We have started this journey from Bhubaneshwar and we are heading towards Konark. If you have missed the Part 1 and 2, some of the characters might not make sense. Though you can very well get on the bus and join this journey. In case you want to read the initial parts, it is here.
So in the last part we stopped at the point where the conductor gets annoyed that I gave him a 500 rupee note for 50 rupee bus ticket. Let's see what happens next.
After mumbling and muttering random things, he proceeded to the next seat. Luckily they seemed to have a smaller change.
All of a sudden, as if he met a very old friend, our conductor leaned against a pole and picked up a conversation with a couple of passengers. I used all my concentration to pick up any familiar-sounding words, but there was no success. So I have no clue about what they were talking about.
The conductor seemed to be in no hurry. He just stood there and talked to these random strangers.
That did explain why it took him almost an hour to reach the end of the bus which was barely 10m long.
It sounded like they were discussing something interesting. Soon a few other people also joined the conversation. Must be a very relevant topic, I thought. And yes, I was still trying hard to make any sense out of these alien-sounding tongue.
After a while when the conductor came back to his senses and figured out that he had other professional duties to fulfil, he gradually withdrew from the conversation.
Now without the leader, the random strangers who joined the thread in between continued the chat as if they knew each other for ages.
Friendships can be formed quite quickly in Indian public transport, I f reaffirmed.
You might be remembering the guy from the first part, the guy who attracts the people into the bus with 'Konarkkoo' chants.
I found him climbing the side ladder of the bus to access the rooftop. Anyone who has some connection with Indian buses would know that he was going there not to join any rooftop parties but to load or unload goods or extra-sized luggage which Indians are quite infamous to carry while travelling.
Our shouting guy, with the mastery of an experienced trapeze performer, climbed down with a big bag on his head, supported by one hand and the other hand precariously holding the ladder while his feet searched for the next step one after the other just like a firefighter finds his way inside a smoke-filled dark room.
The driver saw in the side mirror that the guy had almost reached the ground with the luggage. He took that as his cue to get back to the race towards the next bus stop. They had already spent an extra few seconds at this stop unloading stuff from the top of the bus and time was precious, especially in a race!
Even before he completely climbed down and unloaded the heavy load from his head, the bus started rolling forward.
Since it wasn't the first time for him, he skillfully jumped down, transferred the load onto the ground, grabbed his service fee and started chasing the already running bus and all of this happened in quick succession under a few fractions of seconds.
I think I know a few reasons why Indians are always in a hurry, but I can't completely comprehend the idea of playing risky games just to save a few tiny seconds.
If it is worth it or not, as an Indian, out of habit even I would do something similar one day when such a situation arise. Even then I wouldn't know why I did what I did.
The constant 'Bipp Bipp' sound brought me back to the present. The guy sitting next to me was on a message deletion spree. He was working the keypad like a robot, in a very systematic and rhymic way. Probably he didn't have enough space for more messages or maybe he had too many spam messages and he didn't like to keep them or maybe he was uber bored and found solace in his phone like many other people in the bus.
The difference in the generations could be very well reflected on mobile devices too. While my neighbour was on a Nokia phone with keypad, another young man was standing and flicking through never-ending social media feed on his more advanced touch phone. People next to him were peeping and spying on his activities over his shoulders while he was immersed in sorting his social life.
Suddenly another lady decided to answer her cellular device with a characteristic extra loud noise already very common in that crowded Indian bus.
The person sitting behind her seemed to find something in common from her loud replies. He waited till she finished her long call. With a pleasant face he asked her something and they started a new conversation.
Bus was getting busier and busier. More and more people were stuffed into the bus.
To make it feel even busier many people were talking on the phone even when some of them could barely move their hands around. Both male and female voices mixed together to create a strange atmosphere of constant chattering.
Amidst the chaos there was a man sitting by the window who decided to pay respect to all the temples that appeared on the way. Whenever he saw a temple he would bow in reverence as much as he could within the restriction of his seating arrangement, say few words and then touch his forehead to absorb all the positive energy that he had just harnessed.
Then a man sitting at the farther side of the window seat suddenly stood up to spit through the window.
The fashionable pretty girl started to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable as more and more people from the busy crowd started to look at her every now and then.
Another middle-aged lady wearing a vermillion mark on her forehead, sitting facing all the passengers, permanently focussed her attention away from the people and towards the outside.
Those who got bored by spying on the young man's social media feed now started to stare at the outside views with a grave looks on their faces.
A man sitting on a big rod of a strengthening member was dozing off even while sitting uncomfortably facing everyone.
The conversation between the stranger man and the lady wearing red saree had died some time ago. They had become the strangers they were before, again.
Amidst all the chaos and noise, I also dozed off blissfully keeping my attention away from everything that was wrong, like everyone else because that's how it was done here!
This bus journey is not a work of fiction. The incidents mentioned in this 3 part series have really happened, though the interpretations of the observations made are my personal opinions.
This bus journey is a symbol, a representation, a cross-section of a country. Since India is a vast country with more than 1 billion people, generalisations mostly never work. Due to the very reasons, you will find both good and bad, kindness and contradictions, and all kinds of yin and yan wherever you decide to look.
Every such journey, if you observe carefully will reveal some of the cultural intricacies ingrained in all of us as a society. Calling it good or bad based on our limited experience in the world might not do justice. All we can do is to observe and try to understand the differences.
I will be grateful to know your feedback on this. Looking forward to your ideas and thoughts on this.
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