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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bus Driver Blues

Twilight and I'm on my way home. A decrepit, derelict BMTC (local) bus pulls up to the stop. It's completely empty. Tired eyes look down at me from the driver's seat. "Marathalli?", I ask. A grunt of affirmation somehow makes it way over the roar of the engine. I board and pay the driver who manages to change gears, tear me a ticket and give me change at the same time. Using one hand.

I take a seat right at the front so I can look out the front window. I'd never been on an empty bus before. A 9 rupee fare would take me a good 7-8km to my stop. No surprise that local buses in India are always full. The bus lurches forward as the driver accelerates. I've seen people age faster than that bus moved. 1st gear to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd. Auto-rickshaws fly past on both sides. Dogs trotted alongside, mocking. The driver looked like he wanted to die. He had absolutely no life force in him. No anger, no enthusiasm (well, he was a bus driver after all). A hint of desperation, but mostly apathy. Contagious apathy. The breeze from open windows carried his dreary mood over me.

He'd slow down at every stop. And every time, he'd be ruthlessly rejected by potential passengers. Why? For another bus, another route, another driver. Someone makes a bee line for the bus. For a second, his eyes light up. The person walks past the door and crosses the road. A sigh from the driver says it all. Better luck next stop. Stop after stop, no one gets on. No one wants to get on his bus. What is he doing wrong?

We cruise along the Ring Road. The bus reaches its top speed, which is akin to that at which grass grows. In the distance, at the next stop, a young lady stands, arm out-stretched. Someone is hailing his bus. His bus! He brakes and turns into the bus lane. He looks down at her from his seat. He is alive. "Varthur?", she asks. His face drops. He isn't going there. He has found a passenger - a willing passenger - but she doesn't want to go where he wants to go. He shakes his head and in doing so, shakes the life out of his eyes again. 1st gear to 2nd gear. The lonely bus drives on into polluted night. She wasn't going where he wanted to go.

What was he so down for? He had a passenger. A passenger who was going where he was going. A passenger who could pay the fare and wanted, needed to make the journey. But I wasn't good enough for him. I felt ignored. What was I doing wrong?

We reach my stop. As I alight, I pat him no the shoulder. He looks up, shocked. Shock changes to a smile he tries to hide. 1st gear to 2nd gear. This bus has life in it yet.

8 comments:

pawan said...

Clap*Clap*

Shravan,
Apologies first, I am extremely sorry, even though I started following your blog since a month ago, I made no visible attempt of going through your blog! Today, I made it a point to read all the blogs I have neglected in the past and I came across a gem of a post.

I once tried to write about something very trivial, things which people don't really pay attention to. But I couldn't succeed! But today, you wrote on a topic which no other blogger would have f=dreamed to write about! Good post about the bus, the setting seemed like one straight from R.K.Narayan's books!. Loved it man!

Cheers!
Keep posting stuff like this more often dude!

Wakkaaa said...

Wow. That was gorgeous. So good, I don't even know what to say :)

Ravi Lobo said...

Good post. You have an eye for trivial things. That is important for a writer.

Keep writing.

I read in your profile that you don't read. That is too bad. Start reading. Good books make good writers.

rajnish said...

Came here through Ravi's blog.Liked the post especially the idea of a lonely bus driver.
I am not so sure about the last line.Check out with Ravi,he is master editor of my stories.
All the best !

Farcenal said...

@ Pawan

Mate, no need to apologise! To have people reading my blog is reward enough. And yes, I do try and find metaphors in trivial, day to day experiences. There are a couple of passengers who are not going where my bus is going :(

@ Waka
Thanks :)
And I hope this kick-starts your will to blog again!

@ Ravi
Thanks man, coming from you, that means a lot.

@ Rajnish
Erm, thanks. Are you suggesting I have Ravi edit my writing?! A bit pretentious, no? :P

Vijay Bhat said...

I went beyond admiring you as a writer here. You managed to actually 'fade out' and made me enter into a direct connection with your muse, The Bus Driver..I'm moved in a way on so many levels.

You bring yourself back into your reader's mind at the end (by describing your loneliness at not being valued by him), and suddenly the larger metaphor of 'The Bus of Life' takes centre-stage. It had the Hotel California line come to me.. "We are all prisoners here, of our own device".

Now you figure that out. ;-)

Mum

Devika Rajeev said...

Wow. Awesome. Really made me feel bad for the poor driver. You got talent, though God knows how, since you don't read!

vandanas said...

This is damn good.

it's strange but many of us are sensitive to another and yet in the run block the feeling.

in a way you had made that connection with the bus driver when you entered in his bus...the way you understood his feelings...

keep up the good work!