She was on her way back home from a stimulating day at work. The sky was a hazy shade of smoke, the moon didn't dare break its filth with her charm, vendors arranged socks of an insipid hue on rickety stands, the evening smelt like itself – stale and spent.
She had wedged herself onto a seat in the bus, precariously perched between The Old Woman With A Wounded Leg and The Man With Three Mobile Phones. It was a chilly evening and the bus’s rear windshield, conspicuous by its absence, ushered in a spirited breeze. The bus started off with its customary fits and sputters. When the pistons defeatedly started their cycle – up and down, push and pull, everyone inside heaved a sigh of relief. The journey began but the bus was so slow that even cycles overtook it. She shook her head at the utter insanity of it all.
Another fifteen minutes and a few groans later, the bus found itself stuck at a red light. Horns honked themselves hoarse, regardless of the colour of the traffic light. Men, drunk at 6:00 pm, positioned themselves strategically around her, a knee rubbed against another accidentally, a hand hoped to brush against her chest on its way to the handle, bodies lurched in gravity-defying manners, a push, a shove, every gymnastically imaginable position was enacted with practiced ease. Tak Tana Nana Tandoori Nights screeched from the radio in disgustingly nasal tones. Amidst all the rubbing (with people) clutching (at anything), shifting (to grab more of the seat) and sighing (at everything), she found the space and energy to plug on her earphones.
The music soothed her frayed soul and suddenly the world was an infinitely better place, dancing to her tunes, swaying in unison. She tilted slightly and craned to look out of the window. Cars whizzed by in metropolitan madness. A row of dusty trees lining the road tried to breathe. Boy In Boots stood posing near a panwaari, an unlit cigarette in one hand, while the other hand lay in his coat pocket, in a forgotten, supposedly fashionable manner. His hair, streaked an alarming shade of orange, was carefully disheveled. The air around him was drunk on a cocktail of arrogance with a dash of uncertainty. From where she sat, she saw Little Urchin look up to Boy in Boots in a star-struck manner. In the shadows, he stood, trying to ape his hero, one leg lazily stretched out while he placed his hand in an imaginary coat’s imaginary pocket.
Suddenly the bus lurched forward, bringing before her eyes another frame to watch. Harried Man and Willowy Wife were trying to board the bus with Scrawny Kid 1, 2, 3 and 4. Harried Man quickly loaded his brood and then began the impossible task of finding place for putting his numerous possessions. There was a pressure cooker which found shelter near the gearbox. The bundle of shawls was deposited on Scrawny Kid 3, who was, incidentally, on Willowy Wife’s insufficient lap. A suitcase was pushed across the aisle (rather the carpet of toes) to fit under a seat. The pillow, with nowhere to go, was given to her. Jolted from her reverie of musical innuendos she clasped it grudgingly, comforted by the protection it offered, disgusted by what it did to her nose.
Suddenly, weird vibrations on her left made her start. The Man With Three Mobiles had two of them ringing simultaneously, which got him extremely flustered and rather bewildered. At the same instant someone stepped on The Old Woman With A Wounded Leg which got her shrieking at unimaginable decibels. The chaos in the bus, complete malfunctioning of her auditory organs and yet another red light made her decide to abandon The Weird Vehicle she was in and walk her way home.