It was around 2pm on a hot October day with the barometer soaring to levels beyond the uncomfortable zones.
And there I was in a restaurant 25km from home, after a lunch fit for kings, when the mind was hit by a bolt of madness.
I must tell you that I still recall that incident clearly with horror and pain. It was such that it would drive strong men to despair and drink.
I decided to take the bus. Yes, you read right – a bus, red, yellow and worn out and very much public.
Before you think that I have fallen on bad times, let me assure you that I had not yet fallen below the poverty line but was hovering a little above that.
And if you do suspect that I was under the influence of that drink made from the hops, then desist. I had drunk about two and a quarter glasses of God’s gift to poverty line – plain water.
That established, I meandered along to a bus stop, the sun beating heavily on the head. Once there, I sat on a wooden bench eagerly awaiting a bus to home.
The mind wandered to those young days when the bus was the only means of transport to school or college. Time was not of essence then and it sped by if a nubile nymphet joined the queue.
The reverie was broken when a rickety old thing came by, stopped somewhere midway on the road, with a chap in khaki screaming at passengers, “Jaldi karo, jaldi karo”.
I did manage to get a foot in before that impatient khaki man rang the bell. Fortunately being afternoon, I did manage to find space on the rear seat, enough to let the considerable backside rest on a small piece of foam.
I better not say much about the next few minutes of the bus. Suffice to reveal that I was wondering whether I was in a bus or a ship caught in high tides.
The driver, no doubt in line for a debut on the Formula One Circuit, sped through the narrow roads without a care in the world, his steering veering at weird angles, engine making a sound like a trumpeter stoned.
A young man decided to spit out the red juice of a paan below his seat. Five people sneezed loudly, one close to my face. An old man was coughing loudly, trying to gain attention.
Then at some point, a wave of humanity got in, clothes soaked in sweat, jostling to get a finger on the rod above to maintain balance. The bus was totally full now, heaving as it moved through the traffic.
A gentleman, who probably let water touch his body once a week, was almost colliding with my face. Another man’s backside was squirming at me. A third person moved in and almost sat on my lap. A sense of reality crept in. The euphoria of taking the bus was giving way to impatience with humanity at large.
I was suffocating, feeling thirsty and sweating. I needed to get out of this or did not need to. As the bus ground to a sudden halt, brakes screeching like a braying donkey, I was pushed out.
I hailed an auto-rickshaw, jumped into it and headed home. Now within the confines of my flat, I sat back, reached for a cooling drink and pondered.
My heart went out for the thousands who use these decrepit buses daily – buses which are broken, dirty and always late.
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