It's 7pm. I walk out of my newly constructed swanky office. The world outside is completely different. There is chaos. And only chaos. The bus stop is just outside the gate, I prefer walking to the other stop 2 kms away, my only source of workout, better than going to the gym and walking on a tread mill.
I start walking in the so-called multi directional two lane service road. Footpaths never existed, they never will. I plug-in my earphones to cancel out the unnecessary honking from cars and bikes around, i guess some drivers have their hands glued to horns. Walking along the edge, one bike almost hits my hand. Nothing serious as long as I'm alive. Just ahead, an entry/exit point to the service road catches my attention as I see a car and an auto almost banging into each other. Both of them pressed the horn, none pressed the brake. A biker behind dodges both of them by driving in the opposite lane, he loves his life it seems. An unexpected, yet not so unexpected, pothole follows and he tries to move it away by honking, doesn't work, the pothole doesn't listen. Rapid slowdown, imbalance, and almost a fall, regains control and survives. Sadly, his family will see him again today. I decide to take off my earphones, just in case I miss a horn that was intended for me.
50 metres ahead is a lake, now a garbage dump. I see it from my lake-view cubicle everyday, sadly I don't like the view, it's a filthy one. Just next to that, almost encroaching into the lake is a "Lake View Apartment". I expected trees instead. Another garbage dump ahead, I always prefer the other side of the road while crossing it to avoid the emanating fragrance. The road ahead is narrow now. Shops, traffic, encroachments, stalls and more traffic, The main road is jammed so everyone starts entering the service lane. Somewhere ahead, a heroic bus driver is trying the same and now all the roads are jammed. I walk past the stuck vehicles, smirking at them and stop at a juice shop for a break. Hygiene, who cares, just gulp it down. A single-digit aged kid is sweeping the surroundings, I wonder if he has been trafficked from somewhere, ignore it, let there be an incident, I'll join the protest instead- on facebook. I hand him 20 bucks, that wont make me poor, but will make him 20% richer for the day. Now we are equal, maybe. The jam is getting worse and the bikers start occupying whatever space was left to walk. Everybody is trying to create music with their horns. Potential A R Rahmans. An old man murmurs "Khade hone ki bhi jagah nahi hai yahan". True uncle, I wish your generation had controlled your night fantasies, we might have had lesser population.
I start walking again to the bus stop, smiling at the jam entering the underpass. Surprisingly (not so surprising for me, it's my daily route!), a narrow footpath begins. I start walking on it, but no, yesterday I saw an uncovered ditch under a non-functional street light. Better walk on the road, thankfully it's one way now, except a few bikes coming from the opposite direction. I'm Almost near the bus stop, have to cross the road, time to be a daredevil, not the IPL team of course, they are terrible. A driver speeds up on seeing me crossing the road, I step back, only because his vehicle is stronger than my body. I run and cross the road, wondering if blind people walk only on one side of the city. Nevermind.
A bus is waiting for me. I run to board it. It starts before i can keep my foot. I backtrack. I'm scared of crowded buses, not because I'm Demophobic (I googled the word, you do it too), but because I lost a phone last year, and was lucky enough to have caught the next new phone in the hand of the passenger behind. I couldn't do anything, didn't know the language, wasn't a local citizen in my own country. The bus stops again, I run and board it, no wonder women don't prefer wearing sarees now.
The ticket is for 5 rupees. I have change but I prefer to collect coins, just in case someday the conductor genuinely does not have change. I give 10 to the conductor, he gives me the ticket, asks for change, I refuse, he starts writing behind the ticket, I take out my wallet and pretend to have shockingly found the change- I didn't keep it here, maybe the person next to me did. I give him the change, he gives me my note back. This time he doesn't give the ticket. Just two quick stops, I don't insist, but I do fear the checkers.
A well-off person is standing next to me. Doesn't seem like a frequent public transport user. The bus halts, he moves towards the door to de-board, somebody blocks his way, I open my phone and start checking whatsapp, the person gets down and immediately comes back inside. His phone is missing. Just what I feared. He shouts at the driver to stop the bus, the driver ignores, the conductor treats him as untouchable, the other passengers are least interested to help. I try to offer help, this time he ignores, frantically checking his pockets and looking around. The bus stops again, I get down, start walking towards home, no street lights, a dusty road opposite a flashy mall.
Maybe Modi is right. There must be millions regretting being born in India, my strong nationalist sentiments also shaking day by day. The pride that was instilled during childhood seems to be diminishing.
I reach home, turn on my laptop to write this. And midway, there is a power cut. Thank god, it's a laptop, a charged one.