Public Transport. Bus, to be specific. It’s a world of its own.
Ofcourse, if you haven’t travelled in a bus you have no idea what I am talking about. Let me explain.
You are bound to meet two kinds of people on a bus. The first kind forget the rest of the world the moment they plug in their earphones. You are not sure if they are thinking anything at all.
The second kind converse with whomever they can but sooner or later turn to the window and stare… stare so intently that you wonder what they are thinking.
Oh wait! There is a third kind. It’s me. People like me who are looking at everyone else. They seem to be staring at the loose change in their hand or staring at the back of the driver’s seat…no, don’t be deceived. They sure as hell are observing you.
If you have never been in a bus you might be of the notion that the journey is mundane and tiring. Yeah, if you are the first two kinds of people, I regret to tell you that it is. I must also tell you that if you are the third kind- like me, then you get stories.
A Little Man–
It is February and it is half past eight in the morning. But the sun thinks it is May and thinks it is noon, therefore burns into his skin. He wipes the sweat off his brow with his handkerchief. He is wearing a very neat school uniform; shoes are spotless, trousers and shirt freshly ironed, hair arranged in a perfect side parting.He appears to be a 10 year old boy.
He is waiting for a bus, probably, to take him school. He spots a bus and just then, fortunately, the traffic light blinks red. He climbs onto the bus. He looks at the conductor who is at the back of the bus, making his way forward, demanding money for tickets from people who got on at the previous stop and clicking his tongue when some of them can’t find their passes or money quickly enough.
The little boy grabs a hundred rupee note out of his pocket to avoid being subjected to the conductor’s impatient eyes and tongue-clicking. He finds no seat. The engines of cars and bikes and autos bellowed as they waited around the bus for the signal to turn green. The rising pollution makes the air thick and humid.
The boy finds a comfortable spot in the middle of the bus to stand and he stands straight without the slightest of slump in his stance as if the bulky bag on his shoulders is not a burden at all. Holds his chin in the air. His left hand slips in to his pocket. His eyes are so serious and face so rigid. He seems like a grown-up man. He is a bit worried. I will have a lot of change once I pay for my ticket. I hope I can hide the money and keep it safe from thieves all day, he thinks.
“Where to?” the conductor demands of the boy.
The boy suddenly aware of the conductor, wastes no time and hands out his hundred rupees note, ” Birla Road.”
“Ehhh! Who will have a change for this note so early in the morning!” the conductor spits out. He raises his hand to point something ahead.
The boy doesn’t know what the conductor is pointing at. He face softens and the innocence, that children of his age usually have and he seemed devoid of, settles in his eyes.
The conductor collects tickets from others, sits in his seat but does not allow his gaze to leave the boy. He sees the boy walking towards the front of the bus. But instead of getting down the boy taps on the driver’s shoulder.
The conductor slaps his forehead and before the driver could turn around, the conductor with a ridiculous smile on his face and his hand pointing at something ahead tells the boy to get down and catch the other bus ahead of them.
The boy, as he gets down, realizes that the conductor pointed at the other bus and not the driver. He had wanted the boy to get off the bus and had not asked the boy to take change for his hundred rupees from the driver. He feels stupid. Now there was equal amounts of innocence and embarrassment in his eyes.
The much awaited green light returns.The vehicles begin honking. The boy manages to reach the bus stop in time but still seems lost.
The seriousness returns in his eyes and he stretches his neck out to look for the next bus amidst the approaching vehicles.