It was a crazy morning. Crazy because I was already running late, really late, to work and I needed to be in by 10:00 AM or be part of an embarrassing email sent to every employee about the late-comings and early-goings of everyone in the company. Plus I’d also have to deal with an ass of a manager who’d harangue me about being late and not getting stuff done. The problem with staying far off and traveling by BMTC buses has always been about having to leave at a particular time and not being able to afford missing a bus!
I saw the bus, it was a good 100m behind me as I made my way to the bus stop. Phew! But the problem was, I had to go another good 100m to be able to make it to the bus. I waved, hoping the driver might be kind enough to stop for me. I saw him look at me. The expression changed, from absolute indifference to absolute sadistic indifference. The bus revved up and picked up speed as it tried to ensure that there was no chance I’d ever get to it. I hesitated just a moment before I knew what I had to do. I ran! I ran as fast as I could. The bus came to a halt and it was close to 80m in front of me and I knew the driver was waiting to step on the pedal and fly away leaving me panting at the stop waiting for the next bus which usually turns up like 15 minutes later, but gets me to work like 30 mins later! I was desperate to the point of forgetting that I cannot run more than 50m without feeling dizzy.
The bus strangely did not head off. In fact I was surprised to notice that it stood there waiting, without anyone yet to get in or get off. I managed to reach it, puffing and panting all the way and on entering, it promptly sped away. Turned out that the conductor, God bless his soul, had seen me running and held it for me, while the driver honked away disappointed and seething over a missed opportunity at ruining someone’s day. As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Anyway, I managed to smile over my desperate attempts to draw in oxygen inside a BMTC bus and thanked God that there was still some good left in the world (and agreed that we still got rain only because of such people).
I entered. I assessed the seating situation. I desperately needed to sit down. The bus was reasonably empty, at least by Bangalore standards, and everyone was seated. I saw an empty seat midway through the bus and settled down there. I had to share it with a wizened old man, who peered at me scared, as if I was about to drop dead the next moment. Not paying him much attention I settled down. It was a good hour’s journey to my destination and I promptly fell asleep
A few stops later, I was woken up by my co-passenger as he stepped out, and I moved over to the window seat. Might as well sleep in peace there. The bus had started filling up and there were quite a few standing now. The wizened old man was replaced by an elderly village woman, who gave me a glare as she sat down, kind of letting me know that I was responsible for everything that was wrong with her life.
I looked around. Almost everyone was looking at me. Weird! The last time it happened was when I wore a red t-shirt over a red pant and went around DVG road on a Saturday evening. I could just feel the eyes of the world on me. Since then, I have been more color conscious and learnt that matching colors usually do not mean the same color. Well, coming back to the topic, I got stared at by everyone in the bus. It was mostly the female part of the bus that seemed to be looking at me, and I couldn’t see much of their male counterparts. I had outgrown any delusions of grandeur by then to understand that when people start noticing me too much, something’s usually wrong!
I did a spot check. Underwear, check. Pants, check. Fly up, check. Belt, check. Pant still on, check. No tears at ungodly places, check. Shirt on, check. Buttoned up, check. Bag on me, check. No one stole anything from it, check. Hair combed and still there, wait! Well I had just had a haircut a few days back, so no combing, but the hair was still there, still
a few years a few decades to go before I lose it all. What was it then?! There was nothing alarming in my appearance.
And I remembered. I had been working out the past few weeks lately, plus I had grown a tiny stubble. Could it just be that I was coming into my own?! I looked around, the stares were still as intense as before. More people had been added to the stare now. Throughout my life I had been the drifter, letting life take me where it wanted me to. No more of it! I had to seize the day! I looked around, gave a million rupee smile and looked back out of the window, before I returned to assess the effects, err…damage of the smile. The stares were now clearly gone and replaced by glares. Now I was responsible for everything that was wrong in a busload of women’s lives! I cowered and firmly set my eyes outside the window.
I was getting close to my stop now. Phew..what a ride it had been! I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked around. It was a middle aged man. His face was wrinkled and there was a touch of grey hair at just the right spots. His hair was clearly dyed black with cheap dye. The mustache, however, redefined handle-bars. It was more like Arjuna’s Gandeeva from B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharath. The checked shirt was an effacing grey, but the Khaki colored pants and well shined black boots were a dead give-away. Any doubts I had about this man’s profession were cleared by his imposing paunch. I looked at him, wondering what next and he pointed me to just above the window of my seat. I looked up slowly, realization having already sunk in. A stenciled woman smiled. The wizened old man stood wisely smiling next to him.