Monday, August 08, 2005

A bus ride home

6:30pm, Friday, Office.

I start out from my office. With a heavy backpack on my shoulders, I walk with S to the bus depot. We talk about the new computer S is about to purchase. Between GB's of hard disks and GHz of a Pentium or an Athlon, we walk past a girl's hostel, a park, couple of departmental stores and a milk booth. At the bus depot there is no bus. The only DTC official around tells me that the bus I want is scheduled at 7:15pm. Just then, another bus arrives, and asking the conductor gets me a gruff answer acknowledging that it will go almost 90% of the way to my house. So, I get on it.

The bus fills in - a group of office goers returning home, a bunch of college students giggling away to merriment, a doodhwala with two huge cans of milk, and couple with a new born baby. They accompany me as the first passengers on the trip. Soon the Goliath moves, and crawls to a halt at the first red light.

Zindagi me kabhi koi aaye na rabba,
Aaye jo kabhi to phir jaaye na rabba

The driver has turned on the radio. The gray-white cow on the road looks towards the bus with no interest whatsoever, all the while chewing something. Rows of bikes, trying to outrun auto rickshaws, who are trying to maneuver past small Marutis and Santros, who are getting the better of the Honda City and a Lancer. Since nobody dares question the authority of a DTC bus, it is the first vehicle to cross the red light, when it turns green. First stop, and people clamber in for seats. Someone comes and sits beside me, as I gaze outside the window. Apartment blocks, neatly line the sidewalk. Thoughts of owning a house here swim in my head, as I see shops with signs - Tag Heuer, Sony, Rathi Tor Steel, Samsonite, Dabur, Nerolac. The bus swims in a river of traffic with the grace of an elephant. A huge hospital, with its ever increasing chaos and never ending crowd of patients, comes into view. I see a red Maruti Swift parked on the wrong side of the road, with the driver looking searchingly across the road. A young, cute looking doctor, in her white coat, is trying desperately to cross the road. She succeeds, just as a traffic policeman hauls up an errant bus driver for some reason.

Meri angrayi, na toote, tu aajaa...
Kajrare, Kajrare!

A flyover guides the mad rush of Delhi's car crazy population across a jumbled up crossing. As my bus goes past the handicraft and handloom shops, and a fish and vegetable market, the rain starts pouring. The soft drops fall on my face, caressing it, like in flirty foreplay. The water feels cool and defiant, as the bus meanders through posh Delhi at her snobbiest best. I can hear tit bits of conversation from my co-passengers: "I left home at 7:30 today morning," "Who will pay the bill for this purchase?," "I know... But.. Please try to understand," "Arre India phir haar gayi!," "Abe woh kya chaat professor hai, yaar. Kal mai class bunk maar rahi hoon. Pickchar dekhne chalegi?"

Teriya, Meriya bhul gaya; bhul gaya haar te jeet,
Ki karna main jeet nu, hove na jo meet

A big office complex slides away, and I vaguely remember the only time I was there, was for an entrance exam. I had fallen asleep during the paper. A landmark. Delhi is full of them. Wet, and brilliantly lit history frozen in stone. The bus turns, around a gol-chakkar and strangely I think what if Delhi was flooded like Mumbai? Dark ramparts of the majestic ruins of one the seven cities of Delhi, seem to silently acknowledge my fears. Though I know Delhi has more chances of being hit by an earthquake, rather than a flood. Every single civil engineer and architect in Delhi knows, that one Richter 7 earthquake and Delhi will crumble like a pack of cards. Yet, day upon day, more and more buildings come up, mocking nature. I remember a geology practical viva question. About which place in Delhi would probably be the worst hit. The answer - where my home stands now! As I gaze far away, the rain has dried up and the satin blue sky looks benign, I pray to God to show mercy.

Dur, dur tum rahe; pukarte hum rahe, aaj ki raat tum jao na

Street lights play of the top of the wet car tops in mad dazzling streaks. The bus turns into unfamiliar places. I ask the person beside me where should I get off. He says, "Aap baithe rahiye. Main bata doonga jab stop aa jaayega." I fidget in my seat. The view from the bus window changes from a main road, to a dark alley lined with cycle rickshaws, a paan shop, a police station, a Delhi Jal Board water tanker. He tells me "Abhi paanch stop aur hain." I am busy counting how many stops pass since he tells me that. Five stops go by and still he says nothing. I am getting suspicious. Of what? I do not know. Finally, he tells me, "Aage cinema hai, wahan utar kar left jaana, do minute lagenge rickshaw par apke ghar tak." I am off my seat in a flash, and I fight my way through the crowded bus, pushing away at everybody. I reach the gate, as the bus screeches to a halt. I get down, and breathe a sigh of relief. I manage to alight a minibus whose conductor is hollering the name of my colony at the top of his voice. Two minutes and I am home. I feel a bit ashamed of myself for being suspicious of a man who was genuinely trying to help me. Good people and bad, this city has them all. Among all the headline hungry vandals, rapists, dacoits, and road rage criminals, I guess a good Samaritan slips in every now and then to keep this city rolling.

8:30pm, Friday, Home.


  1. n i thot i was the only person returning home from office at 8pm on a friday nite.
    n having nothing much to do , watched the much-hyped-'bout 'Desperate Housewives'!

    btw i think i failed to recogonize most of the songs mentioned except Kajara re..
    (r they the new ones?)

  2. wow..interesting ride home ride home is usually blanked out... as soon as i get in the auto i zone out and everything is a blur....sigh..

  3. Riding in a DTC bus in Dilli is nothing short of an adventure!! You seemed to have enjoyed it though...!
    Btw is Delhi really earthquake prone? I'm feeling queasy all of a sudden...! :$

  4. @swathi: Hey I watched Desperate Housewives too! :) The songs are not new. The first one is from the movie Musafir (the new one). The next is ofcourse from Bunty aur Babli. The one after that is the prelude to the Euphoria song Maaeri from their album Phir Dhoom. And the last one is from an old movie called Chalte Chalte.

    @grafx: After I reached home - I went "flop" on mah bed! :)

    @mirage: Yes, Delhi is very much earthquake prone. Out of the 5 earthquake zones in India, with a higher number signifying higher earthquake risk, Delhi lies in Zone 4. The sad part is the blatant ignorance shown to this *known* fact by all concerned authorities in Delhi.

  5. now dat u mentioned tha songs,i recogonize them xcept the one from 'Musafir' n the best is the one from Chalte chalte 'door door...'

    y dun u blog 'bout some hindi numbahs i wud luv them :))

  6. @swathi: Hmmm... a post on songs you say. Mebbe one these days! :)

  7. sounds like a really loooong journey - but as long as home is at the end of it :)

  8. That was quite a long account of a bus journey!

  9. @cactus: Oh yes! and Thank God for Home :)

    @nomad: Ah.. but that is bcause it is a loooong bus ride as well! :D

  10. nice experience! feeling empathetic with it.. sometimes we suspect a good person :-(

  11. captured the flavour of delhi v nicely, FR. back after a long time, and to such a nice post!

  12. ok we know ure home and all that, but its been awhile since u posted. whats up? did my advice of reading in barista bear fruit? ;o)

  13. @jithu: Yes we do! A pity, really - but the times we live in... sigh.

    @stiletto: Hey! Long time. Nice to see you around :)

    @sonia: What's up is that I am having a bad cold day! Achooo! Oh.. n that post is up :)