagers, are not much bothered by any of these. They go about their usual business, which is mostly talking with each other. Nothing deters them – not the deafening roar of the bus, the steaming heat, or the delicate balancing act. In fact, they often chuckle as if on a joyride. Anyway, when it’s time to pay the bus fare, I’m struggling to take out money from my wallet. The bus conductor, seeing the plight of a hapless outsider, swiftly pulls out the exact notes from my wallet, keeps the fare, and also puts the change back. Now, that made me chuckle.