Chapter Two : The Bus Journey
The eagerly awaited day finally arrived. We hadn’t done much planning for the trip. We were supposed to talk about it the previous night, but out of nowhere, P. decided to go out for dinner with her friends. Of course, no planning can be done without P. By the time she returned, C. was asleep and S. and I were too tired to bother talking. So, as of then, the idea was to get up and leave as early as possible.
Usually being an early riser, I took upon myself the task of waking up P. and S. I woke up several times in the night, and went back to sleep after checking the time. The last time I remember doing this was at 3:45 am. ‘One more hour’, I told myself. before falling back onto my pillow.
The next thing I know, C.’s face was inches away from mine. “I was just checking if you’re up.” She told me. Then I realized that I’d slept through my alarm. Or switched it off in my sleep. I have no idea what actually happened.
Although it wasn’t exactly late, I still rushed to get ready. I had packed my backpack last night itself, so there wasn’t much to be done. I banged twice on P.’s door to wake her up, for which she later told me she’d felt like murdering me.
By around 5:45, we were all ready to go. It was pretty chilly, and C. and I wrapped shawls around ourselves. But nothing could beat the bright yellow scarf S. tied around her head, with her hair up in a bun. P. of course, was invincible to the cold.
And thus, we set off to the bus stop. P. went to the ATM from there, taking S. with her. C. disapproved of that. “We shouldn’t have let those two go together,” she told me. “Bad combination.” I agreed, but there was nothing to be done about it, so we took our seats at the bus stop.
It was quite dark, and the road was almost empty. There was no one else in the bus stop except for a stout old man. Not creepy at all.
A little while later, S. and P. were back, P. on a call with her father, asking him to transfer money to her account. Apparently, she’d swiped her debit card away to zero balance at dinner last night. Oh, joy.
Then, we waited. You see, there’s this thing about our bus stop. Only two kinds of buses stopped here: 29 C and 27 D. The exasperating part is, if you’re waiting for either one of them, only the other will arrive. Always. So today, numerous 27 D’s came and went as we stood waiting for our 29 C. The fat old guy was also waiting with us, weirdly enough.
It finally came. The journey from there to Thiruvanmiyur was a short one, and we spent it talking about random stuff. We were all pretty excited, and P. warned us that she might just randomly start smiling. I totally got that, having already done it a couple of times.
Right when we reached the Thriuvanmiyur bus stop, there was an air conditioned bus waiting to leave for Pondicherry. We scrambled in, only to realize that it was packed, and the air was stale with stuffiness. We got out immediately, despite the protests of the bus conductor that there were (non-existent) empty seats inside.
Once again, we waited, and waited. It was getting sunny, but before it got too bright, the Express bus to Pondicherry came at last. This one was also jam-packed, but it at least had open windows that guaranteed us fresh air. There were no empty seats at all, and we resorted to standing, leaning against the seats.
The situation brought to my mind the eternal question about travel in India. Where is everyone going? Every single train would be booked out months prior and single bus would be packed to the brim, with people even hanging out of the doors. This never failed to make the frustrated traveler ask, ‘Why can’t people just stay at home?’ But that never has an answer.
Even more people got on the bus after us, and among them was a rugged woman, who promptly sat down between our legs. We exchanged glances. Ooohkay.
The journey was supposed to be more than 2 hours long. We were hoping desperately that the bus would stop somewhere in the middle, and half of the passengers would get down. But as soon as we stared moving, most of them went to sleep or plugged in their earphones. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones heading to Pondy this morning.
And so we stood. It wasn’t so bad, actually. S. and C. were bickering like an old married couple about something or the other, and P. and I were laughing at them. Oh, I have to mention that the routine rows between S. and C. is one of the major sources of entertainment in our hostel. S. does everything in her power to irritate C., and C. does the only thing in her power- get irritated and yell at S. Since yelling wasn’t an option inside the bus, she resorted to rolling her eyes and informing the very amused P. and me that S. was putting on the show just for the sake of our entertainment. We sure didn’t mind.
The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, except for the squatting lady getting up and maneuvering around us for a fruitless search of seats, and us trying to satisfy our ever increasing hunger with bourbon biscuits. Incidentally, we managed to finally rest our bottoms about 45 minutes before we reached. Hallelujah.
The bus had moved into Pondicherry when I realized something. We had no idea where we were supposed to get down. Yep, that’s how prepared we were. The next few minutes were spent trying to figure out the bus stop closest to the restaurant we were planning to have breakfast at. We didn’t make much progress until the woman next to me offered to help us out. That’s when we got to know that we’d been pronouncing the name of the street wrong.
We followed the helpful lady’s instructions and got down at the last stop. I have to say, we looked like such TOURISTS. Backpacks, sunglasses, camera, umbrella; you name it, we had it. Auto Rickshaw drivers were bound to charge us a bomb going by our appearances. To get out of that, we brandished our best possible Tamil accents while bargaining with them. Surprisingly, it worked.
The icing on the cake was when after getting into the three wheeler, S. took off her loose pants to reveal shorts underneath. Yep, we were FINALLY in Pondicherry.
Read Chapter 3 here.