Getting out of the KSRTC, I started walking towards Shaktan Stand. I passed by some street vendors who were selling mangoes.
“3 Kilo, 100 rupees! Varoo Varoo*” (*Come!)
I looked at them and continued walking.
“Mole, molkkum venemengil medikkam! 3 Kilo verum 100 rupees.” (You can also buy it! 3 kilos for just 100 rupees.)
I smiled thinking how they looked at everyone as a prospective customer.
Walking over to the usual place where I find the buses that take me home, I dodged so many school children crowding over different buses. Little did I know that this was foreshadowing.
The bus wasn’t in it’s usual place and I asked a bus conductor standing beside me , “Chetta, Peechi Dam bus evide?” (Where is the bus to Peechi Dam?)
“Aa anjamathe bus. Neela bus . Kandille?” (That fifth bus. The blue one. Saw it?)
I got on it and the seats had been taken already. I stood by the door, kept my bag by the feet of an old lady, hoping she wouldn’t scream at me.
A couple more ladies got on the bus. And finally, so did the bus driver.
This began a 20 minute journey that’s hard to forget.
As soon as the conductor stepped foot in the bus, there was a swarm of school kids starting to file into the bus. It was probably around 20 or so , but felt like a 100 kids minimum , in that already packed bus. I clung on the metal bar in front of me for dear life, literally. They started dumping their bags on the laps of the people sitting. One by one by one the pile grew until someone said “Mathi mathi! Oru paruthi ille makkale!” (Enough! There’s a limit to how many I can hold kids.)
The bus slowly started it’s way out of the bus stand. Between all this commotion a lady tapped on my shoulder:
“Mission Hospital ariyumo?” (Do you know where Mission Hospital is?)
“Aa ariyam.” (Yes.)
“Ethiyal onnu parayane.” (Please let me know when we reach there.)
The bus had moved for , maybe, 50 ft when it reached it’s first stop. A few more school kids got in.
The Conductor : “ullil po pillare. Malayathil alle parayunne! Aa bag okke evideyenkilum vachittu ullilekk po ellarum.” (Push inside! Keep those bags somewhere and move in.)
A small shuffle from everyone trying to move in. The Conductor seemed to think we were inside Hermione’s bag from Deathly Hallow, unlimited space inside. Honestly, How far can you go in a small private bus?
The second stop, again was filled with school children looking expectantly at the bus. It stopped and the conductor said only 2-3 students, out of the almost 20 waiting there, shall be allowed in.
Of course that was a lie and he let in as many kids as he could.
As of now, people were going in, nobody was moving out. Fun.
Then, Mission Hospital loomed in front. I tried to turn around and let the lady know that this was her stop. When I turned around it was just school children. ALL SCHOOL CHILDREN. I couldn’t find anybody else.
The bus stopped at the Hospital Bus stop, around 2 people got out and 7-8 more kids climbed on.
The bus started moving again.
Thankfully, the lady figured out that the big red building with Hospital written over it was, in fact, her stop and I heard her yell from the back,
“Ivide iranganam! Aal iranganund.” (I need to get off here.)
She started making her way through the sea of school children, still yelling that she needs to get out, reaching nowhere because they were all fully grown solid human beings and it’s difficult to push yourself through them. Somehow she made it to the front, stepping on numerous feet in the meanwhile. But her greatest obstacle was still yet to come. Getting down.
“Kutti onnu maroo please” (Kid,please move).
Which kid? Move where?
She danced around in that small space between people’s feet, their bags, tugged on their shawls and somehow reached the stairs of the bus. Everyone was waiting for her to get down to return back to their normal stance.
The Conductor was opening the door to let her out.
Everyone waited in anticipation. If she gets down, people can breathe properly.
He pulls on the handle. It’s stuck.
Everyone who sees it, groans.
He tried again. And again. And again.
The lady looked nervous. Everyone looked nervous . The same thoughts went through everyone’s minds, I’m sure.
What if the door doesn’t open and she will have to go through the back door?
I shuddered at that thought. Voices everywhere telling the man, who operates the door daily, as to how to operate it.
The driver is getting impatient.
After what seems like forever, he put his entire might and pulled on the handle . The stubborn door swung open. The lady out the door instantly. The Conductor’s face spelled out R E L I E V E D. The bus seemed to breathe properly again.
We continued the journey. And as if to increase the difficulty level in this weird game everyone was playing, it started raining. Great.
The bus halted again soon and the conductor tried to get off to go to the back of the bus. But as he rushed down the stairs , his trademark-black-money-bag got caught in the hero of the evening, handle of the bus and he slipped , and the bus started moving. Everyone screamed for him, the driver put on the sudden brakes and he fell back on the lowest step on the bus.
He was pulled back into the top of the stairs and he seemed shook. The schoolgirl beside him asked if he was okay
He replied : “Daivamme, brake ittath nannayi. Allenkil naalathe paperil kandenne enne” (Thank God he hit the brakes. Otherwise I’d be dead.)
As we approached my stop, I started digging into the heap of bags trying to find mine.
I pulled my heavy bag up from the bottom as the conductor screamed “Ollukara! Ollukara!”
I moved to the door, the bus stopped and I got out as soon as possible, making sure none of the straps were stuck anywhere on the bus as I didn’t want the Conductor’s incident to happen to me as well.
The fresh air after the rain hit my face . The door closed behind me and the ‘Neela’ bus took off leaving me with a strange set of memories about my own town.