01 January 1970

Short Story: Drama In A Bus 


Short Story: Drama In A Bus 

A casual observation may pick up a slice of life and see that ‘there is no dearth of Good Samaritans in this awry world’ or that ‘positive thinking had impacted them negatively’, but the story lies in-between

Drama in a bus
Drama in a bus Getty Images

On a cloudy, sultry day, sullen-looking people were plodding on toward the bus stand, where animals and human beings stood together exemplifying peaceful co-existence. Pesky Piglets, mangy mongrels, dozing donkeys in dangerous proximity to hyperventilating, harassed humanity.

Angry, obscene graffiti scribbled on the stained walls screamed for attention, almost threatening to jump at me. Samosa and kachori sellers stood leaning against an overflowing garbage bin where fat flies hovered around aggressively. 

“There comes the Bharatpur bus,” the cry went up and everyone ran towards the bus holding on to their luggage and scowls – scowls too precious to be lost in the helter-skelter of recriminations, cross current of curses, tidal waves of abuses, nasty nudges and sly shoves. 

A scrawny man too involved in irrigating the wall outside the urinal, stumbled towards the honking bus, haphazardly tucking his shirt into his trousers while a pup watched his antics with intense interest. In his haste, [yes, indecent haste] almost tripped over a mobile hillock who let loose a barrage of abuses so powerful that people around cringed in embarrassment and powerlessness. 

While I watched aghast, a motley crowd of people tried to enter the bus from all empty spaces. From the window of the driver’s seat, from the door, and from the windows of the passengers’ seats. One obese man, audacious enough to enter the bus through a window, got stuck in the window, dhoti, bag and other accoutrements.

I tell you, there is no dearth of Good Samaritans in this awry world. I gaped at the scene that was unfolding before my eyes.  Amidst a crescendo of guffaws, jabs, and verbal and physical punches, the obese man was pushed into the bus. Life was a battlefield and all were warriors. With an indefatigable spirit, they wielded their invisible daggers, hatchets and swords to crush their mighty adversaries. Victory had to be theirs – come lightning or rain. Or a sharp shower of expletives. 

Zor laga key [push harder, push harder!” Six or seven people pushed him from behind, to the accompaniment of cheers and loud laughter. He managed to land into the bus, but straight into the lap of a shrill-voiced shrew! 

What a fall it was, my countrymen! 

Her shrill screams stopped only when he had sheepishly lifted himself from the unwelcoming lap into which he had fallen! 

I stood on my toes outside the bus, too weak-hearted to venture into the bus, and caught a glimpse of the scene unfolding in the aisle of the bus. 
A couple of wrestlers from the nearby akhada [Wrestlers’ Training Ground] were going full throttle.

Arrey ghutna daba, tangri bacha, darrta kyoon hai? Haan, shabash.” [Why are you scared? Come on, beat him to it, bravo!]
One of them caught hold of the one in front of him and pummelled him.  This sent the beleaguered man into a tizzy and he unleashed a torrent of vicious abuses, which those sitting tried their best to dodge and duck. At least twenty people were clinging to the gate, refusing to budge from there, nerves on edge, and egos running wild. Just that very moment, they came crashing down! 

My mouth literally fell open as a toothless woman, heavily wrinkled and furrowed, not less than eighty years of age, put a heavy, muscular hand on the shoulder of one of the men at the gate. He lost his balance, and so did the other men hanging on to the gate!

The woman now nonchalantly cruised towards the space thus created. Not to be left behind, I clung on to her sari palloo while she sailed forth and was safely inside the bus! The sharp eyes of this spunky octogenarian, fell on a vacant seat and also on a mousy little woman heading towards it. With one mighty sweep of a hefty arm, she pushed her out of the way, and plonked down on it, grinning all around with toothless triumph. 

