It started with my father calling me up and telling me that he and my mother were coming to Coorg as part of his company's family outing for a weekend. I have never been to Coorg and since it was just about 7 hours from Bangalore, I decided that I would go too. My father said that they would reach Coorg on a Saturday morning around 11AM and so I had to find a bus that left Bangalore as late as possible. The latest bus (that is the last one leaving Bangalore for Coorg – I don't know why I am clarifying this but there is something about latest that sounds odd, hmm maybe last would have been better :P) was at 11:50PM from Majestic bus stand or more properly Kempegowda Bus Terminus. That will get me in Coorg around 6:30 in the morning and I will have to kill time till my parents joined me. So one Friday night I had dinner and got my booty to Majestic at around 10PM. If you are wondering why 10PM for a bus at 11:50PM, autorikshaws in Bangalore are a law unto themselves regarding fares and I didn't know when the last bus plied from Madivala (where I stay) to Majestic. So I was in the bus terminus whiling away my time. I had actually taken with me 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams for filling in gaps, one of them being the wait at the bus terminus. But I didn't need it. I have never found waiting too boring when it's a crowded public place like a major railway station or a bus depot. No, I am not exactly a 'vaayanokki' or a guy who ogles at all the girls around at a place. That is a good way to pass time too, but I find watching people in general pretty interesting. A short guy wearing a pure white pant and a black & white striped shirt with a green belt and not quite pulling it off but walking with a swagger which makes you think, what makes people do it? A boy holding his father's hand walking by, with his body tensed and arched forward, head turned back looking apprehensively at a stray dog following them listlessly. A big fat dark guy with unkempt hair and a very soiled shirt walking by with bruises on his knuckles giving out signals that he really shouldn't be messed around with. A couple of cute girls having already checked me out making it a point to prove my non-existence. The people kept the wait interesting. Finally when close to departure time when I decide to search for the bus, I find out that it had already been there for the past half hour and realised with deep regret that the cute girls had been inside occupying the seats across the aisle.
Sleep sleep sleep and early morning it was Coorg. I had been instructed to get to a hotel and ask for a guy called Bhaskar who will tell me where the company team was supposed to stay. I did that and after being robbed off 75 bucks for an autorikshaw trip of 6 KM I was finally at the resort which was modelled on a village. It was quite beautiful. I got a room, bathed, had breakfast and thus started the wait for my parents. I strolled around the place. There was a central building with a dining hall and kitchen surrounded by normal hotel rooms. But I was put up in a separate cottage which was pretty neat. It was very old but very well furnished. The bathroom plumbing was ancient and you could see the bulge of the pipes through the walls (don't know if that is how old plumbing was designed – maybe to fix things easily as you could see where the pipes went) but there was hot water even in the washbasin, which made me decide that it had to be a British summer house or something. Outside, to one corner of the land, I could see a lake and a small pathway across it to a couple of cottages that were set apart. That was a picturesque spot and I walked there and then around the lake. By then I had finished exploring the resort land and settled down in the reception with 'The Hindu'. It was around 11 and I started looking up whenever a vehicle pulled in. There was absolutely no range for my mobile, and the phone in the reception according to the receptionist had no STD facility. Hence I had no means to contact my father and after the newspaper, I went back to the cottage to get 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. The book is very, very funny sometimes but kind of wacky. All in all pretty interesting to read. At 12:30PM, I was getting hungry and there was no news from my parents and so I decided to get to the town nearby and try contacting them. Getting out was a problem as the resort was kind of in a remote valley with the town being on the other side of a hill which explained the mobile having no range. I got out of the resort and started walking on the road with plans to wave down a bus but none came up. Finally I hitched a ride with a guy on a scooter who dropped me off in town. I made a call to my father. They were delayed and would be arriving only by 3:00. I decided to have lunch from the town and on the way to a hotel, I saw this