RUN RUN RUN!!
Conductor of 213A/1 bus is shouting ‘Dadaaaa, ar ektu pa chaliye….’ (Dadaaa, faster) and stretched his right hand to catch me. I somehow managed a finish-line sprint and he did the rest. Bus speeds up. Gasping for breath at the back doorsteps and heard some claps from inside.
Thank You Shahrukh!
We all travel in public bus. Almost daily. But this one journey has all spices you usually ignore. We don’t know if your perspective towards public bus will change or not after reading this, but we can ensure one thing; you’ll have to try hard to hide your smile in the bus next time!
Bantala takes almost 2 hours to reach. So, as usual, I did a quick scan of all the seats. None are empty. Forget about Ladies, Handicap and Senior Citizen – almost 15 seats have gone out of scope. It’ll be risky to track the Senior Citizen ones for this long journey. Probability of losing it will surely be higher. Also, keeping an eye on every stoppage and scanning people’s ages is surely a tiresome idea. So, I chose to stand near the “Pickpocket” one.
Sometimes it’s difficult to read the body language of sitting passengers and guessing their destinations. The ostrich ones, checking every signal by sticking out their heads out of the window, are least trustworthy. They’ll keep doing that till the bus reaches garage. Sleeping ones are out of my syllabus, no algorithm can predict them. Smartphone addicts are easier to own. Just have a secret glance at their mobile screen from the corner of your eyes or keep your hearing organ active when conductor approaches him for tickets.
But, this time I’m absolutely clueless. A teenager is sitting beside an old man. Both are studying; newspaper for the old one and Xeroxed electromagnetic theorem notes for the younger one.
“Punam Pandey to strip again if no big national event is organized soon!”.
Lusty eyes are fixed at the headline, not of only the old one, but also 6 more pairs of eyes from different distances, including mine. The old pair took a quick scan around us and all promptly shifted their visions to empty spaces. I exchanged a “Dada-Apni-o!” (You too!) glance with him, and as a result he turned that page over and opened the paper in 1×1 landscape mode within that short space by knocking the electromagnetic child by his elbow. The inducted boy totally ignored it and adjusted himself by tilting towards my belly. I kept my stance intact by applying a periodic belly pressure to his budding head.
No space is vacant inside now. The helper is a clever salesman. ‘Uthe asun. Uthe Asun. Seat khali. Seat khali.’ (Ride the bus. Seats are vacant.) Where is that fucking secret seat?? ‘Sadan, Exide, Park Circus, Science City, Bantala, Ghatakpukur… Seat khali, Seat khali.’ I wonder that they never jumble up the sequence or miss any stop. The rhyme reverberates in my ear for at least for half an hour after the journey is over.
Two sudden breaks jerked the interior and all air gaps are utilized. Passengers are now equally distributed and blended with each other. If two more are added at the front, two will fall from back door! Two alien hands are stretched above my shoulder to reach the handle, rubbing my face on their armpits. Competition is on the rod too. Fists are pushing neighboring hands on sideways and applying combined torque to spin the wet handle. I never understand how conductors can walk through such crowd very easily from one place to another. ‘Dekhi, kar kar baki achhe bar korben!’ (Let me check who all are left to buy tickets). It’s a practiced technique I guess. They never start collecting tickets until the bus is full. God knows if they love walking through the hips, pervs!
I was just concentrating on the torn poster of D. K. Lodh, but suddenly a man standing right behind the driver seat, startled me with his high pitch coarse voice, cursing the driver for turning on the music system which just started playing a Kumar Sanu number on a big speaker close to his head;
“Dil yeh kehta hai, kanon mein tere, thoda kareeb akey bahon mein tere!”.
It’s a tight traffic near Darga Road. Standing in a crowded bus which is stuck in traffic jam in such a humid weather is an indescribable pain. It worsens when the driver stops the engine after waiting for more than 5 minutes. A sigh of disappointment vibrated through the entire bus, ‘Dhusssss….. Bhagoban jane kiser eto jam sala!!’ (God knows what the reason of such traffic is!). Bus starts again and a Mexican wave generated within the closely attached standing bodies of passengers which produced the effect like a changing transverse wave that cycled back to the beginning phase. It’s all pure Physics! You just need to think in such conditions. 😐
People sitting at the extreme back row are really enjoyable to watch! Bus crosses a bumper, and they all jump up in the air in a straight line and then a free fall, “Dhhhop”. ‘Sala, pregnant boudi thakle ekhanei bachha hoye jeto!’ (If a pregnant lady was here, she would’ve delivered just now!) cried an old man who was a part of that backbench. In a crowded bus, where you cannot see outside the windows, sometimes such bumpers help to track the coming stoppage. Two big jerking and we know it’s a road cleavage and… Topsia is coming!
The old man sitting in front of me is changing his posture and folding the newspaper.
Good sign! Time to be an eagle. ‘Topsia jara jara nabben egiye asun’ (Those who’ll get off at Topsia, come forward) conductor shouts. Yes I was right, he stood up! Fraction of a second and I finally occupied the window seat by cleverly bypassing the magnetic boy. Relief at last! At least for one more hour.
12 bucks is the actual fare of my journey. It’s always a win-win situation for both parties to finalize the deal on a 10 rupee note where he doesn’t need to give me the ticket or any balance. A college life trick though! Sometimes the deal breaks in case of novice or honest conductors. God knows when they’ll learn!
The person standing near my seat has put his right index finger into his left nostril and drilling it for last 5 minutes. I cunningly asked, ‘Dada kichhu pelen?’ (Got something?). He looked at me with big eyes and replied, ‘Apnar chai naki?’ (Do you want some?). I turned my head and looked out of the window.
Oh man! I hate this. A tiny spider on the window glass. I observed carefully that it’s actually on the inner side and crawling down slowly. The theory of Aerodynamics alerted me that once it comes in touch with the air flow, it’ll land on my shirt directly. Any way out? I tried to look for any opportunity to change the seat or the position but no luck, bus is again packed up. Spidy is very near to the boundary line. I have few seconds left to apply my reflex actions. And… it’s time! I shook my body to incline quickly on the front. Poor spider missed me and landed directly on the neck of a lady sitting behind me. ‘Hoooshh hooooshhhh’, she shouted and won the sudden attack. The lucky passenger sitting beside her must be fantasizing now by seeing her adjusting saree.
The guy beside me is now researching on subway surfer. Suddenly a speeding bus of same route overtook us and stopped diagonally to block our way in front of a signal. All waiting passengers at the nearby bus-stop boarded that bus for the advantage of proximity. This is alarming. Now fast and furious will start competing with each other!!
Now, go to Episode 2 ->
PS – Do not dare to get off the running bus. Click on the SHARE button and let others know that you are on it!
Author: Arijit Ganguly
Featured Image Courtesy: Oindrila Ganguly