Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wayside Views...

The bus circled round the bus station and came to a halt. Those who had arrived at their destination , scurried to the exit and the rest who had still a long way to go settled into their seats. Some moved onto better seats, a few were dozing, and the others seemed to be preoccupied.

Bhadra looked at her watch. An hour or more to go to reach her destination. She absentmindedly observed the faces of the alighting passengers. Some seemed relieved at having reached their stop, a few looked excited with feverish anticipation- or so she imagined, while others were looking tired and travel weary - the rest looked plain indifferent- their faces were frozen masks with no emotion on their countenance.

The driver jumped down from his perch to the outside. The conductor stayed back at the door, wiping the sweat of his brow with a shabby towel. He wore a harried expression as he rattled away the names of the places the bus would be stopping at. New passengers scrambled into the bus in a hurry- eager to get hold of the better seats- even though half the bus was empty and there was still time for the bus to leave. The instinct to race ahead of others was inborn, Bhadra mused.

A young girl – probably a college student trudged heaving two seemingly heavy bags to the door of the bus. She clarified a doubt with the conductor and wearily climbed in. The conductor looked visibly annoyed and was muttering under his breath. Bhadra guessed that the girl must have enquired about her student’s concession.
“you’ll have to vacate your seat when more people get in"- he reminded the girl curtly. She nodded assent.
Bhadra deduced that the girl must be on her way home from some college hostel.

A familiar stench wafted into Bhadra’s nostrils and she wrinkled her nose in reflex. Her eyes wandered outside and she saw the source of the smell. She hurriedly looked away, and her gaze fell on some movie posters on the adjacent wall. It occurred to her that it had been ages that she had watched a movie in a theatre.

Bhadra noticed a boy who loked about 10-11 years old getting into the bus. He was balancing a huge open box containing an assortment of pens, hanging precariously from his shoulders. In his left hand he held a handful of pens and she watched with curiosity as he beseeched the passengers to buy his pens, all the while enumerating the superior qualities of his wares. She sensed a despair in his voice . Nobody paid any attention to him. Bhadra gestured to the boy to come closer. The boy came to her eagerly. She bought four pens without attempting to bargain. The sparkle in the boy’s eyes warmed her spirits. She wondered for a moment if the pens would write and then decided that it did not matter if they didn’t.

Suddenly Bhadra was distracted by a commotion outside. A group of unruly boys were harassing a woman. Her clothes were dirty and in disarray, her hair was unkempt. It was obvious that the woman was mentally unstable. She was crying piteously as she clutched a tattered pouch to her bosom. Fear reflected in her eyes as she tried to escape the assault of the boys who were shouting abuses and chasing her. Bhadra was dismayed at the cruelty of the children. Unexpectedly the woman fell down and the pouch was snatched by one of the urchins. A piercing wail rose from the woman and Bhadra shuddered. The people waiting for buses watched the spectacle stoically…

At that moment Bhadra realised that the bus had begun to move. She glanced back for the last time- the children were pulling out the contents of the pouch on to the ground, the woman was still crying out…the people were still watching….Bhadra sat back into her seat shutting her eyes tight - the women’s wail resonated in her ears…and she was aware of a teardrop coursing down her cheek…

6 comments:

Shpriya said...

Ardra - touching, indeed. I am reminded of the movie "Anjali" in which the children tie up a chain of empty cans on Anjali's leg and have fun :(

SeaSwallowMe said...

nice one, ardra. lots of descriptive detail.

those children hassling the woman at the bus-stop: almost like a pack of yelping dogs, right ?

Vivek said...

wistful... and nicely captured

El enigma said...

very nice, Ardra.....how many such wayside views are we a mute spectator to back home.....I myself remember quite a few of them....so many times, we want to make a difference, to help people out.....but very rarely we do so....mostly, just join the charade of those other heartless spectators and do nothing at all...

enig

aria said...

Riveting ..
Reminded me - of some my very own bus rides - esp the ones I took for about a year when I was in college n my dad was alotted a house - briefly at the outskirts of the city.

bharath said...

Her eyes wandered outside and she saw the source of the smell. She hurriedly looked away, and her gaze fell on some movie posters on the adjacent wall. It occurred to her that it had been ages that she had watched a movie in a theatre.

You didn't describe the source of the stench, but instead quickly scampered onto movies and how Bhadra realises she hadn't seen them in a while. Thought was an interesting technique employed here - to bring up a subject as if its important, only to move onto something else as if it was no more significant than the mention it deserved. :-)

so to the blog .... very nice read! :-) I think children are naturally playful. they know not what they are doing. Didn't Jesus supposed to have said something like this on the cross :) but seriously who cares?

-davdetg (word verifier)