The 16 hour roller coaster ride.
It was time. No threatening work looming over my head, an increasing pile of messy junk cluttering my room, and an artificially extended weekend for me to cool off. It was time to tip my hat off to Bangalore for a while and pop by the ol’ ancestral abode back down south in Cochin.
Of course, I am using the term ‘ancestral’ rather loosely. I guess the proper use of the term implies an age old structure that had sheltered the clan for generations. Such a structure does not exist in my case. My parents live in a modern creation that my dad built with his own bare hands; hands which he basically used to guide the construction workers.
But with your permission, which I shall take for granted, I shall proceed to continue with this slight lexical deception. It was time to login to the ancestral abode and enjoy a bit of smothering care. As with most things in my life, including my decision to do an MBA, this was also an impulsive decision. But experienced commuters would readily testify that this is not the healthiest option you could hope for.
A trip from Bangalore to Cochin is usually the culmination of months of planning. If the desired date of journey happens to be a Friday, which is so often the case, train tickets get sold out at least a month in advance. Even bus tickets are sold out around a week in advance. And here I was, dreaming of a Friday ticket as late as Thursday. Which meant I was looking at the prospect of traveling in a ‘special bus’.
There is a special kind of dread that clutches the mind of a person holding a ‘special bus’ ticket. A ‘special bus’, in this context, refers to an overpriced wheelbarrow with 72 terrified passengers pondering over the merits of suicide. And I had the dubious distinction of holding the LAST seat available for the LAST bus out to Cochin. Just getting aboard the contraption should entitle me to a daredevil status.
When I reached the point of departure, my heart sank, not that it was floating about merrily before that.
“Excuse me, sir. Is that a bus?”
“Huh? You mean… is that the bus to Cochin… right?”
“No. First things first. Is that A bus?”
“?? Errr… yeah.”
“Ok. Now… Is that the ‘special bus’ to Cochin?”
“Yup. That’s it alright. We’ll start boarding in a few minutes.”
“Ok. Thank you. Call me when that starts. I’ll be over there. I need to bang my head on that tree stump a few thousand times.”
The bus in question was not yet complete in the truest sense of the word. As I was looking on, a guy in dirty khaki trousers was fitting headlights on the vehicle. Parts of it had not been painted yet, and there was a complete absence of the customary number plate usually used to identify the vehicle. I presume it was out drying somewhere.
There was a driver on board, who was doing his bit in the form of turning the key and banging the dashboard with what appeared to be a set of books. I had the stark suspicion that this guy was not professional by nature. What clued me in was that he was sounding the horn on a frequent basis although the bus was stationary and there was nothing in its way. Also, he was shirtless. The dashboard mercifully hid the rest of him, so I can only assume – and pray – that he was at least half-clothed.
It finally gurgled itself to life, much to the amazement of onlookers, some of whom were taking snapshots of the old relic. And as predicted, I found that I had just about the worst seat on board. As I prepared for the eleven hour journey, I found myself praying.
To say the ride was a bumpy one was like saying the Pacific Ocean was slightly moist. I learned the basics of low altitude somersaults that night. The bus seemed like it had been assigned the task of finding all the bumps from Bangalore to Cochin. If that was the case, it did a pretty good job. And every time it went over a bump, I flew through the air with the greatest of ease. As with most flights, the real trouble was the landing. It takes particular skill in landing back on your seat without hurting your back. A couple of times, I fell right smack on the armrest. Do NOT try that at home.
When the going gets tough, the tough gets roughed up. To top it all, the whole journey extended to 16 hours.
And yet, here I am, tapping away on my laptop. BACK in Bangalore, and with an X-ray showing ‘no permanent injuries’. A second leash on life. A new day, a new start. Woo hoo! Time to CELEBRATE! What do I do? WHAT do I do? What do I do? Hmm… Maybe I can visit Cochin tomorrow.