Here is the second part of the memoir of fun and interesting bus ride to Konark Sun Temple. If you have missed the first part, read it here.
If you have read the first part, you must be remembering the young guy sitting on the gearbox of the bus, facing all the passengers and eyeing at a pretty girl. If you were wondering anything interesting happened yet, read on, the second part of this bus journey.
Just like the girl broke his hopes with a quick disgusting head tilt, the ‘noisy silence’ in the bus was broken by an obnoxious polyphonic ringtone.
Can a ringtone be obnoxious, you might wonder. Yes, it can! At least this one was.
Somehow that polyphonic sound brought me about 14 years back when I first lay my hands on the latest mobile of that time. My Nokia 1110 (The older brother of N1100) had a similar ringtone, obviously not that obnoxious though 😉
Good old days were when skillfully controlling an ever-growing snake to make it swallow randomly appearing balls used to be one of the most entertaining time passes. It was much more peaceful compared to the current constant social media noise of people fighting over religion, politics and whatnot.
But I couldn’t stay in my nostalgic memory for too long.
By then the woman had picked up the call and started fighting against the roaring sound of the bus and gushing wind that was coming through the open windows, to send across her message to the person on the other side of the call.
Like everything else on that bus ride, that was not going to be a short affair.
The bus guy who was shouting “Konakkoo” earlier felt personally attacked and he got back to his game as soon as the next bus-stop was reached.
He probably wanted to defeat this woman on this loudest noise-maker competition. Though his time to compete was very limited and ended right after the bus left once it loaded the people from that spot. But this lady’s war with the ambient noises continued for a good amount of time.
Suddenly, it looked like the bus driver decided to take revenge for his colleague as he started to outperform his more than average honking game.
Then I realised that he had just picked up another street race with a bigger bus!
Bigger bus reaching before him to the next bus-stop meant the big fish devouring all the food which would have been a feast for this small fish. It also meant this small fish starving without anything left for it.
He obviously needed to win this race to get more people and to pack this bus above its legal passenger-carrying limit to make the most out from this trip.
Since the street bus racings were a common thing, no one seemed to care about it. They simply sat back and enjoyed it as if it was Monaco Grand Prix on a Sunday afternoon. They also seemed to enjoy the background soundtrack created by the driver with his honking instrument for this particularly intense scene.
Finally we did it. We got the podium position and reached the next stop before the other bus!
Victory for us! And we got our prizes.
Another old couple got in from this stop. But they didn’t have any seats left. No seats? No Problem! The lady also joined the gearbox seat.
Sometimes, that is the beauty of travelling in India, you will get to see how a limited resource is getting fully utilized.
I have seen many such examples while travelling in trains.
While I squeezed and sat at the door due to lack of space inside the train, some people were sitting on top of the open door of the train! On another occasion, I have seen people making hammocks out of their clothes and creating makeshift sleeping arrangements on a busy train.
After going through many such situations, coming up with so-called ‘jugaads’ aka ‘MacGyvering’ aka coming up with brilliant ideas to improvise something on the fly to use the limited resources to its more than maximum potential, has more like a basic instinct for most Indians. Though you will find similar experiences all over the world wherever there is a supply-demand mismatch, ie when demand is higher and supply is lesser.
Sitting on the gearbox is just one of the millions of examples of such a jugaad. But for untrained and uninitiated eyes, these small incidents might look like a fascinating cultural intricacy that is hard to understand.
During all these chaos and philosophising, I almost forgot to introduce my new co-passenger. Well, till this point he was sitting there silently minding his own business. Hence there wasn’t a need to introduce him yet.
So somewhere on the way, I got my co-passenger. He was a guy in his 50s. He gets a guest appearance in this story when he got a call.
He wasn’t very aggressive, so was his phone speakers. After answering the call he couldn’t hear anything from the other end. His phone speakers couldn’t compete with the other noises present in the bus.
Since he couldn’t reply properly, the call got dropped and made its appearance a few seconds later, again. This time the guy gave me a tug and pointed the phone at me and said something in Odia.
He wanted me to read him the name on the screen. Like a person who spoke fluent Odia, I got his phone and read out the name for him. He replied back something in Odia again and I shook my head as if I understood.