place which rented out two-wheelers and for a moment thought about exploring the place on my own. But it was just 2 more hours. So I dropped that and had lunch from a hotel and thought of walking to a nearby tourist hot spot. But the lunch and the heat (yes, Coorg was incredibly hot then) made me decide I will go back to the resort and wait for them reading my novel under a tree overlooking a picturesque scene or something. So I caught an auto and got to the resort and settled down with my novel. And thus the wait continued. It actually continued till 7PM in the night, if you believe it. I read, and I read and I read, I slept, had coffee, read again cursing myself for not renting that bike and seeing the place. Finally they arrived. The bus broke down once, the road was bad, 50 people take 2 hours to finish lunch etc were the reasons given. Finally after room allocations, freshening ups, exchanging pleasantries and the usual stuff, we got down to dinner. All the men went for drinks and since I have been a man for sometime now (it happens at the age of 23 and two-fifths, if you didn't know) I joined them too, in spite of protests from my mother. I haven't formally had drinks with my father and I felt like I had grown. I had vodka, the 'high' point of the day. Then my father's colleagues and their families all got down to playing anthakshari which I always find not too entertaining as it involves singing and I sing (if you can call it that) in a single tone without any inflections whatsoever. So I just sat and tried to be helpful with the meagre amount of songs that I knew in Malayalam and Hindi. And so ended the first day of just two.
The next day started early as the team having travelled 16 hours by bus, wanted something to count for when they went back home even if they had to go back by noon the same day. So the plan was to get out by 7:30 in the morning and see as much of Coorg in 4 and a half hours as possible. To cut a long story short, we visited a Buddhist temple in Coorg. Period (that is for emphasis, I mean there is a period there already, but I just want to emphasise the seeing only a Buddhist temple in Coorg fact). Then after that, which again is seeing only the Buddhist temple in Coorg thing, I boarded the bus to Bangalore and started the return trip at 2:30pm. ETA Bangalore 9:00PM. All was fine till Mysore. On the Mysore-Bangalore highway, there was some maintenance going on for the 2-up lane and so all the vehicles were taking the wrong lane. I always get the jeebies when I have to drive on the wrong lane or when other people drive on the wrong lane, in general people driving on wrong lanes, whatever maybe the reason. I mean once I was driving on my side of the road and suddenly this vehicle comes up totally in the wrong lane and without warning. I was keeping to the left of the double lane and so was not too much in danger. But that kind of feeling stays with you. Seeing a vehicle come almost head-on when you least expect it is definitely a thing that stays with you. And it is the the worst thing that traffic control authorities do even if its temporary. So I was sitting in the 2nd row from the front on the right side of the bus and I could see we were going on the wrong side. But the funny thing was, the left side lanes, which we were supposed to go on but weren't due to probable repairs, had vehicles running on it. I thought maybe the driver didn't get a break in the median to merge with the left lane and was waiting for the next break. Then it happened. The driver braked hard. It had happened before Mysore, but this time it was longer, I could hear tires screeching on the tarmac and finally it ended with a solid thump and the next thing I see on the right of the bus almost to the mid, is an ambassador with its front totally crumpled, the driver slumped across the steering wheel and I had powdered glass/plastic all over me. I have seen vehicles after accidents but seeing it happen with the immediate after effect visible is very shocking. The impact had been mild in the bus. I mean I was surprised to see the level of damage suffered by the ambassador. The ambassador is a pretty durable car and not like a Maruthi. And to see it totally smashed up with the roof crumpled almost to the separator between the front and rear seats made me realise how vulnerable cars are when compared to heavy vehicles. I couldn't get out as the communicating door between the bus's cabin and the passenger seats was shut with the driver and conductor nowhere to be seen. By then lots of people had gathered around the car and a local guy, probably a passerby was asking for water which someone gave him, which he then proceeded to splash across the driver's face and then to my horror started pouring down the unconscious driver's mouth. I mean I don't know much first aid, but I don't think pouring water down an unconscious