Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Bus Ride

Something told me that the bus had stopped. Maybe the absence of the constant groaning of the wheels on the bad road woke me up from my slumber. I sat up on the berth, perched high above the seats below (it was a sleeper bus). Drawing the curtains apart, I peered sleepily outside the window. It was a busy scene, but cosy in a certain way.

There was another bus, a car and a lorry parked on the road. Sleepy passengers got out of the bus to stretch. Women looked around, worried if they will find a public toilet on the dark road. No such luck. A walk towards a darker stretch of the road seemed a practical solution.

There was a makeshift hotel on the right. It was buzzing with activity. The man who stood in front of the hot stove was busy. He made neer dosas (rice crépes) on two griddles simultaneously with the knack of an expert. He quickly poured a ladleful of thin white batter on to the griddle and covered it with a lid. With another quick movement, he dished out the dosa from the other griddle and slid it into a hungry driver’s plate. The dosas were devoured as quickly as he made them. Sometimes his rhythmic activity was interrupted when he poured green coconut chutney when someone asked for it or when he collected the money and gave back some coins.

The driver of the car stood outside, a stocky man with tousled hair. He smoked a cigarette while he casually scanned the road. He was temporarily disturbed when a huge bus loomed in front of the car, as though not willing to stop. After a few shouts and exchange of words, he moved the car and the bus adjusted itself into a comfortable position.

A thin, young man held some woolen caps and tried to persuade people to buy them. ‘Toppi, toppi’ (cap, cap) he cried hoping someone would buy them on the chilly night.

There were some people in the other bus who also looked out of their window curiously while some slept peacefully.

The driver of our bus got in and slammed the door. A loud horn called the passengers back to their seats. People hurried back to the bus and it started to move slowly. I took one last look outside as the scene slowly moved out of my sight and I went back to sleep.