It was a routine travel for me. I was traveling from Pune to
for office work. I was not much enthusiastic about going to Nasik , so I had not booked ticket in advance. From Shivaji Nagar, a suburban State Transport bus stand, a bus leaves for Nasik after every 30 minutes. I was traveling during an ‘off season’, so was not much worried about crowds and waiting time at the bus stand. Nasik
I reached the bus stand and was happy to see that there was no queue at the booking window. Within a second, I understood the reason. The only bus available at that hour was Shivaneree – an air-conditioned Volvo bus, named after a place where the famous King Shivaajee was born. I like the name of the bus very much – that is bit sentimental I know. This bus ticket is costly; nearly double the regular luxury bus (named as Asiad – the 1982 Asiad local transport bus model is widely used by Maharashtra State Transport Board - Mahaamandala). It is much costlier than the regular bus service – commonly known as ‘lal dabba’ – the red and yellow color bus. Naturally, many potential travelers preferred to wait for half an hour more and travel cheaply.
I took the ticket, the booking clerk handed over a newspaper and 100 ml water bottle to me. These two things are supposed to be complimentary! I always find such offers funny. If I am spending three hundred rupees for the ticket, can’t I spend three rupees for newspaper and ten rupees for water bottle? But our society suffers from a disease called ‘free gifts’. During my earlier booking I had politely refused to accept these two free gifts. On that occasion I had to discuss the issue with at least five officials and so I had given up. They had a point. If some free gift is not distributed properly, it accounts to corruption was one of the arguments. Though I was not fully convinced, I was tired of discussing non issue.
The girl sitting next to me did not give any response to my smile. When the co-traveler does not want to talk, what else you can do? Just watch things around and relax. The bus was moving with adequate speed, no disturbance of movie or songs. Some people were loudly talking into their mobile phones, some were sleeping, and those traveling in groups were laughing and chatting. Everything was just normal.
The bus stopped at the food mall. I went to the book stall and purchased two books and ice-cream. By the time the bus renewed its journey, I was engrossed in the book.
Suddenly the driver stopped the bus at the roadside. He opened the bus door and shouted “Come quick, run”. Now this was supposed to be a nonstop bus (except for the tea break) and whom was the driver inviting? Everybody stopped whatever s/he was doing and looked at the driver – some with question mark, some with irritation, some with pure eagerness. I too stopped reading and was wondering what exactly the driver is doing? The air was full with anticipation.
And there came 7-8 girls, all very young, may be in the age group of 8 to 10. They were laughing excitedly. The girls suddenly brought a joyful energy into the bus. Couple of us, who were sitting in the front row, had opportunity to smile and talk to the young girls. They all stayed in the small village by the roadside and everyday walked two kilometers (one way) to the school. Today, they had some kind of examination (unit test I believe) and they were happy that the examination went well. They were walking back to their village and suddenly the driver had kindly given them lift. Just in the next five minutes, their village came and they alighted down, thanking the ‘driver uncle’ and asking him ‘when is your duty next on the route’! The departure of the girls created a vacuum for a moment.
The girls had as if electrified the bus, recharged us, everybody was fully awake and surprisingly everyone was smiling. The innocence of those girls brought a new life. Even the young girl sitting next to me smiled and said to me, “good to see village girls going to school.” People stopped talking into their cell phones and started interacting with co-passengers. The old man in the front seat, added some kind of remark and everybody was talking about those young girls with love and joy.
I was really interested in the action of the driver. “Is it your native village?” I asked the driver, and he had a story to share.
With all smiles the driver told, “About a month ago, my bus had some problem. I was not able to drive it further. I just waited on the highway for mechanic to arrive. But somehow it was raining heavily; the mechanic at the next bus depot was on leave. So, the officials had to arrange for a mechanic from a bus depot at 100 kilometer distance. You know, how our offices work. It took two days for the mechanic to arrive. There was no hotel nearby. The villagers brought food and tea for me during those two days. Some of the young boys accompanied me during the night – you know, I couldn’t leave the bus. All the boys and girls in the village came and talked to me, they played games with me, and they sang songs to entertain me. You see, it was not at all their duty to help me. I was unknown to them; I don’t belong to this area. But they helped as if I was one of them. Their action touched me. If they had not supplied me food, I had no option but to stay without food and water. If they had not given company, I had no option but to stay alone under the sky. I am one of them now. Whenever I drive on this route, I give them lift. I know it is against the rules, but they are good people and they are poor. Would you allow those young kids to walk in the hot afternoon when you are traveling in an AC bus?”
“No, you did the right thing,” was everyone’s spontaneous response.
It is amazing that there are still people around who offer unasked help without expecting any returns. And it is more amazing that there are still people around who understand such help and reciprocate the favor in good spirit. The world continues to progress because there are such simple people, who may never make headlines, never get the name, fame and wealth to which the world salutes. However, they are the real movers and motivators. They are simple and great people! Simply Great!!
I value innocence especially because I live in ‘use and throw’ kind of culture, everyday I face shrewd mob and purposeless action is rarity here. There are times when I need to feel confident that there is nothing wrong in being innocent and helpful.
I look forward traveling to
. I hope I will meet that driver again, meet those girls again and share their smile, their joy, their peace, their togetherness, and their selflessness. Nasik