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Friday, July 2, 2010


There are journeys and there are more journeys but this time I was gearing up for a memorable trip which I had not really foreseen as one that would bring a wry smile to my face and produce moments of amused introspection.
Called to the headquarters for the media awards and the office anniversary picnic, I was at the capital for a fortnight, dividing time between work and fun. I filed in some stories for our weekly, shared jokes with friends while biting into pizza at The Seasons, went on shopping sprees spending a bomb on girly stuff, wept copious tears alone at the clock tower due to reasons best left unsaid…two weeks passed.
Finally, came the day of return- two days’ travel from Thimphu to Trashigang. I knew what they say of ordinary buses….they are famous for causing discomfiture and muscle cramps. Coaster-buses are heaven compared to the afore-mentioned big, menacing monsters. But I really didn’t care. I just wanted to get back home in time.
So I boarded the ominous structure on wheels and waved a last goodbye to my uncle who dropped me till the bus stand. As the bus roared to a start, I looked around at the other passengers. This was difficult because the space was so cramped I could hardly breathe.
The seat next to me was occupied by a man who looked friendly enough but the jacket he wore was so big it seemed to be smothering him at the neck. Luckily or unluckily, he decided to shift to an empty space next to two other men and I was left alone…at least for sometime.
As the bus heaved to a halt at the first stop, I was accosted by a woman who decided to sit beside me. She was a simple villager judging by her unkempt appearance, faded shoes and the small dirty ruck-sack she was carrying.
I have nothing against villagers but my senses cried out to be rescued at the foul stench emanating from the woman. And she decided to give me company. She kept throwing me irrelevant questions which I tried to answer in Sharchopkha as best as possible.
To get some respite and a breath of fresh air, I opened the window but the next moment the guy behind me pulled it close. “It’s raining. Close the window,” he uttered, no, in fact, ordered. Wanting to avoid unnecessary trouble, I did just that and the woman did not exactly smell of roses.
Some chemistry was brewing between the two young pretty girls in front of me and two young lads at the back. I noticed it every time the bus halted. The guys seemed to be seriously smitten by the girls going by the amount of ogling they did. I chuckled to myself inwardly… “Kids!” I thought.
The journey ended after twelve excruciating hours, at Bumthang.
The next morning I boarded the bus at six exactly. The same people, the same faces…and my companion- the friendly village woman was also present, flashing me a toothy smile.
As the journey progressed, a soldier to my right who was sitting with two other passengers started a monologue. I guess he had encountered endless adventures because he just could not stop talking about his travels, experiences and blah..blah…
Many times I dozed off; lulled to sleep by the heat and exhaustion and when awake I kept myself occupied by newspapers and a book I had newly bought.
As we neared our destination, my companion started thanking me profusely for the few eatables I had given her. She seemed to be genuinely grateful. All of a sudden, she glanced at my hands and showing hers- rough and worn out, said, “Your hands are so smooth unlike mine but can’t help it, I have to work!”
I just kept quiet because I didn’t know what to say. In fact, at that moment, I was feeling ashamed for treating her in a condescending manner. Yes, though she was poor, illiterate and far from tidy, she was also a human-being with needs, desires and wants similar to mine. How could I have thought myself superior to her?
The last journey of my two days’ travel ended at 7:30 in the evening when we reached Trashigang. It had been a tiresome journey but I now knew what it meant to travel, not in an air-conditioned Prado or even a Maruti car, but in a bus- the people’s bus to be more precise. And I had learnt something.
To really understand life, sometimes it just is not enough to sympathize intellectually. Every privileged person can do that from his ivory tower. You have to come out of your comfort zone and learn from people whom however ordinary or inferior they seem can teach you what no posh school or college can. This was a lesson of a life-time.
P.S. Of course, you must have a sense of humor.

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