Monday, May 19, 2008

Waiting for the bus: back again

Part III

Getting of a bus is in many was as hard as it is to get on. The bus was only half full, so it was not going to be as hard as it could be. Through the scramble that followed, I lost track of the Girl and the Big Man. As soon as I set foot on the ground I started to look around for a return trip. There was a bus on the other side of the road that was going back towards the city. Crossing the road can be a particularly hazardous thing to do in most places. But here in India the risks are increased by a fair bit I won't go in the details now, But it involves a lot more than cars, bikes and other man made machines. So, dodging through the myriad of obstacles, I mad it to the bus that was just about to leave. As I neared the rear door it really did start to leave. Taking a few quick strides, and with a last heave, I managed to get on. Taking seat near the rear end of the bus, I waited for my stop. I guess this is a good time for me to introduce myself. My name is Aman Kumar, just another college first year trying to get through life. I'm not from Jaipur originally, though.
I still cant believe how I got myself into this mess. All I wanted was to get a model car for my friend, now it turns into a sort of a treasure hunt, with everyone cheating against me.
The Conductor called out my station, and I got up from my seat and pushed through to the door. Once of the the buss I crossed the street and turned into the lane where the shop was. Prem Collectors looked just like any other shop that you'll find on a by lane in India. Shabby at best, with no real limit to worst, these shops rarely have much to offer. Prem Collectors was an exception. For long Mr Prem and his sons have been known to offer rare and expensive, er... stuff. I can't tell you exactly what they sell, partly because I don't even know all that he sells. And partly because most of it is not exactly legal. For example, I didn't ask him where exactly he got the car model, though I doubt it was from a authorized dealers. Other things include antique jewelry, old books, stuff like that. The shops front window showed some coins, stamps, and cheap jewelry, none of it worth much. A sign on the door showed that the shop was open. Pushing open the door, I was suddenly in another world. The air had that distinct old smell, the walls were covered with shelves. And the shelves were full of all the old stuff you could imagine. There were tables displaying jewelry, coins, paintings, statues, the list goes on. Just think of anything that might be old, valuable, and Indian, Mr Prem probably has it.
"Ah! Kumar, I thought you would come back!" A loud voice called out from somewhere in the shop. Then from behind a stack of boxes stepped a plump elderly man, his face dominated by a large mustache. I was looking at the boxes though, they looked like they came from somewhere out of India. "Yes, they came in just now, from Pakistan." Said Mr Prem, reading my thoughts. "Really? What are they?" "Oh, just some old statues and stuff like that." Mr Prem deflected my question easily. "Oh, well, I left my car behind, is it still here?" Mr Prems, face became serious, "There was a man who came by just a little while ago, he offered a lot more than the price I asked of you." My heart sunk, I had tried so hard to get that model, and now it was gone. Seeing my dejected look, Mr Prem smiled said, "Don't look so sad, I didn't say I sold it!" I was so surprised, for a moment I just stared at him with for a moment. "That man didn't look very happy when I refused to sell it, come, I kept it over there on the counter." Mr Prem walked over to a counter piled high with documents, files, little pieces of paper scrawled all over. He pulled out a drawer, shuffled around for my car, then pulled out my white plastic bag, with my model Muira still safe in it's box. "Here it is" he said. I walked over and took the plastic bag from him, holding it as if it would disappear. "Thank you, I wasn't sure if I would see it again." Mr Prem smiled, "I knew you would come back. And by the way, why do you want it so much? I haven't seen many with such determination for a model car" "It's for a friend, a birthday gift." I smiled, and I knew I would not loose it again. It was a short walk back to the main road, across the street, and to the bus stand. Another bus ride, and I hope it will be the last of the day.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Waiting for the bus: The ride

