I travelled in the local bus for a good part of the day yesterday and today, spending close to 7 hours in buses and bus stops. Given an option, I always take the window seat. Its lofty position gives me a view of the streets that no other form of transportation can match. I rarely travel without my earphones in my pocket. The perfect combination of peppy music and the sound of my thoughts in my head infuse enough patience in me to endure the longest journeys through the worst traffic snarls. However, the sights outside interest me the most. Travelling at night is rarely as captivating as during the day because the only two colours I see are the grey hues of buildings and the stark yellow of street lights. While several scenes made me sit up and take notice during my journey, here are two stories I thought I must share.
#1 Slaves of Time
I glanced at my watch, gnawing at my lip as time ticked by. I knew I was going to be late, but there was little I could do about it. The bus stood still, waiting for more passengers to board. The bus conductor was shouting at the top of his lungs, announcing the destination to the horde of humans hurtling past, hoping a few would take notice and step in. Eventually, the seats were more occupied than empty and the conductor gave the driver the signal to start. The engine roared to life, cutting through the music playing on my phone. I turned up the volume with a mixture of annoyance and relief.
Just as the bus pulled away and headed towards the exit, a couple ran to catch up with it, banging their fists against its metal body for it to slow down. The man carried two heavy bags in his hand, but his wife had just one – one because her other hand was just a stump, resting lifelessly against her torso. They were ordinary in all other respects – brown-skinned, unhealthily slim and dressed in nearly clean, cheap clothes. Almost everyone seated inside turned to look at them, probably wondering if they would make it. Even the driver spared them a glance and raised his eyebrows at the conductor in an unspoken question. The latter shook his head and the matter was put to rest as the bus kicked into a higher gear, leaving behind the breathless couple with crestfallen faces.
I felt a pang of sadness as I watched them haul their tired bodies and luggage towards another bus. I hit the pause button and took off the earphones, hoping to catch the opinions of others on board. That’s when I heard the conductor come up to the driver and defend his decision. Keeping to the timetable was more important than the small fare the couple could have paid, he argued. I checked my watch again just then, pondering over how the notion of time sometimes manages to trump the humanity within us.
#2 Funny Faces
The bus screeched to a halt as the traffic light turned red, idling at top volume. My mediocre quality earphones failed to drown those sounds out even as the music played at top volume. I gazed at the people seated around me, mostly middle-class ladies who carried around a senior citizen card to enjoy the reduced fares that it entitles them to. I stifled a yawn as my eyes focussed on the other side of my field of vision.
A small, white car was next to the bus I was in, carrying a family of four and a driver. A father and a little girl were riding shotgun. I noticed the man first and his face had an apologetic grin. As I searched for a reason, I looked at his daughter lounging on his lap. She was sticking her tongue out at me. The child in my heart assumed control over my responses and I smiled hugely as I narrowed my eyes at her. Delighted at having gained my attention, the kid proceeded to show off the range of funny faces she had mastered. The sound of uninhibited laughter escaped my lips. I imagine several judgemental heads would have turned to look at me then, but it scarcely mattered. I waved at her and gave her a thumbs up. She thrust her hand out of the window to wave back, which the father withdrew for her cautiously. I took one last glance at the child as the green signal came on and the car overtook the bus. She had her tongue out again.
I settled back into my world and my age-appropriate, society-approved, non-impulsive self tried to regain its dominance over my body with little success. I loved the song that was playing currently and I rocked my head to the rhythm, grabbing eyeballs a second time, but I wasn’t fazed. A cherubic face through a glass window was all it took to remind me that enjoying myself mattered more than the cold stares of strangers.
Do you have a poignant little story to share? Or perhaps these set off a chain of thoughts in your head? I’d love to know your opinions, so don’t forget to leave a comment below.