There is a lot being said, unsaid, condemned about the bus ride which India’s daughter took on that dreadful december night in Delhi….I wonder after that has it really stopped ladies, young girls taking the last bus home from work? Is Delhi really that unsafe… I often wonder. Are all bus drivers unreliable and scary at night? I differ, I had some great memories…
When I lived in that part of the capital I took public buses, cycle rickshaws regularly .. without any fear or hesitation…I use to work late and travel alone …I wonder if it’s the same now ?
I use to take the 12/22 bus from Noida to Nehru place and then another bus to Najafgarh (the same dreadful route which shook the nation) to reach the publishing house where I use to design magazines…. It was a long commute but never tiring…. The bus helper was always a different guy, the driver also a different person, everyday but the bus was the same…same old damp, soiled so-called luxury seats which would have sparkled someday and that was evident if you would pass your fingers through the velvet fold…there somewhere you would still find the shiny new color hiding away from the world of sweat and grime. You are greeted with the same Bollywood songs everyday every route in a loop, Dhadkan being the favorite album… I knew the score by heart and still if I hear it somewhere it conjures up my bus memories.
Now these were the buses where I made friends with Radio Jockey doing part-time accounting in an ad agency, these were the buses where I got my best shots…I use to often carry my SLR Camera loaded with a black and white film role … yes it was that time when there were no digital cameras and no metros. These were the buses where I always use to look forward to see those pretty Kashmiri girls chatting and talking about the latest fashion in Lajpat Nagar and watch Snoopy Aunty nibble peanuts ( I did know her name but she wore these colorful “Snoopy” T-shirts signed peanuts!). I made friends for a week, a month then never saw them but it was always something to look forward to.
The bus conductors had a fancy way of holding the ten rupee notes all single folded in a fan shape and it always use to puzzle me that they went round with this fancy fan of notes and yet use to complain about change….and this reminds me of an instance where I was arguing with the conductor for change and he refused to give me a ticket…suddenly we have this “he think so that he is good-looking” guy with dark glasses often found on elders after a cataract operation, jumping into the scene and trying to help the damsel in distress….He offered the conductor money and asked to pay for me….I was already fuming and when this ‘Dashing Debonair’ arrived I completely lost it…I yelled at him and asked him would he mind buying tickets for the old man in front seat who was trying to count his last pennies to match the bus fare rather me. He immediately got embarrassed and bought two …Well I thanked him after his virtuous act and smiled at the old man who in return had blessings in his eyes. I have had many such stories each day I did not know what would come my way, but when I think back its always a smile.
The bus I took from Nehru Place to Najafgarh was interesting…it was a mini van where more the merrier was the business plan. Now I had a fan in one of the bus helpers…he use to wait everyday for me to get into the bus and would leave a good clean spot for me…each time I entered he would give me one of his best smiles laced with tobacco. After good 3 months he mustered enough courage to chat me up…. and soon he started lobbying himself as the most eligible bachelor with a good bus business and loads of farmland in Sonipat. Everyday my motive was to get that sweet clean spot and I did not mind his harmless chatter as far as I reached safe and sound till my publishing house. A year later I left my job and so did the route.
I have had some amazing memories of these bus rides with a couple of hiccups where I literally kicked a drunkard out of a bus en route to Gaziabad (not so safe at nights…actually never so safe) and when I had to climb out of the bus window as my greedy bus contractor was busy loading the bus on each stop and just forgot to drop them as a result we all were bursting out of the bus literally. Apart from these minor instances I never felt unsafe or feared walking alone at night…was that a different era , were people different or their circumstance different… probably it just never happened with me.
When I think back all I can say is thank god I was safe!
I wonder do people still have memorable stories of bus ride in Delhi or after the horrid incident its a lull in the bus business…