Life on the move
A bus journey can also be packed with some drama and humorous incidents.
WE SHIFTED to our new house in Hegde Nagar, two months ago. Let me tell those who continue to define Bangalore's geography as Jayanagar, Malleswaram, Majestic, Rajaji Nagar, Shivaji Nagar and such comforting names that Hegde Nagar, beyond the Arabic College Post, is one of the recent additions to our burgeoning City.
The roads leading to the place being lonely, my family refused to let me use my two-wheeler to work. "It's not safe," they declared in unison. It was then that my adventurous journeys homewards, every evening, on bus number 290-E, began.
The bus starts from Shivajinagar, then moves on towards Tannery Road, Nagavara... and finally Hegde Nagar - a journey that lasts about over an hour. I can still recall my first journey. I got into the bus at the Indian Express Circle, and found nothing unusual about the bus or the people, who looked bored as hell. I was travelling in a bus after almost nine years and the situation was the same - the bus bursting with people.
The metal box (for what else is a bus?) was filled with men and women, who were forced to brush sweaty shoulders with each other. In between one could see small hands clinging to a few women's knees. The rest of the little ones' bodies were completely buried under the adult mass. One could hear the words "holdé" and "raicht" at regular intervals, pronounced the way only conductors can.
The middle-aged driver seemed a bit grumpy and expended his anger at the wheel. The bus careened and swerved, and the passengers swayed, rolled, and fell on each other.
For the first few minutes, the journey was peaceful (if you can call it that!) with the bus routinely stopping at every stop. People, as usual, kept getting in and there were no signs of anyone getting off!
Then, all of a sudden, we heard a woman scream. The bus screeched to a halt. Everyone looked confused. Then we heard a SPLAT... The woman who had screamed had slapped someone, and the drama began. Clearly a groper had been caught in the act. What ensued was a battle between men and women. Finally the judge, the bus conductor, passed no judgment, but tried to make peace and sent the man to the "back of the bus". And the discussions on what had happened lingered for a while and died down.
Then, on Tannery Road, a thin tall young woman boarded the bus. She seemed to know the driver and the conductor. She came across as an angry young woman who did not want people to "step on her toes". Incredibly, she was trying to draw a Lakshmana Rekha between her the rest of us plebs! She cursed someone under her breath, shouted at another, and even jabbed a shocked woman with her elbows. The other women called her "baajari" but didn't dare go any further.
Then there was a pregnant woman who heaved herself into the bus. She seemed exhausted, but not a soul offered her a seat. I noticed that the other women looked equally exhausted (it was almost eight). Most looked like working women who, I am sure, would be expected to head straight into the kitchen to cook dinner the minute they reached home.
Every five minutes, those standing would gently tap someone seated comfortably and ask: "Elli iliteera?" If the reply was "last stop", one could see an array of emotions - anger, exasperation, helplessness - on the face of the person who had asked the question.
In the middle of all this was also emerging the story of a separated family. The men were obviously pushed to the rear, while the women were seated in the front.
Those behind did not know where they had to get off. "Shameem?" came a disembodied male voice. "Hau!" floated back the female voice. "Kidar uttarna so?" "Saraipalya, abhi chaar stop hai," replied the dulcet tone. "Tumme bacche ka haath pakadke rakhana so," ordered the male voice. "Hau," obeyed the female voice.
It was easy to sit back and survey the glimpses of life and it was with some reluctance that I got off at Hegde Nagar.
And I really didn't have the good fortune to learn if the family did get off at the right stop as one unit.
SHILPA SEBASTIAN ROMELES
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