Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Harrowing Bus Journeys

I have been in Hyderabad for four days now, and in one short evening, in the span of two hours, to be precise, gone around the entire city and its twin.

Last evening, after much seeking and searching, I boarded the bus home. It was my first time on that bus, on that route, and the only thing I knew when I got in was that it would take me at least forty-five minutes to get home. I fished my book out of my bag and started reading.

About half an hour later, I looked around to see if I could spot any familiar landmarks. Sure enough, a hoarding appeared, and I was glad to know I was on the right bus. (Yes, such doubts did assail me more than halfway through the journey- I am a born sceptic.) However, a little while later, I wasn't dropped off opposite the bank as I'd expected- the bus took a circuitous route, went through lanes and by-lanes (I never knew buses could fit into by-lanes); I almost pressed the panic button, but for the fact that I was rather sure nobody would want to hijack a busful of software engineers. I replaced my book in my handbag, and kept my eyes open. I asked the conductor thrice if I was on the right bus. A high-rise building rose from a sea of roofs, but just as I was beginning to think that I'd seen it in the morning, I realised with a sinking feeling that it wasn't the same one, after all. There were no familiar faces on the bus and that made things a little more difficult. Not that it is easy to recognise people after just two days at work, for when you see a face at office, before you can memorise it, it is lost in a crowd of other new faces.

The bus brushed past every major tourist attraction in Hyderabad- Golconda, Char Minar, Salar Jung Museum, the Planetarium, Birla Mandir- it was quite like being on one of those tourist buses that promise to show you everything but end up showing you nothing.

Despite all the misgivings and confusion, I did manage to get home in an hour- for I was on the right bus.

So, today, when I went looking for my bus in the evening, I felt more confident than I did yesterday. However, this is me we are talking about. Which is why the bus I boarded today was one that took a different route. It didn't take too long for my confidence to evaporate as the bus headed into Secunderabad after passing tantalisingly close to known roads and the Hussain Sagar Lake (I like looking at it, even though it is a poor replacement for the Bay of Bengal). Lost again. I, not the bus. The lanes and the by-lanes followed; I looked down contemplatively at the brown, muddy water swirling by the road where the bus stopped at a red light, wondering where I was going today, if I'd missed my stop- as a precaution (and because I was sleepy), I wasn't even reading. Through Secunderabad, past small railway stations, along impossible roads, the bus travelled. Roads that I didn't know seemed illusively familiar. I peered closely at the addresses mentioned on the boards of hardware shops, chicken shops, banks and pharmacies, for any indication of where I was. I was immensely relieved when I saw an 'H' after several nervous minutes spent reading the 'S' of Secunderabad. As the bus emptied and I wondered if I'd be the only one left on it, I saw a girl tuck her foot up on the seat. I'd normally call this despicable behaviour, but today, it only meant she wasn't getting off the bus soon, and I loved her for it.

Something has been going reasonably right, though, because I reached home safe and in one piece yet again.

Tomorrow is another day.

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