There was no place for me; the old woman was studiously ignoring me. The bus grunted and growled as did the driver, and then he suddenly applied the brakes. This was a ruse used by many a wily driver to create space in the bus. All the standing passengers went reeling back, many empty seats came in view, and those standing made a beeline for the seats. I also dashed towards a vacant seat, and sighed, slumping down on the seat. There was a chaotic confusion of voices, ranging from raucous to squeaky, from high pitched to low pitched.
And a croak.

Arey pichak gaya!” [I have been crushed!]Someone croaked from the rear end of the bus.

Necks veered in the direction of the chunk of crushed humanity. A humongous man had almost made pulp of a skeletal man who was crying for help.

“Why did you not stop the bus?” An utterly irate man stormed into the bus when the bus had stopped for hardly a minute at an unscheduled stop.

“I will give you as many shoe beatings as you have hair on your head,” then he stopped short as his eyes fell on the almost bald pate of the driver.

“What bad luck! You have hardly any hair on your head; you are saved from my wrath!” With these words he threw back his head and laughed uproariously, a few more also joined in, cracking jokes about the follically-challenged people of the world.

Drama in the bus
Drama in the bus | Credit: Getty Images

With a bemused twinkle, I sat watching this theatre of the absurd and then closed my eyes and went on another trip.

A firm believer in the power of positive imagery; I started imagining that I was not in a ramshackle, wheezy bus, surrounded by weird characters, but in a five-star hotel where flashbulbs were exploding, and I was swimming in a sea of flashing teeth and plastic smiles, models were bouncing down the ramp, waving and blowing kisses, expensive perfume pervaded the air and not garlic heavy breaths, there was no vitriol or venom, only pleasantries were being purred. 

The two wannabe wrestlers, I imagined, were Bollywood celebrities moving around with incredible panache.

The ill-tempered octogenarian, I thought was not a wily warmonger but an internationally acclaimed fashionista gushing about her fitness regimen, “I do not skip food, but try to eat as many nutrients as possible, workouts and daily yoga is a must,” she said sinking her teeth into a delicacy. 

No wonder, I thought, food has fortified her against all calamities. She looked fabulous in a skirt sari, with a dash of retro chic accessories, an elegant kamarband to accentuate the warrior waist. But what a waste!!

What an exotic, tall and elegant lady, I gushed, heading towards the diva, as though in a somnambulistic trance, clutching a pen and a piece of paper in my hand. 

Will she, won’t she? I wavered for a second, and then extended the pen and paper towards her. “Autograph please,” I said like a star struck teenager. “What autograph-shortograph are you saying madam? Have you bought the ticket?”

“Tic—k—et?” I stuttered looking uncomprehendingly at the conductor whose eyes seemed to imply that I was the worst offender in the world.

“It never struck you that you were supposed to buy a ticket?”

"Well...I.. you.....did not.” My stuttering was touching heights of gargantuan greatness as I looked goggle-eyed all around, trying to find my moorings.

“We have almost reached Bharatpur, and you did not buy a ticket?” He said tersely.

Thoroughly chastened, I dipped into my purse, rummaged for the money, and without looking into the conductor’s eyes, handed him the money. The moment the bus stopped at the Bharatpur bus stand, I was the first one to jump out, but not before the conductor’s cruel words had stabbed my back. 

Kya zamana aa gaya hai!  Kitney aaram sey conductors ko goli detey hain log! [What times! How conveniently folks try to hoodwink the conductors!]
As these harsh words skittered down my back, the sudden realisation hit me that positive thinking is not without negative repercussions. 

I stole a furtive look behind me, the bus had moved on, but was it my imagination or was it real that a scowling octogenarian, a couple of wrestlers, a chunk of crushed humanity, and a humongous man were hot- footing it toward me, with upraised accusatory fingers? 
My positive thinking had impacted them negatively!! 

(Acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu, Dr. Santosh Bakaya, a poet, essayist, novelist, biographer, TEDx speaker, has written twenty books across different genres. Her latest book is Runcible Spoons and Pea-green Boats [Poems, 2021].  Morning Meanderings is her column in Learning and Creativity. Com)