The Girl in Blue

The empty bus stood-still defying Newton’s third law of motion. It was followed by an explicit blabbering from the driver. The last AMTS (Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service) of the night was like a bus three of us – me, the driver and the conductor owned. Tonight was no different. This routine was not soothing or a tranquilizing experience for me. But was not even a horribly monotonous one either. The driver and the conductor were like a part of my life now. “Help me, please! My father is dying! Please help me get him to the hospital!” – The girl cut off the driver who was spurting volcano with words dripping around carelessly. Had it been a volcano, basic human instinct was to get a  shelter. She hardly cared about it, though. I and the conductor both were so engrossed in finding out about what happened from the driver that we hardly noticed the girl who got in. She was dressed in the most beautiful shade of blue. And flawless skin with a well mannered body language was not suiting up with the expressions on the face. Her perfect-shaped lips quivered as she tried to speak. But the words betrayed her. She stepped down in a hurry and started flying slowly (yes, that I don’t drive fast, fly slow type thing). Hanging earphones around my neck, out of impulse I got off the bus to follow her. It was a tough task to keep her in sight. I barely could, I managed somehow. I did not really know what I’d do to help her, but I had no time to think about it now.

I kept following her till I saw her open a small rusting iron-gate to a house. At least I know where I had to go now. In this old-fashioned street, it was hard to believe there were no streetlights, yet. “The good thing is there are no dogs here”- I tried to chip in a positive thought trying to be-fool my own mind. While on the walk half-panting and half-breathing, I tried to recognize the area looking for some sort of board or sign that could give me an idea about where I am. The surroundings behaved like a loyal comrade, just not ready to give in, to the intruder. Opening the ‘creepy sound-making’ gate I entered the house to find a dim-light barely going on as if wanting to die (just like Logan). The air was stale inside the cramped up room. It seems to have been trapped inside and wanting to be free for a long time now. It was hard for me to make out if the smell was from the old man lying on the bed or simply due to the trapped air. The only glance-worthy sight in the room was the photo of the old man and his daughter. “She is beautiful”- I thought to myself. I barely had a glance at her through this whole huff & puff.

Taking my phone I called the emergency number – 108 which seemed the most natural course of action to do. With a lot of in vain attempts, I finally gave in. There was no way I’d be able to explain the address. I opened the window that had in view the house besides. And I decided to go to the neighbour and inform them about the scenario. I knocked on their door and naturally, they were startled to see me. After plenty of hesitation, an old man of the same age as one lying in that house opened up. Without much explanation, I called 108 again and hand over the phone to him. Finally, the ambulance was on its way. While we were both walking to his house, in a startling manner he asked – “But, wait who are you?” “Oh! I don’t really know him. His daughter brought me here to help.” – As soon as I said, the expressions on the old man’s face went pale. I felt like the blood vessels on his face choke. He’d explode any moment. With a herculean effort, he said –“But that’s not possible. His only daughter, with whom he used to live, passed away barely a month ago.” It was my turn to go pale now. My feet froze on the ground as the world started spinning. I could see the flashes of the ambulance entering the lane. All, I could say to mind was – “RUN! RUN! RUN!” I tried, but the wobbly legs took some time to get back to senses.

I did not even glance at the old man besides. I couldn’t. I was too numb even to look behind. I kept running although I had no idea about where I was going or where I had to go. It was all too much to take in. Just as I felt my lungs were about to burst, I reached the main road and saw a cold bench there. I sat there for a while and tried to recollect my senses. Taking the earphones, I plucked them in. I did not even know that I had left the songs on. But, the one that was playing was enough to bring another chill down my spine. –

“Teri laadki main…. Teri Laadki main…

Chhodungi naa tera saath”

I felt like she was the one singing this song. The Girl in Blue.

THANK YOU FOR CALLING!

“How can you flow swiftly, if a dead-weight anchor is holding you down?”

The dark clouds behaved like the Australian team of the yesteryear on field, sledging the old man batt(l)ing. He is hardly bothered about them or anything else. His hollow eyes are stuck at the dark horizon in front of him, yet not seeking anything particularly. The silver threads of his beard are crisscrossing all over the face, accentuating his already unkemptily serene look.

He glances at the ring in his hand and clenches his fist even harder this time. Wanting to get rid of the burden, he started undressing. Leaving all his belongings behind, he started walking towards the Blue Grand Canyon ahead of him. He is still holding on to the ring and urging the rising sea around to engulf him in it. On the final walk of his life, he feels he is done and out. The only that is remaining in him is the desire to sink and sleep peacefully.

Air, liberating from his mouth is forming bubbles that are rising towards their final destination. Although he is sinking, this is not how he was supposed to feel. The peace he was longing for is still eluding him. “What is it then?”- the unfathomable harshness hits him hard. Curling himself into a cocoon, he opens his fist and allows the ring to get lost in the darkness below. This ring was the anchor holding him down. The burden that he wanted to get rid-off is gone. He is rising to the surface again.

