Category : Travel
Nine years ago, when I was new to Delhi, I didn’t know the bus routes very well. Many-a-times, I would hop on a wrong bus, realize my mistake and then get off at this point or that, after posing inane questions to the bus drivers or the conductor, which sometimes irritated them.
On numerous occasions, I got reprimanded by the irate passengers as well, but then, it always takes me an inordinate amount of time to find my bearings at a new place. No matter, how many times, I may have gone down the same lane, it always appears new to me. I don’t think I like most people, take in a road scene all at once…It goes in, in bits and pieces, that quite explains why, I don’t get the complete picture and keep losing my way on the same road!
Once tired from a morning row with my old landlady (for not paying the rent on time) and late night at the office the night before, I fell asleep on the bus. I was comfortably settled in the ‘Ladies only’ section, after making a young man give it up for me, a cool breeze was blowing, the bus was not too crowded, so I felt relaxed and began snoozing. I don’t know how much time elapsed but when I woke up with a start, I looked around and saw that the bus had almost emptied and the scene outside looked completely unfamiliar!
Worried, I inquired from the conductor (a very cheerful, lad of no more than 25!), who muttered “Mehrauli.”
I didn’t have the foggiest idea what “Mehrauli” was. Was it a part of Delhi? Outside Delhi? Had I crossed the border in my sleep? I was in a complete fix. I didn’t know what to do. Sensing my predicament, the conductor coaxed, “Where do you want to go, lady?”
“ITO,” (That’s the Fleet Street of India, where all the newspaper offices are, and I’d joined the Times of India as a reporter a few months ago)
He burst out laughing. “We crossed ITO a long time ago,” he said. Then, reading the alarm on my face he hurried to offer me a seat on the same bus if I could wait inside while he and the driver had their lunch. Not knowing what else to do, I agreed. They jumped off the bus and headed for a small eatery. (PS: They even brought back a juice bottle for me and refused to accept a dime for it!)
Half an hour later, the driver took his seat and the bus started again, slowly wounding its way back to ITO. I thanked the driver and the conductor profusely and hopped off.
Four months later, I was waiting at the same bus stop…this time with a friend …both waiting for a bus to ITO, when I started recounting this Mehrauli incident to her. Before I could finish, our bus came, we boarded it and Lo! It was the same bus and the same driver!
“He’s the driver, I was telling you about,” I nudged my friend.
The conductor also recognized me, laughed and said, “So you have company today. That means you won’t get lost today!”