She always boarded the ‘Romeo’. It was a bus that guaranteed a comfortable ride through the boroughs. It carried passengers from the city to their offices and schools in the rural backwaters. She always coveted the window double- seaters. The seats seemed to her , upholstered with stories of the innumerable people who had sat upon them and looked out to dream or be dazed by the fleeting world outside. She found a certain comfort when she edged onto their worn and weary embrace and it was like sharing her own story with it- one that she would usually hide. The seats were also equalizers of people who boarded the bus with trust. Humans of every strata, calibre or state of hygiene, would on the same seat adjust. The highway was ragged and tattered. The distraction of the streaming scenes outside the window mattered. Her mind was flooded with impressions against the backdrop of the sky. Yet her head felt empty and calm , though to attain this state she didn’t have to try.
There were few passengers with whom she made eye contact but with one gentleman it felt like a secret pact. There was hardly any conversation and she was thankful for that. They acknowledged each other with a nod, a raised eyebrow, a smile and sometimes a ‘hello’. He was always quick to give her his seat, with an expression quite mellow. They looked out at the bridges under which truant youngsters splashed . Swimming and fishing, with nets and angles the boys lashed. They spied ebony – shouldered women with immaculate cheekbones completing their ablutions. They drank in the sights and envied their carefree innocence- a lesson on liberty, without question.
The local buses always took the longest route. They were faithful to all their stops along the commute. Hawkers boarded with their fancy ware. Pouches of dried gooseberry was her mainstay . An inexplicable sense of belonging with the bus and with the lives it carried seemed so right. Names, though, were not exchanged , and asking for addresses seemed impolite. Husband and hearth took a backseat for a while. The evening would bring back the householder’s bile.
It was only during her pregnancy that she began counting the potholes. A hundred and sixty – and dodging them became the main goal.
“Won’t take early leave with no pay for no fault of mine. But not to worry for my baby would be an unforgivable crime!”
How could she avert both dangers with aplomb? The jerks could be fatal for the life in her womb.
A charged brain welled up and spouted a solution. Her seatmate and others helped with an accurate calculation. She made a discovery that at that time was major. She didn’t need to worry if she sat right behind the driver. Nine months later, she welcomed her newborn with pride . She called her ‘Juliet’ and took the hospital bills and a long paid maternity leave in her confident stride.
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