This morning, I took a bus to work. Actually, the bus took me, but on with the story.
In Mumbai, I usually don’t get into very crowded buses. I can afford to do that because the next bus comes by before nails have outgrown the polish. But not so in Pune. If you have missed the bus, you truly have missed the bus.
From what I had seen of Pune buses, they were always crowded. People hung out and patronizingly tapped autos on the hood at traffic lights. It was a scene that evoked great affection when I looked at it from inside a car.
But in Pune, I’ll be without car or Scooty; so it will be the autos or it will be buses for me. (I was cursed by an auto-fellow last night. If the curse comes true, my son will be a very poor man. I reached home and prayed for my unborn son’s posthumous prosperity; for the sake of the family he’ll leave behind.)
Anyway, my friend and I waited at the bus stop and finally spotted something that’s called a ‘bus’ in Pune. It was made of some undetermined material (used and pounded Milkmaid cans is my guess), had a weird shape that I had hitherto only seen as Andheri multiplexes, and coated in a color that seemed to have gotten bored and left the surface. And this ‘bus’ was not only crowded, it was also slanted to the left. If that was supposed to indicate the political leanings of the transportation honchos, then very clever; but I’m not getting into a bus that’s slanted, for god’s sakes.
‘Get in’, my impatient friend yelps. (It’s my theory that one must never wait at the bus stop with someone who’s the youngest child. They are filled with too much pompous urgency.)
So I get in - wedged, squished, and pate`d. Some lanky fellas dangle at the door, tapping autos. I’m too tightly ensconced to feel fuzzy about the experience. But after I pay my fare, I notice that one of the dangling guys is practically holding on the ledge with the skin under his nails.
So, to make place for Daredevil, I squeeze ahead. No go. I push ahead some more. This seems to send the wrong signal to the gentleman in front of me. He looks back nervously and conspicuously shifts his hand to show me his wedding ring. I mutter sorry but it seems as if I’m admitting my guilt. So I try and mask that by being rude and turning my face away.
Later, the bus empties out sufficiently for all the people to actually get inside the bus. But the dangling hero still dangles. I mean, he could walk into the bus in a couple of easy strides like an English gentleman, but no, he still hangs out - out of choice. (Do you get that strange if you travel in slanted buses that long or what? I mean, the blood doesn’t flow equally to both sides of the brain and all. This merits a study, I think.)
I try to get his attention and then point to the empty seat next to me. It’s an empty seat. What do you think an empty seat should mean to a person who’s risking his life and limb hanging out from a bus? I don’t know. But it certainly shouldn’t mean some kind of a lewd proposition that our hero took it to be. He turns red and looks away.
‘Get down’, my impatient friend snaps again. (I shall travel only with first-borns hereafter.)
So I get down and walk to office – the unwitting, unsuccessful temptress in Pune.