Night Travel in a Bus – North India

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The luggage thrusted in places where people could not sit, the bus now packed with both people and baggage, and not an inch to spare, suddenly stopped.

‘He is a staff member’, the conductor shouted, preempting any complaint from the passengers sitting inside.  After standing close to the door for a while, he finally settled on the large sac, dividing the area between passengers and the driver’s place.

The old man soon slipped into a peaceful slumber as the bus picked speed.

A young man could not stop his gaze from the girl sitting on the seat in the next row, time and again, turning his head in her direction, hoping to catch her stare but with no success till now.

The group of three men at the back, lazily stretching on their seats, suddenly become active, as their coke and Pepsi bottles open up, generously diluted with rum and vodka.

Their discussion silent and discreet till now, suddenly became loud and conspicuous.

The man still wearing formals sitting in the middle seat had no idea of where to keep his elbow, finding it getting displaced by both the people on his left and right. 

Gathering courage, he finally anchors it strongly, facing the resistance from both sides with all his strength and power.  The two of them finally relent allowing him the pleasure of letting his hand on the arm rest.

However, the moment he folds his hands on his chest, realizes his space has been encroached again.

The loud honking continues unabated even on the empty road as the driver continues to peek at the passengers from his rear-view mirror. His loud conversation with the conductor combined with switching on of lights indiscriminately reflecting his desperation to reach home quickly and his jealousy of people sleeping while he keeps his eyes forcibly open.

The loud clattering of the window pane continues unabated reminding everyone of the number of potholes, the bus had to negotiate on its way to their destination.

And then the ubiquitous noise attracts everyone’s attention, leading to long sighs;

‘Stop the bus,’ someone shouted.

Half asleep passengers turn their heads to see who spoke these dreaded words as the three men, till now gulping down liters of cola mixed with rum and vodka, now walk through the crowded corridor, demanding for the bus to be stopped, so they could empty their bladders.

‘Five minutes’ the conductor replies nonchalantly.  His statement reflecting his years of experience in handling such situations.

When the bus doesn’t stop even after fifteen minutes and with no one having any idea of how long is five minutes, they demand for the bus to be stopped again.

‘two minutes’ he replies this time, again as cool as a cucumber.

The bus continues its uninterrupted bumpy run, some people pushing close the window glass to avoid heavy gust of wind, while others transported to a different world dreaming.

 The three men, still standing have no idea when two minutes will be over, as they expect it to stop, every time the bus slows down, before breaking their hope to pick up speed again.

‘How much more time’ one of them shouts, unable to control himself now.

‘Bas rukne vale hai’ (very shortly), he replies, this time also hiding his smirk by wiping off some imaginary thing off his mouth.

A loud thud from outside and the bus slows down.

‘Ruk Gayi (it is stopped now), tells the conductor while looking at the three men.

‘The one in front tries to run out when he suddenly trips on the old man (staff member), sitting on the sac, falls down, his wet trousers drenching the shirt of the sleeping old man’.

‘Meri nahi ruki’ ( I could not control), he replies sheepishly, looking at the conductor before smiling  at the old man.

The conductor unperturbed, exhorts people to wake up as the bus will be halting for dinner break prompting sleepy passengers to rub their eyes and wonder how quickly they made it to the midway.

The old staff member still wondering how he got wet, checking his shirt and the sac repeatedly.

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