I was asked to attend yet another conference yesterday. Yes, that was the second one in as many weeks. They are getting a bit tiring if you ask me. I have reached a saturation and I dont think I can “build knowdge” on any subject, at least for sometime.This time my destination was Bandra.
Terrible judgment, that’s what I have. It was this terrible judgment that I am blessed with that made me chose the bus over the train. I ditched the local thinking the bus would be the easier of the two modes. I was wrong. I soon learnt that travelling by a packed BEST bus was in no way easier than travelling by train. Just as train travel requires you to meet certain standards of physical fitness to survive the journey, so does bus travel. And I, with my blessed judgement, am incapable of meeting the challenges posed by either of the two.
What could I not handle in something as simple as a bus ride, you ask? Practically everything. For indefinable reasons I found it extremely hard to maintain my balance while standing in the moving bus. The driver driving at neck breaking speed (I suspect the relatively traffic-free road urged him to go over 60kmph. On Mumbai roads, anything above that figure is defined as speeding) and applying breaks with sudden unexpected jerks didn’t help my situation. I don’t fully blame the driver. I understand that vehicles on Indian roads are unpredictable. Indians love driving in zig zag paths and they can’t be blamed for this. We are genetically wired in a manner that puts driving in lanes beyond our intellectually grasp. To accommodate all the hundreds of zig zagging vehicles, the BEST driver had to put his brakes to good use- frequently and abruptly. It was this frequent break-applying that caused my downfall, quite literally. At one juncture through the 50 minute bus ride, the driver applied the break so hard that I all but fell on the guy standing on my right. One minute my body was positioned exactly at 90 degree to the floor of the bus and the next I was making a 20 degree angle with the floor. I didn’t totally fall over the poor man- the velocity with which I moved in his direction just dislodged him a couple of inches to the right. He didn’t say a word. Any injury caused was too minor to make a noise about I believe. I mumbled a sorry and tried harder to latch on tone of the horizontal black bars running parallel to the roof of the bus. I would like to draw you attention to a very fascinating aspect of these bars. The original purpose behind installing these was to help people hold on to something solid and stable in order to stand in an unwavering posture while travelling. However since there bars are positioned such that allowed only those 5’6” and above to get a hold of them, they are for all practical purposes useless for people like me. I am well below the stipulated height requirement of 5’6″ and therefore can use these only as money bars. Though that’s not the original purpose of the bars that’s the only purpose they can serve for vertically challenged people like me. After dislodging the man-on-the-right, I held on real tight to the monkey bar forcing my body stretch to unnatural lengths. Seeing my stretched-out plight, lady luck shined on me. Someone vacated a seat close by and I got to sit- a rarest of rare opportunity in a BEST. I grabbed it with both hands. Fifteen minutes later I noticed a woman standing next to me. At first glance she looked like she was expecting. “Poor thing, she must have worked all day and is now going to travel all the way home standing. She looks so tired.” I thought. My heart went out to her. I jumped out of my seat and offered it to her. People around threw quizzical looks my way, but I didn’t care. I was too busy doing my good deed for the day. Soon after the lady was seated I realised why people were so perplexed by my good deed. A quick but careful glace in her direction reveal that she was not expecting, she was just slightly pudgy! I was in such a hurry to help I didn’t bother checking (But really, how does one check things like this? I think checking out people like that is rude) Spontaneity is such a stupid thing, I tell you. So pudgy lady sat comfortably all through the journey while I hung on to dear life, occasionally swaying towards but never really falling over the man-on-the-right. The man-on-the-right tried putting some distance between us. Unsuccessfully though. I think he secretly feared that next time around I would really fall over him and flatten him out. But I dint. I stood strong and stable even though my arms ached and my toes hurt and I cursed myself a million times for giving up my seat for no reason at all.
As the bus approached my destination, I prepared myself to alight. I adjusted my over-stuffed bag over my shoulder, held on tightly to the file I was carrying and prepared to move towards the front door. I had to cross the man-on-the-right in the process. Just as I was sliding past him, the driver applied the breaks. Fiercely. I lost my grip on the ridiculous monkey bars. At the risk of losing my balance and toppling over, I groped for something to hold on to. A fraction of a second later, I found it- in the man-on-the-right’s face. He was standing right in front of one of those vertical bars that you find at intervals in the bus (the ones that connect the back of the seat to the top of the bus). As I tried to get a grip on one of those bars, his face came in my way and I quite literally whacked him. Its wasn’t my fault. I was looking for the bar to hold on to, he came in my way. Fault or no fault, I was horribly embarrassed. What do you say to a man you have inadvertently thwacked? I am sorry but your face was in the way? I am sorry but I didn’t really mean to hit you? I am sorry I though you were the bar? The man was shell shocked. Here he was praying that I wouldn’t lose my balance and knock him down and I just took his worse case scenario and made it ten times worse!! He was too stunned to react to what had happened. I was too embarrassed to wait for him to recover from his shock. I said a quick “sorry” ,ran along the aisle and got off the bus.
I think I am over and done with public transportation. Not only am I incapable of surviving the tests and trails of of it, I am now known to cause real, physical injury to unsuspecting co-passengers. If they compel me to continue using public transport facilities, which I am sure they will, I may be forced to continue with this kind of behaviour. And in that case you must keep track of Marathi dailies. Its only a matter of time before you spot a small article on the right column of the first page saying “pargi ne maansala marla” or some such thing.