Part II

Through the traffic I watched the bus. Trying to see how many people were in it. Now, I would have got on the bus even if I had to hang out the door, but it's always good to see what your in for. My bus seemed to be having some sort of trouble with a little car that had just come out of a lane, but it was blocked by the traffic on the other side of the road. The bus driver honked his horn a bit, then stuck his head out his window and started screaming at the driver of the car. who in reply started shouting at the the bus driver. Eventually there was an opening and the car made way. The bus driver passed the car, leaving a few stinging remarks about the other drivers absolute lack of driving skill. I saw now that it was only about half full.
"here's the bus" I said to the man and the girl as it pulled up. My current state was not one so that I could fight for a seat, so I didn't really bother to hurry in. But I was an exception. The big man was one of the first in, I was one of the last. I couldn't see where the girl was. On the Inside, the bus was not much different. The paint was faded, peeling, with the scribbles of bored passengers all over. Seats that once might have been comfortable were worn down to the wood. In general, it was what you would find anywhere in India. I scanned the seats to see if there was any space to sit, but saw none.
Then, looking at the seat on my right, I got a bit of a shock. The girl had managed to get herself a window seat. Think about it. Me, a seasoned traveler of buses, trains, and many other forms of transport, is usurped by a first timer, and that too a girl. I tried to console myself, well I'm tired, and wasn't really trying to get a seat. But my competitive nature was just too much to let it lie. Steading myself as the bus started of, I couldn't help but ask, "So how did you get in so fast?" The girl looked at me and smiled, "I saw that every one was getting on from the front door, so I just hoped from the back." Now why didn't I think of that? "Oh, well" was all I could manage. The conductor was going from passenger to passenger, perfectly balanced, one hand full of notes and tickets. At his hip hung a small pouch, which I knew held all the change.
"how much does it cost to go to the train station?" asked the girl.
"It'll cost about six rupees." I replied as I tried to get my wallet out of my pocket. You might be thinking, how difficult can it be to get a wallet out of your pocket. Well, on a bus that has about as much body roll as some boats, and with the driver seeming like he was trying to throw every one of balance, the way he accelerated and braked with no apparent reason. Anyway, The important bit is coming up. As I tried to get my wallet out of my right hand pocket with my left hand,(my right hand was occupied holding the railing above head) I noticed that what was supposed to be in my right hand was not. And and what was supposed to be in my right hand was a small white plastic bag which was carrying a limited edition model car. It was a Lamborghini Muira. A friend of mines birthday was coming up soon, and, being a bit of a car buff, I thought it would be a good gift for him. Only now I must have left it at the store. The shop keeper would keep it for me, I knew, but there was someone else also wanting to get it, and he would probably be willing to pay a fairly large amount to get the car. I'll explain later, it's a long story. Paying for my trip, I started to move towards the door, as the station was getting close.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Waiting for the bus

Part I

The traffic sped by, spewing out dark clouds of smoke, ad adding to the cites pollution and kicking up the dust bringing gasps and coughs from pedestrians. Crowds of people walked along the side walk and road. And there, at the bus stand I stood, waiting for my bus home. It was midday, not a great time to be stuck out
doors. Especially in the summers of Jaipur. Well there I was, hoping that this misery would end soon. I was not the only one suffering, to my left was a tall, dark man. On his head was a big white turban, and he wore a simple white kurtha and wrapped around his legs was a plain dhoti. Sweat had made the kurtha stick to his body, and his forehead was shiny with perspiration. His face was dominated by those big handlebar mustaches that are so common in Rajasthan.
Then up walked a girl in her late teens. She was wearing a red salwar top with a pair of blue jeans. I could tell instantly that she was fairly well of, and was probably not used to riding a bus. The big man looked at the girl and raised his eye brows. I was not the only one thinking she was out of place. She took out a cell phone from her purse gave me and the man a glare-oops! I pretend not to notice, turning in the opposite direction, looking for the bus.
"What's taking that bus so long?" said the big man.(that's been translated, of course.)
"Who knows? Buses are almost always late." I said.
"So, where are you going?"
"To the train station, I'm here only for some work" He replied.
"Really? I live just five minutes away"
"Well, that means we'll be on the same bus" By now there was a small gathered, waiting for their buses.
The girl had just finished talking on her phone, it had appeared to be a heated conversation. She looked around, then said, "Which bus goes to the train station?. Excuse me?" I only realized that she was talking to me now, and I was a bit tired from standing in the sun. All I could manage was look that was a mix of fatigue and confusion. "Eh?" How can you mess up so badly?
"which bus is going to the train station?" She asked again, why she didn't give up on me I still don't know. "I'm going there too, so just wait for the bus that I will go on." I finally said.
"Thanks" she answered.
Then, coming around the bend, driving like any other respectable bus driver. Which is not very good. I looked at the number displayed on the board above the wind screen, and could just make it out. It was my bus.