I’ve been in Pune for over 4 years, but I’ve never travelled by a local bus, though I intend to very soon. But on the very first day I landed in Himachal Pradesh, I took a local bus to the Mall road in Shimla to meet a friend. I was told that local buses are usually crowded in Himachal. And I hate to travel in crowded public transport. But I was in for a pleasant surprise. The bus was crowded, but as soon as I boarded, a girl sitting next to me, offered to hold the bag I was holding, so I could stand steadily as the bus negotiated the bends and curves which is typical on mountain roads. In the next 5 minutes, a gentleman who was about to get off at the next stop, called me and offered me his seat. Wow! And when my stop came and I got down, another gentleman called out to me to caution and inform that if the cops see the plastic bag I was carrying, I could be fined. He said plastic bags were banned in Shimla. That was such a thoughtful gesture. He could have easily ignored and walked away, but he chose to inform me about this.
The next trip on a local bus was on the second day, early in the morning at 6.30. This was a longer ride for 4 hours. We had got the last seat and I was asked to be mentally prepared by several people for the bumpy ride ahead. Well, the ride was bumpy for sure. The roads were, well, not roads at all, but more of a dirt track. In some places, it was so bumpy, that we were flying high on our seats, at every bump. I was told that this ride would leave me extremely fatigued. But that was not the case. The reason being, instead of tightening my body and going stiff, in order to not fly and oscillate, I let my body relax, breathe deep and allowed it fly and oscillate. That really helped, or else, my back would be borne the brunt of it all on the last seat. So just relax your body instead of tightening up on bad roads. That’s a tip I discovered and you may try that as well!
The road being more of a dirt track, there was dust all over, outside as well as inside the bus, though the glass panes were shut. So much so that the color of my maroon jacket turned a pale grey!!
The next ride I took in a bus, we had to get down at Hatkoti, where we visited the Hateshwari temple, and again board another bus to our final destination. As soon as we boarded the next bus, within 5 minutes, the tyre got punctured and people got down without a murmur. Had the same thing happened in a city, people would have grumbled with an irritated expression plastered over their faces. But here, people got down with a sign of resignation to move on to other things. I had observed the same thing while I was in Spiti too. Road blocks due to bad weather, accidents, etc is a usual thing and people just resign to Nature and Time without any anger.
I had another opportunity to travel to the Mall road, Lift stop, from my guest house. This time as soon as I boarded, a gentleman gave up his seat for me. To return his kind gesture, I offered to hold his bag this time. I am not sure if he was worried I may fall, seeing the way I was trying to find my balance, but I thanked him profusely.
The last trip on the road, again, the longer one, was not by bus, but in a car, but it deserves mention here. In some places there was muck due to rainfall the previous day, and we saw trucks and buses stranded on the way. On that stretch, the other passengers in our car got down, so the car would be lighter and we walked in ankle deep muck and slush. Luckily, the muck had dried a bit, but we had to watch our step.
This is not in any way to complain about bad roads. Hats off to the local people who travel often on these roads without complaining! It was an experience for me. I saw people cheerfully greeting each other in the bus. Women with colorful head scarves called ‘dhaatu’ and interesting patterns on their sweaters and jackets and men with the traditional Himachali topi and traditional but stylish jackets boarded and un-boarded. The bus journey was almost a metaphor for life. Be undeterred by the bumpy roads, because life goes on, no matter what!!
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