Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Muses on Buses


I ventured outside of the house for the first time today (except for Christmas, of course!). We walked from the hotel to the bus stop, where we waited for a few minutes for the bus to come.

Buses here have metal floors with no-slip designs on them. The doors were automatic, perhaps ten years ago— now they open and close by use of a handle. To prevent them from banging, one end is attached to the bus by a thin rope.

FOR HANDICAPPED PERSONS and FOR SENIOR CITIZENS are painted on the first row of the bus, one on each side. The two seats behind each are LADIES ONLY.

There were ladies standing up in the bus, and all the seats were full of men. Courtesy is different here.

The man who takes the fare fee has a complicated job. He doesn't give out tickets, so he has to remember each person's face and whether they paid him or not, while computing change, remembering who's with who, etc. He also gives the signal for the bus to stop and go— one whistle to stop the bus, one whistle to tell the driver to move.

The front of the bus is large and walled off. Inside are flower wreathes and pictures of deities. I forgot to mention that people in India drive on the right. It's a bit strange at the beginning, but then it makes complete sense.

In fact, even if you've only been in India for a day or two, whenever you see any Western movies, you wonder why on EARTH they'd be driving on the wrong side of the car. I once had a dream I was driving on the right side of the car. Usually when I have these dreams I've got my siblings in the back seat and there is a) something chasing us, b) we have to get somewhere. There's usually panicking. And I'm on the left side.

But, in this dream, there was no panicking. There was no stressful city I had to drive through. It was an open country road, and Ileana and I were discussing random discussions.

So I don't think it's surprising when I say that driving on the right side of the car make a bit more sense than driving on the left.

But back to the subject of buses. Standing in the bus is an art. The bus bumps up and down, side to side… turns in strange directions on a dime (right and left are a strange directions when they're on a dime)… etc.

If you're not standing correctly, you will bump into people two feet in front of you. The proper stance is— one foot pointing forward, one foot pointing sideways. Knees bent, weight moving from foot to foot depending on what's going on. HOLD ON to something. Not even the best stance in the world is going to save you if there is a sudden brake…

And you will find yourself falling into people who fall into people who crash into something.

It's not fun.

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