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.
night in shining armour
1 month ago