The bell rung by the conductor startled Ganesh and brought him back into the present. The bus had stopped. He looked out. The bus had not yet reached Ujni.
“How far is Ujni?” he asked.
“Still far off. Take a good nap. I’ll wake you when we reach it.” The villager sitting next to him replied.
How can anyone sleep when the road was full of pot holes and the bus-ride bumpy? He wondered.
“Don’t bother about the bumps….imagine that you are sleeping in a cradle… that someone is swinging.” The villager.
Ganesh looked at the villager in surprise. He had rightly read his thoughts.
The villager turned his blank stare towards the road ahead.
Ganesh once again got immersed in the world of his memories....
He was settled well in the taluka. He had got married and also had a son.
Vinay. Such a sweet child!
Mother also was very happy that his first child had turned out to be a boy.
He was finding it unbearable to leave his family behind and come here to work. But there was no other go. It was not possible for him to bring his wife and son to this village. Just that year he had got his son admitted to a K.G. class. In this village there was no KG. There also was no other proper facility of schooling.
It was necessary to make this sacrifice for the sake of his family’s welfare.
At one instance, the bus slowed down, took a right turn and, leaving the main road, got on to a make-shift road. As the bus began to run on the rough road, its bumps became more severe. Ganesh sat holding the back of the front seat. He craned his neck out of the window.
Outside, farm-hands were watering lush green fields. Somewhere, amidst them, a glass-like transparent thick jet of water was gushing out of pipes fixed on wells. Small thatched huts dotted the fields and flocks of birds swirled in the sky under which scarecrows stood to cleverly deceive them. He got lost in the landscape of the fields and totally forgot the severely bumpy bus ride. Truly, life was so beautiful in villages. But then, he saw lean, skeleton-like dark human figures carrying heavy loads on their heads, scurrying alongside the road which changed his impression of life in a village.
Suddenly a mild commotion broke out among the commuters in the bus. Thick clouds of dust arose on all sides of the moving bus which had now entered the limits of a village.
“Now, it will be Ujni,” the villager sitting next to him said.
The thick cloud of dust entered the bus through its windows. Hurriedly Ganesh tried to close the window near his seat but the window pane refused to slide. He tried hard. By now dust had formed a thin layer on his face. The villager sitting by gave him a smile.
“It is no use, Sir. It has got stuck because of the dust and the soot. Just like us. You, too, better get used to it. It will make your life easy.”
Gaensh silently looked at the villager and without a word sat down giving up his attempt to shut the window pane. Suddenly an awful stench reached his nostrils through the open window. He took out a kerchief and held it to his nose. The villager saw this and once again gave him a smile. The bus was passing through a stretch of land that was used by village men and women to defecate. From the windscreen, Ganesh saw people squatting to answer nature’s call getting up one after another, as they saw the bus approaching. It seemed as if they were standing up in reverence to its arrival. As soon as the bus entered the village, small groups of ill-clad, dirty children began to run after it. On the other side, packs of stray dogs also ran haphazardly after the huge moving body of the bus. It seemed that the arrival of the bus had infused a new life in the otherwise dead village.
“It has come..it has come..”, shouting happily, people who had assembled on one side of the road, welcomed its arrival.
Possibly those people had to catch the bus for an onward journey. The driver, mischievously, took the bus much ahead and stopped far from them. People began to run after the bus. The flocks of ill-clad and dirty children and packs of barking dogs were already running after the moving mass. The people now running after it made an amusing scene.
When the bus halted, people who wanted to get down and those who wanted to get in, all crowded in the door way. Ganesh thought that he could get down once the crowd fell into some order.
But no one was prepared to take it easy. Those outside were anxious to get in and those inside were pretty eager to get down as quickly as possible. Some people from outside clung to the windows like monkeys and threw their caps or cloth-bags to reserve seats. Ganesh watched this chaos. When he saw no indication of the chaos getting reduced, he too began to disembark. As he was getting down, his attention was drawn to a window. A man struggling outside was crossing the limits of decency. Perhaps not having either a cap or a cloth back to reserve a seat, he clung to the window and hanging precariously, he placed his leather footwear on a vacant seat. Ganesh was annoyed. He was also amused. As he made his way through the crowd, Ganesh felt suffocated. Somehow, pushing and shoving, he managed to get down. When he stood out, his head was dishevelled and clothes had developed wrinkles. His neatly tucked shirt had also unevenly come out at the waist. He felt better when, standing in the open, he took a deep breath. He stood for a while. Next moment, the huge mass of the bus moved away raising a cloud of smoke and dust.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote