A thing of beauty is a joy forever,
Its loveliness increases but it will never…
Compare to the dusty mires, the clunky fuss,
Of a dilapidated Pune bus.
- Begun by Keats, finished by yours unruly
The other evening, my friend and I waited for a bus... the bus, any bus.. at a stop that reminded me of Vaudeville. That place deserves to extolled as the seat of all existential plays. I doubt if Beckett ever visited Pune; but if he had, ‘Waiting for Godot’ would have a Deccan slant, as most things in Pune do. They all slant – the way faucets in thrillers drip. You don’t know why, and you can’t guess how, but that’s the way things are. If it’s in Pune, it must slant. Pune – the italicized city.
My friend was remembering the good old days in Mumbai. She was telling me about the time the force of the crowd during rush hour had practically lifted her out of the train compartment. (She’s small.) ‘It was a Virar local’, she sniffed misty-eyed.
There are no normal people in this world.
And then, shaking and jolting came our mode of transport. The driver stopped rather hesitantly. He would have preferred hurtling down through each pothole instead of stopping at the bus depot. (Stop at a depot to let passengers in – how unthinkable is that?!) Anyway, we got in and sat down. My pal expansively offered me the window seat. There really was no need for such generosity because the bus was empty; but what the heck..I accepted the offer. Let it not be said that Mukta can’t be gracious when it’s convenient to be so.
After a few minutes, people started springing in. Most dashed in to fill the seats; some others rushed to the end to dangle through the ride. When there was enough crowd to fill a little suburb, the bus started. And a few seconds after it started, it moved.
Now comes the jhingo-jingle part - there was music. Loud music in the bus. Music that didn’t sound like the rumblings of an iron stomach. And, what’s more – it was Falguni Pathak. And then it was Salaam Namaste, Hum Tum, and some other assorted pieces of melody that Saif had danced to. It was great! I looked around with a huge grin to see who else was tickled. Clearly, no-one else was. One man yawned loudly. Okay, fine. So he’d heard music in public transport before. Show off.
My pal was rather impressed with the quality of sound, and somehow linked that back to another Virar local incident. I, however, was listening to ‘Ole Ole’ with a joy that suffused my cramped limbs. (Cramped limbs also being the effect of a Virar local cause, by the way.)
Then the conductor probably decided that public transport can’t all be about fun and Saif. So he snapped at the driver to change the station or something. That’s when public announcements and advertisements flowed in fast and furious. Interestingly, they loosely aligned to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. So first, there was information about sex and contraceptives, then there was an advertisement for personality development, and finally, some spot about a yoga camp.
Between home and office, I could plan out my entire life. It was a task I was contemplating with reasonable eagerness till it was time to get down.
Now, getting down from a bus in Pune is a little more difficult than getting in. How is that possible? I hope to get an insight once I join a yoga camp.
So, you have a pack of people in the front who will squirm their way to get down from the back, and you have people from the back who will tread steadfastly to the front, and you will have people dangling from the front and rear exits who will not move.
We push ahead like lumpy projectiles and get out. There’s exasperation writ large on our faces.
But with the optimism that can only spurt forth from a Virar local traveler, my pal says, ‘At least there was music.’