She collected the medicines, checked them twice for the expiry date and put them in her bag. The doctor’s chamber lay between Kalighat and Hazra. No bus or auto would take someone directly to the place but a 10 minutes walk was required to the reach the chamber. Begrudgingly she had to walk 5 more minutes because the bus had crossed the Hazra crossing to stop at the other side of the road. This was done to avoid the red signal which was imminent any minute.
As she walked out of the building she was contemplating whether to walk all the way to the bus stop or wait at the nearest signal to haul a bus. Making up her mind she walked to the bus stop. The sun was blazing and the people at the bus stop were standing in the shadows to avoid getting scorched, waiting for the bus. There was one girl with a topography sheet hanging on her back. She thought back to the time when she was required to do topography sheets back at school and how she hated it and wanted it to be over with. She thought the girl standing must be a geography honors student as she didn’t look that young to be a school student. There were two other ladies and a man waiting. One man came up talking over the phone. He had a package tied up to his bicycle. He kept asking about the nearest landmark to the man over the phone.
When the bus came, she along with one other girl boarded the bus. Her eyes landed on an empty seat at the back of the bus, beside a small girl. The girl had her school uniform on and was sleeping. Her head lolled from side to side as the bus swerved. She looked to be 13 years old. The other girl who boarded the bus with her found a seat just behind her. One man sitting on the other side, concerned about the sleeping state of the girl gestured her to wake the girl up and ask her where she is headed for she had been sleeping for a long time. She tapped on her shoulders lightly and her eyes flew open searching for the person who disturbed her sleep. The man asked her gently.
“Where are you headed? You have been sleeping for a very long time. The stoppage might have passed while you were sleeping.”
She looked up at the man, scratched her head and few strands of hair came loose.
“Oh, it’s still a long way to go. You go off to sleep then without a worry.”
Almost immediately the girl was hunched back on her backpack using it as a headrest and was fast asleep.
The bus was getting crowded. This usually wasn’t the rush hour, but because of the college students piling into the bus, it suddenly looked cramped. Their classes were over and they were on their way to their homes or probably someplace else.
A group of colleges girls boarded the bus, chattering non-stop about their day, who wore what today and boys.
“Did you see her Instagram story?”, “Don’t you think it was unfair for Ratna ma’am to not hear me out?”, “Hey, check this meme out, it’s hilarious.”
They were so engrossed in their conversation that they didn’t realize the conductor tapping them on their shoulders for the bus fare. The conductor looked irritated. It was noon and he just wanted to do his duty and go back home for a nap and a hearty meal. The girls finally noticed the conductor much to his joy. They fiddled around their backpack for their purse and took out 10 rupee notes.
After every stop, the bus got even more cramped. She had the feeling that people weren’t even getting down but only boarding and if this goes on like this she might faint out of suffocation. She was claustrophobic of small cramped places. She avoided heavily crowded buses and metros, where you can see bodies sandwiched together.
She looked around her. People holding onto the bar above to maintain their balance and avoid falling onto each other, with a tired expression. No one looked to be worried about the swarms of people on the bus. There was this kid who was clutching the bag of the conductor and was refusing to let go. Everyone turned around to look at the kid. It was both funny and adorable. “Give me bag I be the conductor!” Everyone was laughing at his antics even the conductor himself.
One young man stood up and gave his seat to an elderly person. There are seats specially reserved for handicapped and senior citizens, and anyone occupying those seats would generally give it to the rightful occupant in his presence. But this young man wasn’t occupying one of those reserved seats. She thought it was very nice of him to give his seat to an old man.
She was upset that she could not get a window seat and had to pass her time watching people. It was not a bad thing, though. Entertaining even, but after a while it just got boring. She whipped out her phone and texted her friends. Suddenly the bus stopped and a murmur went down that the driver had broken a traffic rule and hence was to be interrogated by the police.
The driver and the conductor were called in. Several minutes passed by, it was hot and humid being in the middle of the summer season, the passengers were getting restless, a child was crying and few decided to abandon the said bus. She was one of them, tired and hungry, she had enough. Just as she was getting into an auto, the engine revved up and the bus zoomed by as she cursed herself for not waiting a bit longer.