I leaned precariously on the red coarsely plastered length of wall that made up the front perimeter of the bus stop. A bespectacled man nudges his elbow into my upper torso as he turns the crumpled pages of his evening newspaper. I ignore him and look around me. People around me are engrossed in various activities; like my neighbour here - who is staring open mouthed at today’s Mid-day mate. Or the giggling girls on the pavement behind me chirping about some song they like on the radio as they band their heads together and share a pair of earphones. The middle aged lady in a green sari is juggling linen bags from one hand to another as her shoulders sway till she decides to balance them on her chappals. A line of rickshaws wait patiently and the rickshaw-wallahs peer out at the crowd with a strange longing, trying to make eye contact. I too stand there patiently but my mood quickly turns belligerent as beads of sweat appear on my brow. This is the time of year-sometime around mid-February, when Bombay's pleasant weather dissolves into its usual hot and sultry experience. Oh well that’s life at a bus stop: far more relaxed than a railway station but then again the bus is a far more relaxed medium on the whole.
[Read Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport]
Red, rectangular, robust, Leyland, clad in iron and steel and adorned with advertisements peddling some form of life insurance, the bus arrives. I clamber on steadily and before the dust is allowed to settle a bell tinkles and with a jerk we are off. It is hard to balance a bag on your left shoulder, hold on for you life with your right and maneuver the three rupees and fifty paisa required out of your right trouser pocket. But then again with years of practice things become easier.
"Petit school”, I said as I dealt him the money
“Ambedkar road”, the conductor interjected tearing a light green paper ticket.
“Petit school”, I shouted back at him, this time with a frown.
“Ambedkar road”, he shouts back with equal gusto.
“Bus ka Petit School jana bandh ho gaya,” the lady sitting to the left of me adds as the conductor walks past me with a grunt. [hindi : the bus has stopped going to Petit School]
A few minutes later the journey ends just as it had started with a tinkle of the bell but not quite with the jerk. It is time to walk up that darn hill.