This is part III. Please read the first part “Red & White” before reading further.
“I ask you people, where will you take all that money? Every one goes empty handed to the heaven. Why not do some good then?” A rather thin looking man was arguing on top of his voice with his senior at the Jaisingpur bus depot.
“Jeeva, you are creating a fuss unnecessarily. Now go and man your bus.” Said the guy in blue shirt and dark trousers sitting in the cabin.
“Lekin Sir… why dont you understand it? 6th pay commission was approved in 2006. This is 2009. Why have we not got it? Kaha le jayenge sara paisa? Hume kyun nahi de rahe”
“Arre milega ek din. Now go and man the bus.”
“What is this Sir? You have been telling me since last 2 years that I’m due for promotion. That I no longer have to be a conductor. That I’ll get a raise and start working in the administrative department. Uska kya hua? (pause) All you fat asses make fat promises. We sweat it out there and you get bonus, LTC and what not… “
“Jeeva now you are crossing the line. Just go and man the bus!!!“
“Haan ja raha hu. I’m a Brahmin. I never cross a line. Every body is bloody…” SLAM!!! … and he shut the door behind his manager in the depot. Jeeva, or Jagjeevan Bhojak was a conductor. He had joined the road transport corporation as a tyre mechanic some 20 years ago. Gradually he switched roles and moved up to become a conductor. However that had happened in the first 10 years of service. Since last 10 years, he was doing the same duty and since last 4 years, on the same salary. He saw some of his colleagues promoted to better and higher positions. While he saw some getting frustrated and succumb to retirement. But Jeeva was still hanging on.
Just 2 buses went to Palin top from Jaisingpur, one in the morning and one in the evening. It was a 2 hour journey, one way and more than half of it was through the hairpin bends of Valkyrie mountains. Since most of the area was hilly, there weren’t many villages en route. Once the bus crossed the outer windsor check post, the road was lonely. So usually in the journey, they hardly used to meet any traffic. So the people who travelled by the bus were either villagers who stayed at the palin top or the people who went there for picnic or trekking. People would generally go by the 7:30 bus in the morning and come back by the 5:30 bus in the evening. Jeeva manned both the buses. He had been doing it now for last 5 years.
Today was like any other day for him. His frustration had been mounting since the time the government had declared the 6th pay commission. Every day only added to his apathy. He had a family to keep, a wife, an unemployed son an ailing mother. So his mood usually remained sombre and today was no different. The bus today was fuller and noisier than usual as he entered the dilapidated vehicle. He saw a large group of youngsters bouncing on the rear seats. Every one was wearing a colourful attire and from the look it seemed that they were going for a trek. They all occupied the last 5 rows of the seat while the usual passengers sat in front. Letting out a sigh, he started to give out tickets to passengers while ringing the bell simultaneously. It was to send a signal to Pandurang, the driver, indicating him that it was time to go.
“Master, can you wait for a while? We are expecting one more friend to join us.” A voice from the young crowd at the back echoed in Jeeva’s ears.
“The bus doesn’t run as per your friend’s timing.” Jeeva darted back. “But anyway, I can wait as long as my driver is not yet in the bus. In fact I’m getting down to call him. You call your friend to hurry up if you can.”
It was already 7:30 and the bus had to leave now. “Pandurang! … Aye Pandu are kidhar mar gaya?” Shouted Jeeva as he got down from the bus fearing another late remark. This was again a routine stuff for Jeeva. Pandurang never made it on time and seldom drove fast to make up for the time loss. And it added to Jeeva’s frustration almost every day. He saw Pandu’s desperate bid to save some face as the fat looking guy came wobbling to the bus. “Arre chal jaldi… Sala roj ka natak hai tera!” Shouted Jeeva as he climbed back on to the bus. But his path was blocked by a young girl who had just entered and was standing right next to his seat.
“Chalo madam! Get moving.”
“Why, cant you talk to me properly?” She darted back at him.
“Why? Do you own this bus? Just get moving…”
“Hello Mister, no one talks to me like that. You know I can…”
“Hello… even if you are a daughter of the prime minister, you will have to move on. And if you have so much problem with the bus, go buy yourself a car. Now keep moving!”
If all other frustrations were not enough, he got into an altercation with a young girl even before he could start the business. Jeeva believed in omens. In fact Jeeva believed in all bad omens. And an altercation was one of them. So as a standard practice, he sat on his seat and decided to do a ‘Jaap’ of Sri Ganesh 101 times before he could begin the work. It certainly was not his day and he was interrupted more than twice making him to forget the count… only to augment the frustration further. “Arre bhagwan ka naam bhi nahi le sakta main ab? Thodi der ruk nahi sakte ho kya? Pata chala bus ka nahi lottery ka winning ticket le rahe ho.” He shouted on some passengers who were too impatient to buy the ticket.
By the time Jeeva began, the bus had crossed the Windsor check post. The rain had now stopped, allowing Pandu to maintain good speed. Valkyrie mountain was a home to lot of small streams which later integrated to the Chena river. This meant the bus was now moving through countless tunnels and bends followed by brief patches of the plain roads between the adjoining hills. It was routine journey for the villagers while the group of youngsters at the back was enjoying a game of Antakshari. Jeeva now had a new challenge. Since he delayed the tickets, most of the regulars had gone to sleep and he had to wake them up to hand them their tickets. Add to that the deafening noise of the young crowd. Jeeva indeed was having a bad day at work.
Just when he turned to hand over another ticket, the bus suddenly started to sway. “Arre Pandu… ” He shouted turning towards him. Suddenly the bus swayed again and there was a loud ‘thud’ noise. Jeeva lost his balance but barely managed to hold on to a seat. People were hardly able to understand what happened. He managed to stand up again as the bus lost some speed but swayed again. Just as he prepared himself to look in front, some one pushed him in front. It seemed some one had fallen on his back. His leg caught up between the seats. He barely managed to look up, but what he saw was horrifying. It seemed the entire life had revolved around his eyes. He was going to die!
To be continued…