Short Story – A ride through the hinterland.

“….how could you miss out on this? You go there, inspect the property, eat a three course meal funded by them, exchange cards and not find out about this teeny tiny detail?”
“But sir, how was I to know? No one tells you upfront about this?”
“Tell you upfront my foot. Why the hell is anyone going to tell that the property they are showing you as their own is not their own. You have to find out about these things yourself. That is why you are going there on the bank’s expenses, you nutcase. This is where sixth sense matters. I have it. You do not”
“But sir…”
“Not buts. I expected better from you. Now go do your inspection properly this time. It is in Nagpur, right? Go there and this time, check whether they are showing you their own property.”

The phone line went dead. Puru wanted to slam down the phone but could not. You cannot slam down mobile phones. With no way to channelize his frustration (the mobile was expensive and damage to it would mean a yelling from his wife who had bought it), he meekly kept it back in his pocket. Sixth sense, my ass. Those buggers had done their homework. He had checked all the documents thoroughly. Call it his boss’s luck that they bungled while sending head office the documents and sent the original and the fake together. Any clerk would have caught it there. And his boss was acting as if he was Sherlock Holmes. Such is life. Jab kismet ho pandu kya karega g……..OUCH!!

The ST bus went through another pothole. As he sat there wincing and checking whether his derriere was in one piece, Puru wondered what he was doing here. Just yesterday night he was enjoying a drink at the bar of Taj Residency (stay funded by the bank, the drink unfortunately not) in Aurangabad. He had been there visiting the site of a jeweler. He was treated like a king. The jeweler was very polite and answered all queries promptly. It was another matter that his property was faulty and the guy was virtually bankrupt. The more desperate you are, the more polite you become. Now he was on his journey to Nagpur to visit a ball bearing company. This party had not arranged for transport and Puru had to make do with a ride through the ST bus. The party certainly gave cold vibes and couldn’t care less about his visit. This one seemed genuine. See, his sixth sense was just fi….TERI MAA KI!!

Yup, another pothole. This one did its job and Puru came out of his reverie. He started looking around him and absorbing his surroundings. He had never traveled through an ST bus before. What he was seeing was something he never thought he would see. For one, the bus was packed. So packed that the peak hour Virar local seemed comfortable (well, that is an exaggeration. Nothing beats a Virar local when it comes to butts per square feet).

In the seat in front of him were seated five members of a family. The family seemed to be going on a trip to somewhere. They were carrying luggages and a bunch of sugarcanes (why would someone carry sugarcane while going on a vacation? Imagine sitting on the beach in say, Goa chomping on sugarcane from Maharashtra. You booze in Goa!!). The head of family was sound asleep holding the sugarcane. However the leaves of the cane (those who have not seen sugarcane field, leaves grow over the sugarcane and form a sort of fancy wig. Kinda like Salman Khan’s haircut in Tere Naam) were trying to gain unlawful entry into the chap’s nostrils. Every time they succeeded, he would jerk his head and mumble some unmentionables in Marathi and go back to sleep. His wife was totally unaware of the fight between man and plant and was concentrating on reining in her three tykes who were hell bent on disturbing a nearby gent’s sleep. Next to him were seated a bunch of kids who were continuously gazing at his pocket. At first, he thought they were being too “curious” but then after the call from hell, he got to know that the object of their attention was their phone. Must say he was a little relieved. He wondered why his phone deserved so much attention. It was a worn out Motorola model which was pretty commonplace. He just could not get it then that what he took for granted was not something to be taken for granted here. Just like he could not take for granted the undying love for Maharashtra grown sugarcane which the family in front of him had.

At little ahead of him were seated two girls. He had been observing them from the start of the journey (He was male. Normal. So expected). They were escorted till the bus stop by a guy their age. One of the girls seemed closer to him than the other (literally and figuratively). From their dialogue it seemed that these two girls were not supposed to be where they were i.e. with the guy. The “closer” was fretting about being caught and punished. If so afraid, why do it in the first place. Besides, the look of the guy did not justify any such daredevilry from the girl (whether this was true or just a jealous and biased view of a still virgin Puru is anyone’s guess). Every once in a while this girl was pressing for the bus driver to go faster. The problem with this was that locating the bus driver was a problem. On his seat were seated three people. Two and a half actually since one was half seated on the driver’s seat and the seat next to him such that the gear box was between his legs (One could feel his pain as and when the gear was changed). At least in the Virar Local, the driver has some room to do his maneuvers without pushing someone aside or hurting someone’s…..

Amidst all, doing the rounds was the conductor. As and when new passengers entered, he would start his weary walk towards them. For him, walking consisted of jumping over a bag of vegetables, sneaking past the wholesome figure of a wholesome lady who was trying to adjust into an overpopulated seat, ducking under a half dangling bag of tubelights kept on the ceiling rack, jumping over (again) a sleeping gent (without a ticket presumably since he was on the floor) and last but not the least, avoiding the hole on the floor (did I forget to mention that there was a frigging hole in the bus. Puru would never forget it as his foot went in it while he was entering, dirtying and tearing his pant. Saying that his day was shitty would be an understatement). All this he did with a bored look while laconically chewing his paan. As if this was routine for him (which it was). When actors say that they do their own stunts, there is that look of achievement on their faces saying that they cheated death. For the stuntmen, it is just a day’s work. But even those stuntmen would have that look if they went through a day doing a job like this. It was amazing to se….OUCH!! AB KYAA??

The bus had stopped. Strange, because they were bang in the countryside and there was no bus stop visible. Puru feared that the bus had stopped involuntarily. Engine problem would be bad. Would take some time. Punctured tire was worse because Puru had seen the spare tire dangling on the back side of the bus. It looked horrible. They would have to wait for a rescue bus (if the ST people had a system of rescue bus). That would take a couple of hours. That would be bad.

Again Puru was taking things for granted. He was thinking of problems that would be problems in his city, problems that he was used to. This was a problem out of his understanding. This was not bad. This was worse.

The conductor yelled (and sprayed pan juice all over while doing so), “Kaay zaala? Itkya zoraane break kaa maarla?” (What happened? Why did you brake so hard?)
“Gadbad zaali re. Gaadi pudhe mhais aali re!!” (There is a problem. We ran over a buffalo!!)

To be continued…

The Maharashtrians among you might have a sense of déjà vu while reading it. Yup, it is inspired by a famous story by the late great P.L.Deshpande. If you know and have enjoyed the works of P.L. (or like he is called, Pu La), you know the story.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Short Story – A ride through the hinterland.

  1. DI

    Oh god! To be continued? You should have written part 1 on top or something, then I would have waited till part 2 came up, to read both together. :S

  2. Very funny. It may stretch to multiple parts btw.

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