Fortunately, he then went back to his phone and started typing something. It was again a nostalgic feeling to see how he pressed the keypad to navigate around the phone.
While he was busy with his phone, I was happy that I could help him irrespective of the language barriers.
Most foreigners who have visited India would agree that majority of the Indian people are very helpful and they go a few extra miles to assist someone in need. Even if you don’t know the language, you will try your best to help a person.
The paradox happens when you go out to help someone and you don’t even know the right answer, but you’d still help!
Then comes the problem, especially when you ask someone for direction. This is something I learned the hard way during my journeys in India.
Never trust a direction from a stranger straight away!
If you don’t get at least 3 confirmations, don’t go too far in that direction. Confirm, confirm and confirm constantly on the way. Otherwise, you will have to travel in the wrong direction Since someone was too proud to admit that they didn’t know the answer but still wanted to help.
Once I walked for 4 hours before I could find the starting point of a trek because I followed someone’s directions without confirming it! (That story for some other time.)
So the helping mentality of Indians is a very interesting topic to analyse. But the most interesting thing is that you will find their kindness and genuine helping attitude in some of the most uncommon places.
Bus reached yet another of its million stops between its origin and destination!
Another middle-aged young lady got in with a huge bag in her hand. There were no seats, even the gearbox seats were already taken.
Someone in the front seats offered to carry her bag. Now her bag was on someone’s lap and with major baggage gone from her hands, she was preparing to stand comfortably.
Then someone thought, “why don’t we just squeeze in her as well?!”
A seat designed and designated for two then magically accommodated 3 women and a huge bag!
In the coming stops more people got out and there were more empty seats. Everyone rearranged themselves.
If you were wondering what happened to our guy who was sitting on the gearbox, he just got an upgrade. He got a seat on the front left side, inside the driver’s cabin. It looked like a perfect upgrade for him.
He was still with a Mona Lisa’s smile and frequently glancing at the passengers. High hopes were still running in his mind, it seemed.
But the clear view didn’t last very long for him. More people got in and the bus was crowded again. People started to stand in the bus again.
There was another young girl also in that group of people who were standing. She was desperately looking for a seat away from the wresteling match that was happening inside the bus.
Like a saviour, the ticket inspector appeared. He told the 5 people who were sitting on the long seat at the back to make space for one more person. People just agreed to that idea and squeezed their full arses to a side, made some zigzag sitting formations and did some other magic tricks. Thus the seat for 5 transformed into a 6 seater and the girl finally got a place to sit.
I don’t think in India, anyone calls the ticket inspector with that name, not even with “ticket checker”. For me at least, he has always known as a “conductor.”
Not the material that allows the flow of charge or the guy who creates wonderful opera. It is the humble ticket conductor.
He finally reached the rear end of the bus to collect money for the trip.
If you are not aware, there is a dedicated person called ticket conductor who collects money and issues your tickets depending on the length of your trip.
So this guys walks up to each and every person on the bus throughout the trip to check if everyone has bought the tickets. That is how it works in most places in India (except in Delhi where you have to reach out to an elegantly sitting conductor and request for your ticket!)
Finally the guy came to me and I handed over a 500 rupees note since I didn’t have any smaller denomination with me. He just handed me a small strip of printed paper, the ticket which might be as big as my index finger with a number 450 written on it.
Now that small piece of paper was worth 450 Indian Rupees! If I lost that paper, my 450 rupees was almost gone!
So the actual cost for my trip is only 50 rupees but I didn’t have any smaller amount other than the 500. And almost all conductors, without many exceptions, hate big denominations, especially on a morning trip.
That is the time when they don’t have enough smaller change to give everyone. If everyone else gives them big notes, very soon they will run out of change to give back. So either they cuss you for giving such a big note for a small amount or give you the ticket with the balance amount written on it so that you can claim the balance at the end of the trip when he will have more change.
And there is a third option. That is to do both, cuss you and give you a ticket with a balance amount written on it. I think I got this option.
While giving me that small strip of paper he was saying many things in Odia. Since I didn’t understand anything, everything was fine. Ignorance is bliss!
But what he decided to do next might(not) surprise you! Yes, that is a big arse click bait.
For the next, hopefully the last episode, you will have to wait. But till then you can tell me what you think about the story so far.
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