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I started taking the public bus to school in class 8. I used to travel by carpool before that, but some unfortunate incidents made me and my parents realize that it was time to get away from the safety and comfort of travelling with rowdy teenagers and drivers who were quite proud of being ex-convicts. My mother was not too happy about me travelling by public transport. She is very overprotective of me to this day. And bus conductors in Kolkata were not known for their tender loving care during rush hour. However, soon enough we all came to realize that I had to grow up someday.
To my surprise, all the horror stories I had heard about public transport were not quite grounded in reality. No one tried to slit my pockets or snatch my phone, I did not get thrown off the bus because it was too full, there were no random ruffians trying to rough up the passengers and to my disappointment no one ever hijacked the bus because there was a bomb on board. In fact, if there’s one lesson that I did learn, it was that the bus is never completely full and there’s always more space. I’ve been in buses so crowded that it is a miracle that our bodies did not compress into some fleshy horror from a Cronenberg film. But it isn’t always that bad, somedays I would be lucky enough to find a window seat and just take in the sights and sounds of the city.
Since I was a regular, a lot of the passengers became familiar faces. I didn’t even need to know them to understand who they were, there was a father who would drop off his son to school, a lady on her way to work, a sports coach of some sort, students from other schools and even some local beggars who would get on the bus at certain stops. They were all strangers to me but as the years went by, I would begin to anticipate their arrival, maybe keep track of how they behave or whether they’ve dressed up for an occasion. I would sometimes even miss them if they couldn’t get on the bus. There were these very rare moments where they would even recognize me and smile. It’s these moments that made every journey unique even though the route would always be the same.
I developed a very strong appreciation for people because of the public bus. Watching everyone go about their daily lives made me feel really happy for some reason. Even now, when I am in a crowded place, I just love looking at everyone. It’s an amazing feeling to see all these people who can be so very different from one another and yet end up in similar places albeit for a short time. I would like to believe that I am always on a bus, going from one place to another as I meet new people and peer into their lives until they depart.
Nakshatra Roy, B Des Sem. 6, Animation and Motion Graphics, School of Communication Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)
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