It is 2 hours past noon and even at this time of mid-October when evenings are already starting to bring the wintry feeling, the sun is blazing with all its intensity up in the sky and I am sweating profusely as I wait for my bus outside Pragati Maidan Metro Station.
“Bhaiya, ek glass pani pila do”, I say to the young man in slightly oversized clothes standing with his ‘thanda pani trolley’ near the bus stop. As I gulp down two full glasses of cold water, I begin to wonder who I had just addressed to as ‘bhaiya’. On a closer look, it was apparent that this guy wasn’t anywhere near his teenage. I pay the meager two bucks that he charges and see a red 423 towards Ambedkar Nagar Terminal approaching. I run to climb aboard the a/c bus. There is a lady conductor. I get my ticket and find myself a window seat at the last row in the bus.
For the past few years that I have been in Delhi and have travelled in the ‘low-floor’ DTC buses, a less crowded a/c bus’s last row’s left window seat has been the location for most of my blog entry inspirations. There is a simple reason behind it- Sitting in all the comforts possible, away from the crowd, staring out of the huge stained window glasses and observing the trees, the concrete buildings and the innumerable vehicles rushing past, I am forced into a sub-conscious and pleasant intellectual thinking spree.
Right now I am on a similar ‘intellectual thinking spree’. There are a few things on my mind. For doing the noblest work on this earth, to quench the thirst of travelers by providing cold water, does the young man really deserve to be paid such a meager amount? Does the lady conductor who is sitting just four seats ahead of me, face rowdy behavior from the commuters, especially men? And if so, how does she manage it?
I turn the vents of the a/c just above the seat in my direction and wish the sweat dries up fast and I get acclimatized to the temperature inside the bus. This journey home shouldn’t take me more than 25 minutes, I think.
The bus is soon passing over the CGO Complex flyover towards Lajpat Nagar. As always there are the hundreds of pigeons feeding on grains right in the top section of the flyover. As my bus crosses their territory, out of fear for life, they set flight in a full circle to come back and continue their ‘lunch’. It’s a beautiful and photogenic sight always. Connaught Place, Patel Chowk, Chandni Chowk, the barn behind Qutb Minar, are just a few of the many locations where I have seen similar sights. I have wondered almost always when I have seen this, which noble soul puts the grains out for the birds every day?
I am soon at the Lajpat Nagar bus stop. I spot an old lady lying with a blanket on at the entrance to the subway. I am reminded of a similar scene which I had witnessed two years ago and which had moved me deeply. It was during the winters. We were out on a day excursion from college to the Emporia complex in CP. A person, I guess she was a middle-age lady (I am not sure), in a badly worn out salwar suit, was ‘resting’ on the pavement near a wall that connected the emporiums of two states, with a tattered piece of dupatta covering her battered face. I guess there is nothing new for something like this being spotted in India- they are found in every other railway station. But the thing that left blood in my heart rushing was the fact that hundreds of ‘house-flies’ had also found a nice, cosy place to rest on the whole body of the ‘sleeping beauty’ and our hostess didn’t even mind to shoo away these little guests! She slept coolly, unmindful of what was going around her. The scene which everyone chose to ignore couldn’t leave my mind for days.
I am brought back to the physical world around me as the bus takes the nearly ‘S’ turn crossing the Chirag Dilli flyover across the BRT corridor. The bus soon stops at Pushpa Bhawan and I get up to step out back into the Delhi heat when I hear increasing levels of voices from the front of the bus. As is evident from the noise, the driver stopped the bus a moment too short at the previous stop and a woman wasn’t able to step out. Now she was hurtling the poor guy down with angry words and the entire population of the bus was glued to listening to the war of words. I am glad to leave the scene and head home. It isn’t the lady and the driver that I am thinking about now. It’s the mob that’s on my mind.
Why do we Delhiites love to witness (and if possible, be a part of) any kind of violence so much? For a change why can’t we start ignoring these petty issues of who is right and who is wrong and instead take a look at all the ‘less-noticed’ and beautiful things around us? If all of us, for once, actually are on an ‘intellectual thinking spree’, wouldn’t this world be a lot better to live in?
I struggle to concentrate on the road and the vehicles. I cross the red light and am on my way home.
This article was written in October 2012 and originally published in my college magazine (Jhankaar 2013).