The Bus Journey
The Bus Journey7 mins 21.8K 7 mins 21.8K
The Bus Journey
Even before the train stopped, she had alighted and was briskly walking towards the foot over-bridge to cross over to Andheri East. She was a few minutes late today, No! The train was a few minutes late today! And Why? – Because some buffoon had gotten his truck to break down right smack in the middle of a railway crossing. Luckily the crossing was very close to the railway station and the motorman (conductor of the train) rightly chose to stay put at the station on sighting the immobile truck across the tracks a few hundred yards away.
Without any loss of life, limb or property, the incident had come to an end, when a humanity of people pushed or rather literally lifted the truck out of the way – away from the railroad crossing.
But she and her fellow 3500 other passengers in the train had lost a crucial eight and a half minutes. So she had no choice but to run. She was one of the 1000s and 1000s of workforce who lived in the far flung suburbs of the Metropolis and came to work southwards every morning.
She worked at Seepz – Santa cruz Electronic Export Processing Zone. Seepz was one of the first Special Economic Zones, little did she know or care that the name Seepz was related to places in Silicon Valley where these exports were ordered from.
She and her friends were 1000s of diminutive girls with nubile hands, who assembled electronic components -Hard disks, CD ROMs and the like. Like picking tea-leaves this too was a specialized job, where tender and delicate hands were needed to fit and affix delicate electronics especially the interfacing and conducting membranes.
She made it to the bus stop just in time to join her girl gang and board the bus along with them. She was saved from standing in the long serpentine queue for the bus route 415. The queue for this bus route would often be half a kilometer long; she had taken a chance and managed to blend with her girl gang just at the boarding point otherwise she would have had to go to the end of the queue.
It was a double-decker bus and they preferred to sit on the lower deck where there were 2 vertical seats facing each other, one each on either side of the aisle. Each seat could seat 3 passengers. They enjoyed these seats because all of them could talk facing each other.
The 4 of them settled, sitting in pairs, the gangway in between them. It was her turn to book tickets for all 4. She was ready with a 50 Rupee note (a little less than a US dollar). The usual banter, giggling, teasing and a little bit of bitching was going on amongst them. She was the better looking of the lot, slightly taller than the other girls – she was about 5.2 and today (like most days) she was better dressed than the others. A little bit of loud makeup did no harm to her appearance.
Compared to her friends, her bust was also reasonably well-formed and gave her an attractive figure. She was dark but with sharp features, twinkling big black eyes which she accentuated with cheap but deftly applied eye-liner. She liked red-lipstick and that is what she was wearing today. She could only afford 1 lipstick at a time. A little bit of cheap flowery deodorant made her smell fresh. Dressed in red, she knew she was turning more than a few heads today.
On most days, she would be the best dressed in her factory, and she liked it that way. Apart from her looks she was famous or rather infamous for her acerbic tongue. Once she started talking in that spicy tone, she just would not stop. The guys in her factory enjoyed her charms and acerbic tongue & would often incite her. Once she got started, she wouldn’t stop, her girl gang found her outbursts embarrassing, amusing and funny at the same time. The men-folk in her factory found her cocktail of looks, charm and acerbic tongue mesmerizing. Though she feigned off their advances and treated them with mock disdain, she sought and loved all the attention and in her heart she thought of herself as the “queen” which interestingly was her name in Marathi – Ranee. Her friends often told her that she took her name a little too seriously.
The Conductor came and prompted “Ticket-ticket”, she held out the 50 Rupee note, he took it and kept it in his pouch; then pulled it out and held it against the light with both hands, just at that moment the driver applied the brakes suddenly, the conductor lost his balance and was almost about to fall but managed to hold onto a handlebar but in the process he fell on her, his body sideways into hers and his legs over hers. For a second or two he was sitting in her lap. She was embarrassed and it showed. He apologized and nervously smiled and then yelled at the driver.
He then remembered what he was doing and saw the 50 Rupee note in his hand; he again held it against the light and then without much thought returned it to her saying it was a bad note – according to him it was mutilated and asked her to give another one. Not wanting to start a row, she kept this one back and pulled out another 50 Rupee note, this one was crispier than the previous and he accepted it. She asked for 4 tickets to Seepz (the last stop). On one of the stops en-route an old lady was helped onto the bus by passengers standing on the footboard, the old lady was trying to make her way towards the lower deck. Ranee and her friends were occupying the seats nearest from the footboard so the Conductor turned towards Ranee and asked her to make way for the old lady; Ranee very reluctantly relinquished her seat to the old lady and gave the Conductor a nasty stare. She joined her friends on the other side where there was a seat vacant, so now three of them were on one side and one of them seated across the aisle sandwiched between the old hag and a bearded man.
Settling into her new seat, she reminded the conductor to give her, her tickets and change back; he nodded absent-mindedly and asked her
How much did you pay me?
Ranee: Fifty! Don’t you remember? Smarty!
Ranee’s tone was getting her friends worried and they tried to calm her down. The conductor again looked at her and said can you tender a change of 2 Rupees. This was it! She was keyed-up! According to her this had gone too far! Full of indignation she started calling him names, mouthing curses and cuss words, her tone become loud and imperious; all the passengers became quiet and were listening to every word being uttered and then she delivered the mother lode:-
"First, you managed to sit in my lap, touching me everywhere, then you made me give-up my seat for nothing, there were other seats available but you still chose me and my seat, next you want me to give you mint fresh currency notes and also tender extra change, next thing you will ask me is to take my panties down for you!"
The moment she said it, she realized she had committed the biggest faux pas of her life. She reddened and became extremely embarrassed. She wanted to dig a hole through the bus and bury herself, but there was nowhere to hide. To aggravate her embarrassment, not a soul was making a move or uttering a word.
None of the passengers around could believe what they had heard. Some who were a few rows further up in the bus had a smirk on their face, Ranee had made their day. Ranee was also sure that each and every soul in the bus who heard her utter those words would be narrating the incident to their colleagues during lunch, and with each narration the spice would increase!
The bus stopped at a traffic light just a few hundred meters before her stop; to Ranee it seemed like an eternity before the bus moved to cover those last 100 meters.
As she was descending from the lower deck to the footboard, the Conductor sheepishly handed over the tickets and the change to her; Ranee gave him an inflamed side glance – wondering to herself – you cheapo, you still hadn’t given me the tickets and the change!
For a week, Ranee kept looking for the Conductor and Conductor kept looking for Ranee, on the same bus route but they never bumped into each other. Eventually they stopped looking for each other and continued with their lives never meeting again.