man's throat is advisable as I have the feeling that it might end up in the lungs rather than the stomach. And I really don't know what the point is in giving a guy water immediately after an accident. Does it alleviate shock? Well if the guy is conscious maybe. Well I didn't do anything to stop the guy firstly because I was in the bus but more so because I didn't know the language and lastly because I really didn't know what to do. There was this one guy on the phone for an ambulance which never came by the way. The people around the car finally took the driver out of the car and laid him down on the road. And then the guy who poured water into the driver's mouth gave the driver CPR! I thought that was a bad idea because the driver's ribcage was most probably broken due to the impact and I was imagining the broken bones piercing the lungs. But a friend later told me that it was okay and to get him to breathe again was more important and that the ribs usually are broken. Well I still am not sure. But anyway the guy gave up after a while and then they flagged down a mini-truck, stuffed the guy into the cab and drove away. Someone finally opened the door, and we all got out. I have never been in an accident before and so initially was kind of disoriented and without a clue on what to do. We all got out and stood on the side of the road with traffic towards Bangalore and waited for buses which the police said they will flag down. There was indecision on whether to flag a bus to Mysore and then board from there or get on one already on the way to Bangalore. We stood there for an hour with buses being stopped by the police but none having any space. Finally we did get into one and there was just one seat vacant and but I was the second in getting into the bus. So I moved to the last 2 rows where I could see some space, but it turned out to be occupied by 2 children one per row. I went to the last row and suppliantly asked them 'can you please adjust a bit'. The 3 seater had a guy, a girl and a kid - the kid in the middle, the woman at the window and the man occupying the aisle seat. The man shook his head and the woman made a negative gesture. So I moved to the second last row. This row had again a guy, a girl and a kid (same as the last row but the kid was a boy and he was occupying the window seat, the woman was occupying the middle seat and the guy again the aisle). But this girl, she smiled at me, moved the kid closer to the window and shifted to make space. I smiled back beatifically. But the guy didn't make a move, and for a moment I thought maybe I will have to sit in the space between the guy and the girl but eventually the guy grudgingly moved to fill the space which left me just enough space to rest half my bottom on, which is the optimal position for the so called half ass freeze-weird tingling feeling, later on. I didn't tell you about the people who had been there in the initial bus. The conductor and driver had vanished into thin air (one idiot actually said that they had gone to Mysore to report the accident and they will arrange alternate transportation). A lot of them vanished with the conductor and the driver, but not as quickly, and God knows how. The rest of us were 3 couples and me and a bald guy. The bald guy was the one who got in before me and got the one remaining seat. The other couples included a proper couple (proper in the sense holding hands, talking nothings and smiling at each other), a kind of couple (a 'kind of couple' is once in which the 2 are put in together and the aforementioned proper coupling and their hormones in general tend to make them swing to and fro – it is an unstable state) and a Mallu couple (I am also a Mallu but I still stuck with my baldy as being with a couple is as awkward as trying to walk with 3 legs). I should have maybe showed some community spirit and made conversation but I didn't. So on the bus, the Mallu couple were the closest to me, right in front, and a row of seats ahead, standing. The other 2 couples were kind of a group and stuck together further front about 3 rows ahead, standing again. Across the aisle from me, in the 2 seater seats there were 2 thin guys who finally stuck close together and to the window to make space for the Mallu guy's big ass. The guy was big and hefty and quite tall. He was adopting the half ass hangout position too. But he didn't seem to worry too much about comfort as he asked the girl to sit on his thigh, which he proferred to place at an appropriate angle, which was across the aisle. They were also not a proper couple but surely getting there. The girl initially declined probably because she was what you can call buxom, kind of good looking but definitely not what you want on your thigh kind of girl. Well the nut would have none of it and made her sit. Now my leg being attached to my ass was also kind of sticking out into