Every morning, I wait for a big red monster to swallow me whole.
Not to worry. It costs four bucks only.
A bus journey at some point in my day is as certain as death, taxes and my missing the 8.52 CST from Andheri Station. Birthdates, anniversaries and deadlines are numbers less important to me than 238, 242, 254 and 268. Fearsome, frustrating, happening and heart-warming, I love to call them the Great Indian Bus-tards.
Queues are quixotic. As we Mumbaikars do not consider ourselves idiots, we never form them. When we do, we induct our relatives, friends, colleagues and their uncles into the already long kataar with a sheepish smile and a look that pleads for understanding.
Chivalry isn’t dead. It has been flogged back to life by sinister matrons who mumble under their breaths about the degeneracy of youth till you ashamedly vacate your seat and feel guilty about wanting to rest your legs after a hard day’s work.
Sit on the seat for the elderly and you will be informed about your lack of consideration and respect. Sit on the seat for the ladies and you will be enlightened about your roguish appearance and excuse for an upbringing. Sit on the last seat at the back and you will be made aware of the exact number of bones in your body.
Two people can comfortably stand next to each other in the aisle. This occurs in urban utopia. The gangway is usually three to four bodies thick, with chins resting on convenient shoulders and noses buried in inconvenient armpits. It’s okay to confuse your feet with someone else’s and perfectly alright to turn to your side and find yourself face-to-flab with Pammi Aunty’s heaving six-pack. A hand under your crotch is a co-passenger providing unsolicited support and a pinch on your posterior is a gentle squeeze of understanding. Only one man understands this madness – The Conductor.
He wriggles through the most crowded aisles and never steps on anyone’s foot. He can navigate past Aunty’s magnificent presence without having her scream grope. Between ejecting misguided standees, giving directions, disbursing change and roaring for room in Lilliput, he also sells tickets.
You get all kinds in a bus. Working mothers headed for office with a tiffin and a tired look. Harried blue-collars sweating under their vests on the way to their next job. A gaggle of schoolchildren chattering incessantly on the way home. Young teenage girls combing their hair and talking about young teenage guys. The young teenage guys watching the young teenage girls comb their hair. I once sat next to a twenty-something loudly breaking up with her boyfriend over the phone. She broke down. We were all surprised the bus didn’t.
I can’t do without buses nor do I wish I could do without them. They make me smile and feel a part of this city. There’s nothing I would change about their many faults either.
It’s BEST to adjust.
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