Travel Travails

There have been several memorable journeys that I've made by bus all over the country.. but particularly from Roorkee to Delhi this past year. Let me share a few gems...

  • On our very first trip back home from Roorkee, there were 5 of us, who could manage to find seats together right behind the driver's seat. Having stuffed ourselves and our respective pieces of luggage uncomfortably into the seats, we prepared ourselves for a long ride. No sooner had we started than the bus blew its horn- and blew our ears off. As it happened, it was a reverse horn (it blasted inside the bus, not outside)... and our driver was one trigger happy maniac who thought every minute not spent blowing our heads off was a minute wasted. To add to our woes, the road up ahead was blocked, and the driver decided to make his own road across the fields (what we called "the Veer-Zaara route"). Jolted, bruised, badly shaken (and stirred) and with our head now split into a thousand shrapnels, we bumped back onto the road, only to discover the driver had taken us in the wrong direction for some miles, and so we backtracked again to the join where we left the road, now mercifully clear of all traffic. A tiring 6 hours later, we arrived at ISBT, Delhi only to be drenched in rain,with no umbrella, carrying tons of baggage, stranded in the middle of the road, coz the bus decided to unload the passengers a little early - perhaps the driver got bored of not being able to blow his own trumpet (aka The Horn) for the past 15 minutes. Somehow, we manged to squelch our way through the mulch and reached home safe n sound.

  • Then there was the time that Preeti and I were returning from Delhi. In the seats right in front of ours were three Tere Naam kind of guys, with the traditional jhataak shirts and thick Haryanvi accent. One of them was a short guy, who kept cracking non-jokes and another one kept repeating those "jokes" for our benefit, accompanied by a laugh to indicate we do the same. Preeti and I decided to doze off ... anything to stop the torture. A few hours later, the bus stopped and we found that a canal had overflowed ahead and the roads were three feet deep in water.Our witty companions came up with a few inane comments, laughing all the while. The two of us just looked at each other and fell back resignedly. There was no electricity in the village we were passing through,and the driver had switched off all lights inside the bus to see better. Our bus was standing surrounded by water on all sides in the pitch black night, perfect silence encompassing us, when suddenly out of the gloom rose a wail - "Aashiq Banayaaaaa...Aashiq banayaaaaa...Aashiq banayaa aapne".... As we all froze in our seats, not knowing where the ghastly noise was coming from, our short companion of the front seat turned around and sang again. Still shell shocked and unable to react, we heard him continue into the second para. I guess the driver recovered first, and suddenly blew his horn. The spell was broken and we all heaved a collective sigh of relief as he raced the bus out of the water and speeded into Roorkee. As we got off the bus and into a rickshaw, Pree n I saw three hands waving at us from inside the bus... Adieu.

  • Then there was the time when Ash,Preeti and I were going to Delhi.The driver seemed to have lost all interest in driving and it seemed as if the bus was running on sheer will power - that too, ours. As we crawled on the highway at a speed of - 20.34 kph, we thought all we'd have time to do was get down at ISBT and catch a bus back to Roorkee.Sitting in the stifling heat, we lazily watched the clouds floating in the sky. Suddenly, the sky became overcast.It started raining heavily. Somehow it always rained when we were going home, no matter how sunny the day started out.And as if rejuvenated, our driver picked up speed. And boy, did he pick up speed. All the windows were blanketed by thick sheets of rain. The driver's windshield was a curtain of water, not a thing outside was visible. And our bus was now moving at the speed of over 90 kph.As we snaked our way in and out of the traffic, we felt as if we were riding an anaconda. At one particularly dicy turning, I plucked up courage to look at the driver's seat.. and found him sitting happily with his hands off the steering wheel and placed comfortably behind his head. I looked at my fellow passengers, most of whom were ashen faced and white knuckled as they clutched for support.In between, we were confronted by a railway crossing, which was mercifully closed. We paused for a brief interval, and everyone breathed deeply.A train rushed past (Amritsar to Ludhiana... why the hell was it here??). And as soon as the gate opened, we screeched on our way again. In less than an hour we covered what would normally have taken at least 2 1/2 hours. As the rain slowly pitter pattered into a drizzle, and then stopped, our driver again lost all enthu, but managed to sustain a steady pace, much slower. When we finally unboarded the bus, our legs were shaking and our minds still fresh with the terror of those few hours.

  • Recently, there were 8 of us together in the bus. As we fell into a fitful stupor, suddenly the speakers above us crackled into life "Rajuuu..pyaar mat kariyo..dil toot jaata hai". I managed to struggle upright in my seat, my mind bursting with questions - Who was Raju? What was his story? Who was giving him invaluable lessons of life?? And who turned on the speakers in the first place? As we listened on, we discovered a melodramatic saga of love lost and found, betrayal and anxiety, lovers separated by the cruel hands of fate and family, and brought together by Love.Needless to say,it was too much for us to bear.The protagonists were Raju and Sonali ."Raju...Sonali...Raju...Sonali...Raju....... Sonali...Raju...." accompanied by an uncommonly cheerful narrator "Wahan Sonali tadap rahi thi...toh yahan Raju"..." Mujhe galat mat samajhna Raju. Main abhi yeh sagai ki angoothi utaar ke Ravi ke munh pe fenkti hun"...."Sonali agar Raju ki na ho saki toh kisi ki nahi hogi"...."Aur Sonali ke Mummy Papa ne usse ghar pe kaid kar ke rakha..jaise ki par kata panchchi"..."Usnein apni bed ki chaadar balcony se girai aur utar kar bhaag chali apne Raju se milne"...."Sonali bed pe padi thi, uski nasein kati hui thi, aur uska khoon katra katara kar ke beh raha tha"..."Ab toh bas Raju hi ise bacha sakta hai"..."Sonali..Raju...Sonali...Raju...Sonali...Raju.."... and so it ended with Ravi becoming the best friend of the couple and the rest of the family showering their blessings upon the happy twosome.Punctuated by several crappy songs and other priceless gems of dialogues, the audio movie made an excellent travelling companion.... we were left breathless with laughter by the end of it... As it happened, we were accompanied by our very own "Raju"..Rajiv Batra of Fash-P fame, who actually started responding to the name Raju by the end of it.

Priceless times, priceless experiences... a treasure trove of memories... accompanied by a horn , a song and a movie... drenched in the dew drops of rain....

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