the aisle, if only more so. So effectively, when she actually sat on the guys leg, she was kind of sitting on mine too. Now I am a compassionate guy. And since I was truly sorry for the guy, I was happy to share some of the load. Anyway after sometime, of course the load began to tell and the guy was like stretching his arm around the girl to try and catch hold of a bar for support, for some relief from the tonne on his single though hefty but swiftly turning to jelly thigh. And the girl asked him if she should get up and the silly fool said no. Now I was feeling pretty bad about it and even though he was a fool who deserved the pain, I asked him whether I should get up. I was feeling rather stiff myself and a stand would have been welcome. But he said no again. The guy must have been a masochist. The kind-of couple were around 3 rows to the front and with the Mallu couple sitting, I had a clear view of them. The guy was standing facing me with his hand around one of the vertical beams in the bus and the girl facing the guy. Then for a few minutes, she rests her face against the guys hand on the pillar and that made me smile. Don't ask me why. The end effect of this was for the next 1.5 hours, the hand remained right there. Not an inch to the top or the bottom even after the girl had moved her head away and it should definitely have started cramping. It's a funny thing to behold, a guy with his hand outstretched clutching at a pillar and staying like that for a long time. Well after a while, my butt was half frozen to a stage where I was feeling cold on one side and since the mallu guy had finally made the girl sit where he was sitting and was standing himself, I got up touched him on his shoulder and said that he could sit in my place. Then he went like 'No, no problem', and I went 'Okay, I am going to stand over there. Suit yourself' and he sat. And I found that spot on my lower back which when rested on the back rest of one of the chairs, I could stand without holding on to anything pretty comfortably. We were pretty close to Bangalore by then and around 15 minutes to Bangalore, my bald companion got off and I sat in his place. Later, I was back in Majestic aka the Kempegowda bus terminus and since it was 9:00PM, I decided to take the bus. That was a mistake and thus started the second phase of craziness. When I got to the platform from which people board buses to Madivala, I found a crowd of people (well it couldn't be like zebras but anyway), and no buses. Everyone seems to be waiting for one and it was a very huge crowd around the platform. I walked back to get an autorikshaw. I saw one at the entrance to the bus terminus and asked the driver if he will go to Madivala. He replied in the affirmative. And then I tentatively asked how much. And he goes 150. Now the actual fare is around 60 and I tried to balk at him to show him the ridiculousness of the amount. I told him 70 tops and then he said it is the govt rule that after 9, its 1.5 times the meter fare. I said bollocks (well I didn't, but anyway), walked back to catch the bus thinking about the measly 8 bucks that I will need to pay. That was the mistake I was talking about. So back to the crowd and still no bus. Everyone was anxiously waiting for one and there was none to be seen. Then a bus with no destination board rolled by and people started running after it and the conductor inside shouting its not going anywhere. It really wasn't and so the people came back and the wait continued. That lasted around 15 minutes when finally a bus again without a board came by but this time some of the people seemed to sense something and the number running after it was more than before. Finally it stopped and the driver and conductor started shouting angrily at the mob trying to get in. But the conductor changed the board to something and I asked a guy nearby if it will go to Madivala. He nodded and so I became a part of the mob. I had a backpack and this I wore with the straps behind me and the bag in front making me look like a pregnant woman but I could handle it easier. Then I transferred my purse to the front right pocket of my cargos along with my mobile and the camera in my front left pocket and started pushing toward the door in the front. In between that I could feel hands going into my pant pockets which I swatted away. I could see a couple of kids in the melee and later on I didn't see them on the bus. Reminded me of Oliver Twist. Well so I was there on the steps pushed in by people from behind and my legs finding few inches of space and my hands grappling with the walls for grip. After 10 minutes of further pushing and cajoling, I was more or less stuck in what you can call a mass of human bodies crammed into a tin can, with it overflowing. Then again the wait started. For the driver and the conductor to come in. it was around 9:50 by then and I was