I miss my bus rides. Now that my work in my city has increased, I cannot find the time to go to Yavatmal every month. I had a monthly Neuro-clinic there. Every month on the third Saturday, I would travel by bus from Nagpur to Yavatmal. That’s a three and half hour journey. I chose to travel by bus, as we had had an accident while on a road trip in our Scorpio (June 2012). That’s another story, though. But that road accident was enough to make me choose the government bus service for my monthly visits.
I miss that bus journey. It was special.
After ages, I found myself on the ST stand! For the first two trips I was naive. I allowed the crowd to get the better of me. I missed buses as I could not catch a seat. So, I had to relearn and master getting into the bus using skills of dropping a scarf or a dupatta on the seat through the window as soon as the bus arrived at the ST stand! Once the seat was secured, I found myself surrounded by unknown people. I got locked in that area of a single seat, which was ‘my’ seat for those 3 – 4hours. Since it was a regular ‘yeshtee’, there would be chaos as people struggled to get in at all costs. I liked the anonymity that such a crowd provided.
While the bus waited for the driver to arrive, some typical ST-stand-marketing people entered the bus and announced the existence of newly written self help books for the regular rural-urban commuters: books on essays, of short stories, books on sexual disorders, on marital discords, books about children and their upbringing, kid’s songs, books on alternative health remedies, about the impending ‘arrival of jesus’, other religious texts and whatever you may want. The whole world was up for sale in small fragments.
In a while the conductor boarded the bus. The driver climbed in from his separate door. The ‘ting ting’ announced that the bus was about to start. There would be a lot of commotion, people getting their tickets, arguments over change, adjusting their luggage and themselves. The bus, like a single animal, negotiated the city traffic with all the honking, and sometimes swearing. The city limits crossed, the chaos of a while ago would simmer down. Everyone settled down in a personal and collective rhythm. Suddenly peace would somehow find its way into the bus. Fields and fields; trees and trees, winding roads, a silent rhythm of the breathing and the traffic. A solitary bus. All its members joined together in space and fate for the journey.
I then found myself in a solitude which is still otherwise so rare in my daily routine. The mandatory immobility suddenly wonderful! A forced but welcome state of meditation.
I would put on my music, in my own personal surround sound, welcoming the notes of all the singers performing for me and me alone. It is a trance state. Even now as I write about it I am transported to those moments of solitary musical concerts. Vasantrao Deshpande telling me ‘Mana-kavada ghan ghumato door dongaraat’ (far away in the mountains, a cloud who knows your mind, is wandering away). I look up in the sky to see if i can identify mine. Chitra Singh says to me ‘Dil hi to hai na sango-khisht, dard se bhar na aaye kyo?’ (It’s a heart after all, not a piece of stone! Why will it not be full of agony!) and I can identify with Jagjit Singh as he announces ‘Hazaaron khwaishe aisi, ki har khwaish pe dum nikale’. (Thousands of dreams and desires, each one asking for my complete surrender). I select songs to suit my moods and sometimes, I embrace the mood the singer portrays. I feel one with the voices and their emotions. I can feel the swerves in the lilting voice of Sunidhi as she swings from soft to violent. I feel the softness of Shubha Mudgal and the magic of Talat Mehmood. I feel goose bumps, listening to Farida Khanum’s rendition of ‘Aaj jaane ki jid naa karo’. In between some song, I doze off with the music, only to wake up to hear Ram Deshpande singing ‘Savare aijaiyo,nadiyaa kinare mora gaon’. It’s a surreal feeling, listening to the music in the absolute solitude amidst the chaos. It puts one in a trance. A meditative state.
By the time we reached Wardha, half the journey was done. I felt partly cleansed up inside, with all the music. I got down and strolled around amidst the strangers of this ST stand. After 15-20 minutes the bus was on its way again. Everyone quiet by now, even with my earphones off, there was a still silence, except for the constant, almost soothing sound of the bus engine. I saw, like a mute spectator, the trees along the roadsides, going by, each one in its own pose, trying to say something, each one a message. Fields and farms, with people and animals going about their work.
The bus swerved and turned along the highway. My mind took other turns – in thoughts. It wandered over past episodes, stopping over on hurts and pains. It waited over moments of agonies. It is surprising that we go over the negatives when given a chance. They come up to haunt us. That is what ghosts are – things from the past which hurt us then, which come back sometimes to bring back the pain, just as if it had happened yesterday. All the drama taking place on the stage of our mind. The scenes painted and repainted by our memory, which sometimes even plays tricks. My old wounds refreshed themselves on these journeys. Wounds, when I was hurt and when someone else was hurt because of me. I can still never understand which hurt is bigger. My mind decided to handle one thing at a time. It inspected and rationalised, brooded and philosophised. The irrationality, the injustice and the senselessness dawned on me. Sitting on my allotted seat I couldn’t run away from anything. I could see the road going by. Objects in front were swiftly thrown back by the bus hurtling away ahead. One wound at a time, the wounds began to heal. It took time for some, the ones which were deeper taking longer, taking up more journeys, more time. Especially the moment when I met my aunt for the last time. This one, a relentless ghost, got a lot of reruns, I saw it on almost each journey. I knew about it, knew this was the last time I was seeing her, but had nothing to say as my mind was so blank and drained. My memory snapshot showed me the same scene over and over again – looking at her, her smile, her difficult breathing, her speech coming out in strained words, the yellow shirt I was wearing, which she said was so pretty, lying in her ICU bed with tubes going in and out of her. All the things I should and could have said to her! These things, these endless combinations of unexpressed feelings remain in my fantasy world. Thus, I cope with it – bit by bit, a little bit more during each 3 hours bus ride. Coping, learning to forgive, learning to let go!
The actual bus-journey continued, despite my mental obstacle course. It had nothing to do with my inner twist, turns and dead-ends. The driver drove on and gradually I was immersed in a state of nothingness. Unable to run, unable to speak, unable to complain, I found calmness in the blankness of everything and the ever eluding peace seemed surprisingly very much in reach. By the time I neared my destination, I felt cleansed and fresh. My mind got busy in making new plans and projects with a new found positivity. And I eagerly waited to reach, finding the last 5 minutes the longest stretch of all!
I really miss these journeys.