Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stories take work - sometimes they take two autos, two buses and a car ride.


Things don't just happen. I don't wake up in the morning and go off and something fun happens. Most of my days are pretty planned - even the ones that turn out to be fun. All in all most of what I have done in India has been very deliberate.

I had to take a train back from one of my trekking trips. It was four hours away from Bangalore. I was alone and when I reached the station I was told the train was cancelled. I asked the station incharge how to find a bus and he told me that I'd have to get to a town five kilometers away. I whipped out my phone and wrote down the name. It sounded really foreign. The way to get to that town was via shared autos - where you pay per seat.

I sat in a shared auto. One that had me alongside a group of interesting people. A woman - who folded her legs on the seat making room for a huge bundle of veggies and made herself really comfortable for the ride. A teenager in school uniform looking really depressed at having to wear school clothes on a Sunday. An old man with tobacoo stained teeth who shared the seat with the driver and talked non stop all the way. A middle aged man with a really strict face that kept sneaking shifty glances at everyone else in the auto. I really wanted someone to climb in with a goat, that would complete the picture of me backpacking through a small Indian town. The 5K trip  on this shared auto cost me Rs 5 (10cents).  It took that little to leave me with so many images and so many stories in my head.

The auto dropped me at the town's bus station. I walked around and bought two guavas for 20 cents from a guy I could not understand. Fingers and pointing helped. With fruit in hand I walked around looking for an air conditioned bus. The trip was going to be four hours long and I wanted something comfortable. It was a busy bus station but I soon realized that there were no AC buses so I got onto what is known as a local bus - with a hard wooden bench for a seat and open windows. Experienced, I placed my backpack on the seat next to me deciding to remove it only when the seat was needed. The Indian me had the whole bench to myself. I was pleased.

The bus stopped in towns I had never heard of. I ate boiled peanuts and South Indian fried fritters I had not seen before. I amused a tiny two year old that sat in the seat in front of me. I even sneaked a nap despite the hard seat and dusty wind blowing onto my face. I did cling onto my backpack as I slept but I slept.

As we approached Bangalore I pulled out my handy dandy phone with Google maps to find out that we were travling parallel to my house. Some five miles parallel but parallel enough. The bus conductor did not understand me but soon realized that I wanted to know how to get to Whitefield. Then it happened - something I have seen happen a lot in India (in a very positive way.) My business became everyone's business. Many conversed and then one man - who seemed to be the best in English and Hindi - walked over to me and told me the bus stop I should get off at. A college student was getting off at that stop and he was placed on the seat behind me to ensure I got off at the right stop. I was told what bus to take from there to cross town.

At the silk route bus stop I was seen off. The young man, whose name I never asked, walked me over two busy roads and saw me onto my bus. We did not talk but he seemed very pleased at having done a good deed for the day.

I had travelled 175km in five hours in under $10. Two autorides, two bus rides and a car ride later I was home. It would have been really easy to hire a AC chauffered car for less than a $100. I had had the money on me. I would have been home in three hours and would have had some good sleep along the way. But then I would not have a story. Stories take work.

5 comments:

  1. Such a nice experience that sounds like Mallika.. and very well captured too! Where is this you were trekking at?

    Been reading your last few posts, but always late in the night and too sleepy to comment then - sorry about that! Was very interesting to read about the Siri experience :)

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  2. Mallika!Thanks for writing.Your blog is like an interesting book.Each day a new story new thoughts and new smiles:)

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  3. Neat! Reminds me of childhood days when we would ride around the countryside in rundown buses - hitching rides in Shillong!
    Wonderfully written - thanks!

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  4. Thanks for the comments - always nice to know someone read it and enjoyed it :)

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