properly squashed but I stopped checking my pockets as the people with me I could see were trying to get somewhere and not interested in anything else. The wait went on and on and on and on. And all my thought was isolated onto just one wish - to have the bus moving, oh just to have it moving. Around 10:20, yes that is half an hour, the conductor comes in. he actually uses the drivers door and then scampers spiderlike over the heads of the passengers using the horizontal hand-beams for support to issue tickets. Okay that was an exaggeration but you should appreciate the guy's determination to go through that solid mass of human flesh without his heart faltering. But the driver wasn't in yet. It was 10:30 and still the driver is notseen and the passengers start banging on the sides and roof of the bus in protest. Finally the driver is spotted talking gaily to another driver and the passengers banging turns to shouts and finally he comes in, angry. He had to have his dinner, he was also human is his response. Which is countered by a very flustered guy with, did he have dinner or did he feed his kids and grandparents also. This then goes like the passengers are paying the drivers salary and that the bus is govt property and it gets heated. Some of the passengers who really want to beat up the driver (or maybe that's just me) swallow the bitterness and try to pacify the driver who is now shouting and finally the sweetest sound that I heard ever, that day, of the engine turning over is heard and we are off. 15 minutes later and I can sense I am close to were I should get off but I can't really see because like I said I was stuck in human goo. A fat guy wanting to get off at the next stop starts pushing from behind and I make space for him somehow and he squeezes through and moves forward out to the door. But as he does so he steps on my feet. And maybe a few others. The weight is not too great and I am waiting for it let off my foot, but it keeps growing and growing and I grew incredulous at the enormous weight that is concentrated on my foot. What started as a sound of protest goes all the way to a scream (somewhat like aaaa aaaa aaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHH) and I push with no effect on his bloody big mass. Finally when the pain becomes so unbearable that I am thinking of biting him or clawing off his shirt, he finally moves forward and lumbers off the bus. By then it was pretty close to where I should get off but a few more stops off and I feel another guy approaching from behind. This time I am ready and I move aside and try to manoeuvre him to my front without doing further damage to my feet but instead of what should have been there, I find his front pretty soft and to my horror (truly) see a woman of my age grimacing at me having felt her chest. I shrink back and try to get as far away as possible but she just ends up in front with her back stuck to my front which would have been quite an enjoyable experience in some situations but made me feel mighty uncomfortable. My troubles seemed nothing in light of hers having to wade through all those guys in the ladies section of the bus and not many as decent as I was (ahem). Well she somehow disappears and then it's nearing my stop and I start my journey through the goo. I am half way through and two (kind of big) steps away from the door when I feel the bus stop. The next step takes me within sight of the driver who is making motions of starting off and saying stuff like 'all done' when I say 'NO, I have to get off'. The driver's face turns ugly and he starts saying some thing. I am not listening at all as I am almost full stretch with my left leg lost behind somewhere in the goo and pulling with all my might and asking the driver to not start off. Then sickeningly I feel my shoe coming off and when I finally pull my leg free, it just a sock covered foot. By then the driver is shouting and finally I can't take it anymore. I shout back. Not sensibly but an angry howl, guttural and wild, like a guy in an asylum who has some sanity left and who knows he is going to get lobotomised the next day and wants to kill someone. It went like 'Aaaaaaagrrhahayaraaaaaaaaasssssshhhgrrrrrrr'. After that all the passenger and the driver too stare at me and the people nearest me move back a bit and in that space I lunge into the goo for my shoe and find it. By then the people get over their shock, some of them smile at the nut (me), others are too far gone and the driver is angry again. So I shout again, wave the shoe around and literally jump out of the bus with my arms out-flung, with a shoe in one hand and just a white sock on one foot. The people at the bus stop react similar to the people in the bus and move back. I put on my shoe and breathe and start walking home.The total time taken for a distance of around 8KM was close to 2 hours. Finally I am home.