Hitchhiking All the Way…

15May07

When you board a dinky crowded bus that wouldn’t go faster than a forty, shakes the life out of you every time it changed gear, sit beside a window that won’t open more than half, have four men seated in a three-seater with six bags under the footrest, you know you are up to experience the quintessential tour of semi-urban India.

You have to admire the village folks when it comes to high tolerance levels to what we urbanites find extremely irksome. You could find one squatting comfortably near the bus door surrounded by his sacks, one hand on the sacks and the other holding on to whatever they could hold on to – and be perfectly at ease with it. And there was also this belligerent lot sitting in the next seat squabbling how they were cheated over the price of fish and seemed bent on spoiling whatever little sleep I was hoping to get.


Inside the dinky bus, when it stopped for coffee

The bus stopped at Krishnagiri for – as the conductor claimed – coffee. And the driver and conductor hopped out for theirs, while I got down for the heck of it and some fresh air. But what I got instead was a smack of nauseating stink of pee, and the ignominious sight of moist walls reflecting the dim light from the café, surrounded by a lush green bush. As I rushed away into the café, more people got down and walked to that stinky spot, their back facing the road and did their stuff until they returned to the bus with a satisfied smirk. Yes, the café did have a restroom inside.

I got down at Dharmapuri to join another friend and we walked through a narrow one-lane road which had a two-way superfast traffic including roadside-parking. There were shops named Coffee Bar that served only coffee and tea (the ‘Bar’ was a misnomer), a Chick Chick Chips and Cool Drinks (oh whatever), a non-Dhaba which was named (in Tamil) Tamizh Nadu Thaba and served rice and drinks. Incidentally, that Thaba was where I went for a light dinner. Light, because I’m not a fan of Thaba food and there often are times when I hate human metabolism and I happen to believe in Murphy’s law.

We boarded a better looking bus that would take us to Trichy, soon to realize that looks are deceptive. We took a seat just behind the driver and I made same desperate attempts to close my eyes ignoring the constant droning of the engines and blaring horns to catch some sleep. I don’t know if I slept or was just twisting around on the seat, but I woke up when the conductor called out that we were stopping for coffee and tiffin. Coffee? At a sleepless 3 AM? And he wasn’t even kidding. Well, apparently, it happens to be coffee and tiffin for the driver.

With sleepy eyes I got down, barely balancing a stumble from the footboard. And there went another herd of men grouping together at a little distance with their back towards the bus. Do they ever teach in the Human Behavior class why men pee in a herd? Later, just as the bus was about to resume the driver realized the headlights were not coming on. And much to our horror, decided to go ahead to a depot in Musiri village – 30 KM from where we were – to get it repaired!

So the great blindfolded journey began. The bus cruised at a speed of 20 kilometers, driven by two hands on the steering and twenty eyes on the road guiding with whatever they could see (which was zilch) and warn the driver where to turn (and where not to), where there was a bullock-cart on the road, where the cyclists were and where he was about to ram into the tree ahead.

As the highways don’t have streetlights, an occasional oncoming vehicle gave a momentary relief, but soon it was darkness all over again. I was already imagining possible morning headlines – Bus falls into bridge after headlights blew; Bus rams into tree; Terrorist driver blows headlights and hijacks bus; Bus disappears in the dark, alien abduction suspected.

With heart in mouth we counted every meter until we reached the village limits of Musiri, which had streetlights. The driver had enormous guts, and we had our little prayers. The repair was quick and as the morning light trickled in, we reached the city limits of Trichy. Despite the blindfolded hullabaloo, we managed to reach intact. Sleepless, tired, but intact.

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3 Responses to “Hitchhiking All the Way…”

  1. 1 Taks

    Nice post ! Reading this, I felt like I also was actually sitting inside the same bus
    “men grouping together at a little distance with their back towards the bus”, “Bus disappears in the dark, alien abduction suspected” … Ha ha ha :-D

  2. Loved the Tamizh Nadu Thaba part of it hahaha :)


  1. 1 Trichy and Srirangam... « All in a day’s work!

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