There will come a moment in your life when every important thing that you are always preoccupied with – be it your personal life, career, or bank balance – flies out of your head. That moment comes at 8.25 in the morning if you have to catch a bus at 8.30.
Yes, that moment comes every day and is never different. You are philosophizing till 8.24. And a minute later you are frantically running around collecting your bag, lunch box, mobile phone and dashing out of your house. You have only 5 more minutes to walk half a kilometre and catch the bus. While you are walking, you vow to wake up early the next morning and get to the office before everyone else. Lol.
Ok. Jokes apart, you half-run and half-walk to the bus stop. Between gasps you ask a lady beside you, “25 poiducha?’ (Has Bus 25 left?). She shakes her head no. And by God! The relief that washes over you! You thank your lucky stars. Then you go back to waiting. Random thoughts fill your head. What’s the world coming to? College students murder each other. Damn. Wonder what that girl’s last thought was. Still cannot believe it. Should get that movie DVD soon. I gotta start that blog next week. Blah blah blah.
And in a manner as to put a stop to these thoughts, Bus no: 25, the familiar huge thing, comes closer horns blaring.
As it does, a small crowd gathers around the entrance of the vehicle, each person trying to push past the other into the bus. But you don’t want to be part of that mad rush. You wait until everyone is inside so you can get in last. Yes, even if that means travelling on the footboard. You might ask me to give you one good reason why the footboard is better. I’ll give you five.
- Like one of my neighbours pointed out, if you are a head taller than the rest, your nose is just inches away from oiled heads. Sometimes you get a whiff an odour that has traces of perfume mixed with sweat. I shall refrain from saying more. You can’t even cover your nose because your right hand is clutching the rod above and your left arm is somewhere stuck in the crowd. Take it from me, it is hell.
- You will invariably stamp on someone’s foot or someone else is bound to stamp on yours – it’s so crowded. If you are the perpetrator of the “crime”, you end up at the receiving end of verbal abuses. “Can’t you see where you are going?”, they scold. But if you are the “victim”, well you are still at the receiving end of abuses. “Can’t you stand a foot away?” Sigh.
- You play courier service to a lot of passengers – yes, I am talking about passing change. It’s fun though. Only, it shouldn’t end up like that old game “Passing the message”. Remember the game we played as kids? You whisper something to a person’s ear and they pass it on and by the time the last person says it out loud, the message is twisted. So a person getting down at Gandipuram might just have the ticket for somewhere else, thanks to the courier service.
- If you are a girl and you are close to the men’s side… Sometimes you don’t really have to be a good-looking girl. Just “girl” is good enough for them.
- Here is the real kicker. You are in a crowded bus, sweating like a pig, you can’t even move an inch (around a lot of oiled heads) while the bus is waiting at a red signal under the hot sun forever.
So, now tell me. Is this a better place to be or is the foot board, where you can hold on to a single rod for dear life while the wind roars in your ears as the bus speeds by?
As you hand the cash to the conductor for the ticket, he, as always, barks something about everyone giving him 10 rupee notes and no coins. Then you wonder, what’s that jingling sound in his big black bag…?
Talking about conductors, they are perhaps the luckiest bunch of men on earth. In men’s language. They are the sole group who have the complete “licence” to brush against women as they walk back and forth inside the bus and not be beaten up for it. (In time, you’ll also actually become immune to it.)
Now that you have got the ticket, all you have to do is wait for your destination. You are standing and zoning out. The noise of the traffic becomes a distant hum and you are staring at the back of someone’s head or looking out the window, not really seeing anything… Then all of a sudden, something pulls you back to the reality of the bus – someone cries ““I love this idiot….I love this lovable idiot…”. You are startled.
Phew! It only turns out to be an Ilayaraja song. These days you hear these songs only in the bus. These are called “bus songs”, that’s what we call it. Ilaya nila pozhigiradhe, Nilave vaa, nee oru kaadhal sangeetham etc…. these are typical bus songs. And if you were me, you would not just listen to these songs but find some 10 other songs with a similar tune. (It’s almost natural, like a habit.)
Perhaps if you got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, you are likely to witness something that would delay your journey. Like a bus breakdown. Or an accident. It could be your very bus that runs over someone killing them on the spot. Or it could pass an accident site. You would fear becoming immune to these things in time – it’s so common.
If you did wake up on the right side of the bed, you will get to your stop without any of these unpleasant interruptions. You will get down and rush to your destination.
End of story.
P.S: In the evening, you may not recall anything about that morning, the mad rush between 8.25 and 8.30, or the footboard journey, or the sweat and perfume or the Ilayaraja songs. Yet, it will happen all over again the next morning. And the next.