Sunday, October 10, 2010

Article in the Indian Express - October 10, 2010

This article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' the New Indian Express on October 10, 2010.


Harimohan Paruvu
Among the many deficient services that I suffered, the travails of long distance bus travel in private buses stand out clearly. Getting a ticket was an ordeal itself with long queues and apathetic agents (some of whom had as much life as a week-old corpse). Ticket in hand, you landed up at the appointed place at the appointed time, scanning the horizon for the bus. An hour past departure time, as you wondered if you missed the bus, someone spotted the bus two kilometres away. You ran to it, fought others and squeezed in, only to realize that there is no hurry as the bus is being loaded with goods. A good two hours later, the bus started off (not stopping an extra minute for the old man who got off to pee). Arre baba, we are late.

The driver then stopped every two minutes for extra passengers to stand or sit (on little stools) in the aisle. You’d settled down to sleep when you found that the stool sitter next to you drooling on you. How much ever you push him off he comes back to you like a lascivious metronome. Your attention is diverted by a sharp pain in your legs. The guy in front has discovered that the push back chairs work very well and has used all his strength to push his seat far back, so that his head is resting in your lap like a long lost lover who found his love. You sat, unable to move, your lap spread vulgarly, the guys head resting in it. All night you looked at his face anxiously, hoping he would get up and find another way to sleep but he does not. At precisely this moment your foul smelling, loud snoring neighbor falls asleep snugly on your vacant chest.

As you tried to extricate yourself from this unwanted orgy, flying pieces of luggage often landed on your head. Sometimes luggage under the seat made you sit with feet up which meant that if the guy in front pushed his seat back with some force, your legs ended up with multiple fractures. So you twisted your body in a way that the damage was minimal. Those who could not bear this ordeal got their bottles out and quickly downed a few stiff ones. Some engaged in loud conversations on their mobile phones on their business dealings, how they should treat the sonfaa@@## who cheated them and his family etc. To add to this, the conductor played loudly the vilest movies ever made in their worst prints.

As if things were not interesting enough, the bus stopped in a haunted joint in the middle of nowhere, with the lousiest food and no rest rooms. You kept a healthy distance from it. After a satisfying free meal, the bus driver got on, honked loudly, and took off at the speed of a bullet, the bus bouncing up and down in its quest to break the previously held record. Mostly it broke down after two hours and took several hours to repair by which time it was day break and you were still in the outskirts of your town.

Somehow, sometime, you reached your destination. You extricated yourself gently from your affectionate neighbours’ limbs and stepped out. You begged the driver to stop the bus as he sped past your house. He ignored you and stopped at the other end of town. But it did not matter. The relief you experienced when you got off was so huge that you forgave all their transgressions.

After all, a small price for finding God!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice read.