Riding the Bus

At the bus station, I chose the wrong man to follow while waiting for the return bus to the small village in South India where I am staying. I have to depend on someone to guide me as all the signs are in the graceful, round Kanada script that look like hieroglyphs to me. Maybe I chose him  because he is clean and neatly dressed in a crisp shirt and fresh lungi that lends him an air of reliability.

It is the heat of the day. The air is still and steamy vapors rise from the concrete floor. There are no free seats in the crowded waiting room.  Many buses come and go. Their destinations are yelled out by the conductor. But not ours. I watch my guide wherever he wanders, afraid to lose him and be left behind. After an hour and nearly every one else gone, he comes to me and points to an old, sky blue, rickety box of a bus parked at the far end of the station.

Bad news, I think, knowing it will be full when we cross to that side of the station. The bus is like a tin can filled with passengers squeezed into every inch of it. I am pushed into the middle and my guide remains in the back. Nothing happens. The bus bakes in the sun, the heat is intolerable. I am already coated in a film of dampness but now my body is host to rivers that branch off into streams and tributaries that gush and flow over the mountains and gullies of my face, armpits and beyond. There is the strong stench of sweat that emanates from the bus. I cover my nose with my hankie that I use to wipe my dripping face with.

I long for one of the young men to offer me a seat but my hopes go unnoticed. Finally, the bus pulls out of the station. I hang on tightly, not wanting to end up up in the lap of one of these ungracious young men.

The exquisite scenery takes my mind off my discomfort as we pass lush, wet, paddies in every imaginable shade of green, renewed from the recent rain. Flowers bursting with red and orange blossoms, low thatched houses with cows lazing about and skinny legged children playing on the red dirt road divert me.

A one eyed, white haired old woman is offered a seat. I am glad. I smile. She tries to speak to me in Kanada. She wants to know where I am going. I notice that my guide is seated in the back of the bus. I am tired from standing. The aisle clears as people disembark but I still stand. From the back, my guide motions me over. He saves a space on the back bench when someone gets off. I sit and let the warm breeze ruffle through my hair.

About fifteen minutes before we reach our village, a gaggle of fisherwomen board the bus with their wide baskets of fish carried expertly on top of their heads. Animated, they speak loudly in shrill, high pitched Kanada. Once, my Gujarati friend, Haribhai, imitated the sound of Kanada for me.  First he cupped his hand as if he were holding a handful of stones and mimed plopping them into his mouth, like speaking with a mouthful of marbles. The fisherwomen are carefully dressed in bright printed sarees. Their dark, oiled hair is pulled back into chignons and circled with flower garlands. Their gaiety and loud chatter fill the stark metal bus. They stand guard over their wide baskets. They see me watching them. I hold my nose with my fingers squeezed over my nostrils, the universal sign for stinky and they laugh deeply. Every one in the back of the bus joins in.

Amidst laughter and smiles the bus pulls into the station. Light hearted, I descend.

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About ninagrandiose

I am based in NYC but travel regularly to India and Mexico. Both of these countries feel like home. In India I scour the country in search of fabulous textiles to incorporate into my clothing designs. I sit back and let the ambiance and wonder of India seep into my consciousness so I can be inspired to write about what India is for me. I bring a limited number of people to India on exclusive and intimate tours of my favorite hangouts. In Mexico I take in the natural beauty that surrounds me and dance the night away. I constantly give thanks for all this and am pleased to share it all with you.
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4 Responses to Riding the Bus

  1. Melissa Phillips says:

    Thank you for taking me back to the place where I miss. You described and wrote so beautiful I felt as though I was there on the bus with you. There is nothing like sweating through all of your clothes and the smells of India. I miss the children.
    melissa

    • ninagrandiose says:

      Namaste Yes, there is nothing like the contradictions of India to tease the mind, nor the omnipresent beauty to still it and fill one’s heart with joy. Thanks for reading and commenting. India awaits. Nina Grand

  2. Ed DeRaps says:

    Nina….how wonderful! I was actually in the bus with you….what a gifted writer you are.

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