Last week, I decided to take the bus to my destination. With auto prices soaring, the bus seemed rather attractive, given that it would be just one-fifth of the total fare by auto.
Two well-dressed young girls boarded the bus along with me. As we bought tickets, one of the girls discovered that the bus didn’t really go where she wanted. A hasty conference with the conductor, the other girl who had got onto the bus with her, and someone else on her mobile, the issue was resolved. The conductor waited patiently for her to determine her exact destination and then issued her a ticket.
Another young woman was peacefully dozing in a window seat. As if woken up by an alarm, she opened her eyes just a minute before her stop came, redid her hair, and fresh as a daisy, got off at her stop.
Another woman suddenly realized her stop had passed, and had a word with the driver, who obligingly pulled up somewhere in the middle of the road for her to get off.
A couple of stops later, a tiny old woman boarded the bus. No sooner than she had sat down, her mobile began to ring loudly from somewhere deep within her bag. Cursing all modern gadgets, she tried to answer the phone, but missed the call. A young lad sitting next to her, along with the conductor, helped her figure out where the phone was and how to see who the missed call came from. The phone rang again, and she answered in a mixture of Tamil and Kannada. It sounded like her son was checking to see if she had got the bus, and she assured him in an irritated tone that she had, which is why she could not answer his call.
A little later, the bus pulled up at a small kerbside repair shop. The driver stopped the bus and jumped off. Bewildered passengers began to call out to him, but he held up an imperious hand which silenced all. He got hold of a wrench from the shop and began doing something to the front right wheel. The conductor sat quietly in the front seat, counting out his money. The driver hopped into the bus and tried starting it. Apparently dissatisfied with whatever sounds emanated, he hopped off again. This time, a couple of curious passengers decided to get off the bus and check if the driver needed any help. The driver had obviously decided that whatever the problem was, it was fixed. Everyone trooped cheerfully back into the bus, and we started off again.
At this point, the little old lady suddenly realized that the bus was not going where she wanted to go. She was very upset. The conductor reasoned with her that she had been fiddling with her phone when she boarded the bus and hadn’t heard his reply. She maintained that he had misled her. Another passenger intervened to bring about peace. He told her to get down with him, and that he would put her onto the right bus. After some minor squabbling, she agreed.
It was time for my own stop. The passenger who had provided the solution spoke to the driver, and told him to drop the old lady off at the next stop, where she would get “plenty of buses” going where she wanted to go. The driver and conductor told the old lady not to worry; they would make sure she reached her destination.
I disembarked along with the other passenger.
The entire bus journey took me back more than a couple of decades, when bus journeys were like this: lazy and laidback, with no overwhelming sense of urgency, no rush to get anywhere, small talk, helping hands, and a general sense of camaraderie and geniality.
The bus ride was definitely worth the price. What’s more, it made me smile. 🙂