Today, I happened to travel by one of the Delhi-Bareilly ‘shatabdi’ buses started by you; plying on a stretch that lies in the north India. The night-journey was undertaken because the day was packed with work. This post intends to hand-hold you through the experience of the ‘facility’.
Sharp at 11:30 pm, the bus started from Kaushambi; as per its schedule. Brownie point you have there; savour it.
Just as the bus wheeled out from Ghaziabad, I being exhausted from the day’s work, drifted off to sleep. So did Retrospective Procrastinator, my fellow-traveller.
Seemingly just 10 minutes into the sleep (in reality, 40 minutes from the time it started), the bus was maneuvered into a well-lit, buzzing compound, and came to an abrupt halt.
“Mid-way break for half an hour”, announced the conductor.
(Yes, barely 40 minutes of a-5-hour journey, we needed a mid-way break. )
Fighting off my sleepiness, punctiliously I got up and went to the washroom, strolled around a bit and came and sat into the bus when the break got over.
Once again, the journey resumed. I tried going back to sleep for the second time. Low lights, AC at uncomfortably full-blast, seats reclined to max, I hoped to sleep well for next 4 hours.
Another three minutes into the process, the air started to stink of sweat+mustard oil.
My head reeled.
Horrified, I opened my eyes to see the gentleman ahead lying in my lap. Well, not literally. Trying to ignore the smell by turning my head landed my nose in the neighbour’s stinky armpit. Not his fault; that his how he was sleeping; with this arm over his head.
Helplessly, I turned my face away from my neighbour, facing the aisle. Trying to keep my head firmly in place and stoically fighting off the effects of poor suspension system of the bus, I wanted to JUST sleep.
Another 5 minutes into the snoozeland, and someone poked their fingers into my eyes. By mistake, of course. This was from the bloke seated right behind me. Poor soul was frantically trying to draw my attention to himself for some reason.
I poped my head out in the aisle to assess his problem. Turns out, his humble request was that I take my backrest a little up. (This request was, by the way, made while still being stuck where he was, and not leaning in to speak, like people normally do).
Me: “Take my seat where?!!”
He:”Forward; I have got stuck. My knees can’t move”.
Me: “Ohh! Ok.”
I tried to do as requested, and failed, because MY OWN knees were stuck in the same way against Mr. Mustard Oil’s seat. I tapped his
oil-field head and requested him to move the backrest forward, and the chain followed, until it reached a gentleman who, before pulling his backrest up, deemed it necessary to stand up and survey what the fuss was all about.
Helplessly, we all stared at this MBA-looking-guy, in absolute urgency of an upset tummy-needing-a-restroom. Somewhere in the whole ordeal, I forgot that I am a lady, travelling in the land of Uttar Pradesh. So the menfolk, by default are right, and it is their absolute responsibility to tell any and every woman ‘to adjust’ which, he dutifully did.
Calmly, I asked him if he expected me to keep my leg over my head for the rest of the journey. A chuckle followed from all around and in one swoosh, his backrest went up (and ego, down) relieving the entire neighborhood in a cascading effect.
All of us reclined our seats barely now, but after some time, violating the unspoken code-of-being-
stuck a good fellow passenger, Mr. Mustard Oil sneakily sprawled fully in my lap.
So there I was, my backrest barely reclined,
my boobs helicoptering over Mr.Mustard Oil’s face Mr. Mustard Oil’s head in my lap, (like my imaginary boyfriend’s would have, had we been picnicking in Lodhi Garden). I had to make some serious effort to make sure my face didn’t, even by mistake, hover over his head.
I drifted off to sleep once again, clinging to my almost-erect seat like a lizard. The idea was to not die of excruciating backpain.
Some hours passed, and I got up once again, to this scene all around:
Pitch dark; both inside and outside. Zero traffic. The bus was stopped on the wrong side of the road, for some reason.
What reason? I have done many night-journeys in India, but this experience was something new.
I peeped out of the window to see six men, standing gloriously on the divider, along the length of the bus (right under our windows), peeing. Two bums in the distant horizon shone from some other vehicular light occasionally (ladies, I am assuming).
Partly horrified, and partly unable to fathom out the Pee-Wee-See fest, I turned to my neighbour.
Me: “What is this?”
Me: huh! Here?
Neighbor: “where else?”
Obviously. Why did I even bother asking?
UPSRTC, I don’t think that you realize that on the Delhi -Bareilly stretch, the last decent dhaaba happens before Moradabad, so this was inevitable. The mid-way break happened almost during the start of the journey. Where else do you think all the water will go?
In fact, I can relate to the problem totally. I and Retrospective Procrastinator back-calculated the whole ordeal, and refrained from having chai, coffee and water right since we started the journey, suppressing the gut-dissolving acidity with doses of pudin haraa.
I agree that UP is the state with highest population, but does that mean that the entire of it has to be crammed in one single bus? Of the forty seats, how difficult is it to eliminate a row to ease everyone’s misery?
How about a rationally located mid-way break? With facilities of clean loo, especially for women who don’t want their bums to be shining from behind the bushes?
How about bus conductors who don’t think you are hitchhiking in THEIR private vehicle?
Is it too much to ask?
Stuffing Of A Club Sandwich
P.S. Though unrelated, but now that you are listening, how about getting a few ATMs installed at Kaushambi?
P.P.S: The playlist has got updated multiple times over since “tuu nikla chhupa rustam” “ataria pe lotan kabootar” “bharo, maang meri bharo”, you know?