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A Tryst With a Bus Stand

A Tryst With a Bus Stand

two brothers having tea and egg-puffs whicle standing near a bus stop observing the buses and the travellers

Life is so complicated yet so beautiful! Many a times doing simple and mundane things can be a booster of joy and refresh us from the hustles and bustles of life. Here is an amazing story of two brothers and their way of rejuvenating themselves……

By Joy (Sirshendu)     |     Illustration by Sid Ghosh

Did you ever have the privilege of going to the bus stand of your own city, book a room at a hotel nearby with no intention of going anywhere but just to enjoy a night’s stay for the pleasure of watching buses and travellers? This might seem like a complete crackpot idea, a waste of time and money, but I would whole heartedly recommend it as a supremely delightful experience.

It was my brother’s idea – a person whose love for buses far exceeds any romance ever written about!

Having lived with him all these years, my wife and I have come to believe that allowing our practical sides to be overridden by his quirky ideas generally lead  to truly wonderful moments of joy. My wife however is still sane and this particular idea was reserved for when she had to travel for work and we had a couple of unsupervised days to ourselves.

There was not much planning involved. It was a weekday; he and I returned from our work, packed our bags, took an auto to the bus stand and checked into a hotel just opposite to the bus stand. The hotel was a dilapidated shabby place under renovation but we were very lucky to get a room with a large window just overlooking the bus stand.

We just dropped our bags and headed out – there was some serious aimless loitering to be done. Weaving through the somewhat scary chaos of buses vying to get out, crowds of rushing people, autos and taxis we finally reached the bus platforms. We spent some time walking around reading the names of the destinations on the platform boards. Then while devouring egg puffs and cups of tea, we settled down on a bench and watched buses arrive and leave.

At that hour, around 7:30pm in the evening, the place was crowded with daily commuters to the city anxiously waiting for a bus to take them back to their homes after a long day’s work. We watched in awe the fearsome rush to get seats as a long awaited bus rolls in and afterwards the satisfied smiles of the lucky ones looking out from the bus windows- bus after bus went by and then slowly the tempo slowed down as we passed over the peak commute hour. In about an hour it would be time for the long distance overnight buses.Like an interval in a movie or the lunch break between two innings it was a good time to head for dinner.

We found a typical bus-standish restaurant already crowded with people with backpacks and trolleys grabbing their dinners before an overnight journey. We found a place in a corner and with a little difficulty got the attention of the waiter. After ordering our Masala Dosas and coffee we just sat and looked around. We had done these scores of times in our travels but then that was with a different sense of excitement – looking forward to the pleasure of travel, watching the time as my brother takes a little longer time to eat and yes, on the back of my mind the mental accounts, operations and security departments are always at work. But not that day. We could sit back and watch others and my brother could take as much time to relish his Masala Dosa. After dinner it was time for a meetha paan and I don’t know if it was indeed one of the best meetha paan’s ever prepared in the history of mankind or just our state of minds that I so deeply remember the sheer bliss of magical mix of flavours as I took the first bite.

But this was no time for dilly-dallying, time for second innings. A stream of long distance buses had already started to roll out as we walked back to the bus stand. The variety of buses – from the grand multi-axle Volvos, sleepers, luxury coaches and the ordinary buses lined the bays. People were milling around. Drivers and conductors stood outside the buses, the usual crowd near the enquiry desks, luggage of all kinds from backpacks, trolleys to simple bazaar bags and cloth bundles, passengers rushing out of the buses for a last minute water bottle, biscuits, bananas and chips to be enjoyed as midnight snack perhaps. All so so delightful!

After that it was time to get a grand stand view and we headed back to our hotel room. The hotel appeared to have seen better days, had probably been allowed to decay and mould and now someone was trying to restore the past glory. The foyer and reception had an old world 80s 90s charm. As we walked up to our first floor room at the end of the corridor through piles of sand and cement and half finished brick walls, we could see the open central area below which was like a hall where a group of middle aged women, probably part of a marriage party, were practising some group dance to the tunes of a Hindi film song.

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Reaching our room we opened the curtains of the full length window overlooking the bus stand. We switched off the room lights so that we did not see our own reflection on the glass and settled down on the two chairs so conveniently placed right beside the window. And below us was a festival of lights.

Buses,unlike people, don’t mind being stared at and the next couple of hours we did just that. Bus after bus backed out of their bays and turning gracefully with their great bulk eased out of the stand and on towards their destinations. You can almost sense their restrained power and their impatience to unleash their speed out on the free highways. As I watched, it also struck me that this grand spectacle with its inexplicable order and predictability in the midst of the chaotic Brownian movement of humanity was taking place every day. After a while as the peak hour of departure passed, the traffic started to dwindle and the place took on a desolate look. It was time to sleep.

I woke up again at dawn. My brother was still sleeping. The bus stand was practically empty and there was no one to be seen. I sat by the window for a while feeling the quiet peacefulness of the early hour. Soon in ones and twos the early morning arrivals started. In about an hour the place was again a buzz of activity with the start of the early morning departures.

My brother woke up a little late. It was still a weekday and we had to go back to work. After we got ready we had just enough time to grab a breakfast of idlys at a small shop, visit a small temple beside it and after a last look at the bus stand take an auto and head to office.

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