The bus came and the doors opened. I kept staring at the person in the mirror of closed doors as the bus left. This was the video playing in my head. There was nothing other than that old man that I could relate to in that moment.

From a far end, a crippled person came running (though he was barely able to) towards the doors. He missed the bus and the doors closed on his face. On the verge of tears, he turned towards me and had an “Oh, look what a joke nature has played with me” expression on his face. He won the competition of having a greater grief.

“Next bus will arrive after 20 minutes. Let’s have a seat.”– I said, gaining my senses back. I mentally scanned through every word of every language known to me. I could find nothing that I could say to console him. He sensed my dilemma and said- “It’s Okay!”. The smile that he gave me did something to me. It shattered the glass palace of grief in me that was getting heavier day-by-day. I could not look up to him. I walked off with a soaked-up throat and foggy eyes.

Sitting at my regular tea-stop, I tried hard to hold on. But, a tear rolled out of my eye and the cup slipped from my hand. My shoulders started feeling lighter as if a huge burden was lifted off from them. My ring is gone and I was rising to the surface again. Happier than ever I was, I took the first call of the day with a zeal like never before- “Thank you for calling ****** ******* Network, this is Karan! How are you doing today?”  Soon, the caller was beaming too.

P.S. – The story of the old man is a description of the song “Ólafur Arnalds – This Place Was A Shelter” You can experience it here.

Never Again.

“As you go nearer to the doors, amount of space available to stand decreases.” – First Law of Travelling in BRTS.

It is hard to understand the ideology of the people who simply prefer standing in the mid-region besides the doors (just like the cows who prefer standing at signals), even if there are empty seats or even if their destination is yet far, far away. May be they fear that they’ll miss getting-off on their stops just because the doors open / close automatically. Possible? Very much.

From the amount of travellers (not nomadic wanderlust banjaras or banjaris, true travellers) that usually trip in brts buses, I’d say it was a brilliant day today. Not that it mattered, I already had a seat to establish thermal equilibrium on it. Okay, so this selfish-happiness of mine was short-lived (happy?).

“Change is inevitable”- they say. “Damn!” Just as I was about to doze-off in that commuter’s typical bored-with-life sleep, an elderly person entered and stood beside me. The person sitting on the lonely seat next to the doors can never sit alone. Instantly, a quarrel between the generous-me and the ‘cruel-commuter’ me began.  And contrary to your thinking, the commuter-me gave in. I stood up offering the most precious belonging of a commuter to the old man. I was beaming with pride, thinking – “I have at least done something good today!” (What? Now, I can’t even think without caring about grammar?)

As a couple of stations passed, just like in our lives, old people left at their respective stations and other kept pouring in. Along-with this systematic chaos, a beautiful girl entered and stood beside me (Again, my happiness was short-lived, happy?). Just when I thought that it was all getting into a lucid slow motion, the old man (who started looking like a young Dharmendra) stood up and offered the seat to the girl which she gloriously accepted. All of this happened so suddenly that in a state of aghast I forgot to exhale the air that I inhaled in a while ago. I was staring at the scene in front of me wherein the old man and the girl exchanged smiles. Just when I opened my mouth to utter some words, only the loud sighs of the air that was trapped inside could achieve freedom.

The girl started fiddling with phone and the man of the hour was still busy with his Anupam Kher type hair-style and I thought no one saw what just happened. I thought. Why is that lady smiling at me? Our eyes met, we laughed at the stand-up comedy that only two of us witnessed. It is funny how so many such experiences go unnoticed as we get lost in the noises of routine. “Agal nu janmarg station- MJ Library!”- I thanked to the beautiful lady announcer (I know) for shaking me out of my reveries.

The doors opened (yes automatically) and the phone started playing- “Never Again- Nikelback” and I mumbled- “ Yes! Never Again!”

The Bus Stories (Finally!)

Ahmedabad via kheda *in red* “shit!”

A journey again. A commute. But, all of a sudden I feel like this is all the others before, is so different from the ones I’ve already had! (confused? Yeah, me too.)
“Bolo bhai!”- words of the conductor felt like the reality pulled me back from my riverie/s. “Ek geeta mandir.”- I feel like this is conversation that I’ve had the most number of times in my life, but it was inevitable as always. *adds the ticket to the platform of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan that my wallet has become.*

People have a hobby of collecting a lot of weird things. Things like stamps, movie tickets, photographs. In my case, with the patron of laziness that I am, collection of tickets was not that difficult. It rather came naturally and that is what my wallet is full of.
“There are more tickets than notes”- my mind chipped-” Dude, you have spent a quarter of your life commuting. The stories will not be adrenaline rush filled travelogues of abhiandnow or any one from the wanderlust biradari, but they are journeys. And journeys are always worth sharing.”

Wow, this is exactly what I’m going to do. So, TheBusStories is going to be my twitter(for now!).
*Pink Floyd starts in Background* “Well my ride has arrived, the trip awaits.”