For many years I lived with my grandparents in Ambala. We lived in Ambala Chavni behind the interstate bus terminal and while sitting on the cot in front of our house, one could easily see the national highway.
I used to miss Delhi a lot even at that young age of 8-9. I cherished everything that would remind me of Delhi.
At a particular time, between 12-1 PM if I can remember, there used to come a DTC bus. I don’t know what route it followed, but every day the driver would reverse the bus and that was the time when it used to come in my vision.
From where I used to sit, on the left-hand side there was the legendary Puran Singh Dhaba and on the right-hand side was his palatial bungalow, in between these 2 structures there was a narrow brick road that led from our row of houses to the interstate bus terminal and beyond (there was the main railway station beyond that). So I used to get a blinkered view of the entire area, including the bus.
Once my cousin came from Punjab (Ambala is in Haryana) to live with us for a few days. These days I use a power wheelchair. Before that I used to use elbow crutches and before that, in the beginning of the time, I used to walk with a rollator. A carpenter friend of my grandfather’s had built me a very nice, multicolored wooden rollator that also had a row of bells attached to it. I would walk around the entire area, the entire cantonment, pushing my tintinnabulary rollator like a vendor of candies.
So my cousin and I decided to visit the interstate bus terminal to enjoy some faluda kulfi that was only sold in that area. An added attraction for me was, since we were going at an appropriate time, a closer view of the DTC bus, that was bound to make its appearance around that time. Nobody knew in the house that I was having a secret visual affair with the bus that came from my city of longing.
After eating faluda kulfi we simply lingered in the area. Watching traffic those days used to be quite an engaging pastime. There weren’t many cars to see so catching sight of a car used to be quite stimulating. My cousin was from a village so the only vehicles he normally got to see were the Punjab roadways buses (PEPSU roadways, I think they are called) and tractors.
Whether the DTC bus came on its usual time or not I am not sure because those days we didn’t have many clocks and watches and nobody even cared about knowing the exact time. But there it was, right in front of my eyes, in its full glory, with all its epic assortment of yellow and green colors. I stood there, enraptured, soaking in the visual delight. At that time I felt as if I was not in Ambala, but in Delhi.
I don’t know for how long I stood there and what my cousin was doing in the meantime. And then the bus driver started reversing the bus. Either he did not see me, or if he saw me, he assumed that (I’m sure he had no idea I couldn’t run or walk fast even to save my life) I would easily get out of the way, the bus moved towards me. Whoever saw the approaching monster and me standing there dumbfounded with my rollator, started screaming and shouting and gesticulating. It was an open area (enough for a bus to reverse and take a turn) so even if someone had tried to run and yank me out of the way, if I can remember, there wasn’t enough time. But all that turbulence, both in the form of audio as well as visual, must had alerted the driver because the bus came to a halt just in the nick of time and I survived to write this blog post.
When we came home my cousin narrated the entire incident to my grandmother oblivious to the fact that the interstate bus terminal was off-limits to kids and the fact was reasserted with the help of some good beating that we equally shared.
I don’t remember whether consciously or unconsciously, I stopped waiting for the bus because I cannot recall looking out for it after that incident.