30 Minutes of Traveling: Stories from the Streets of Kathmandu #3

1993: 2003

1993

Rushing to college, every morning Monday through Friday, walking fast towards the slightly moving bus at Patan Dhoka. The closer I get, the faster it moves. Finally the conductor makes this unique bang at the door and sends signal to the driver to stop.
I get on the bus, no signs of seat so I stand holding on to the top metal bar with approximately six inches of gap with people next to me.I try my best not to be sandwiched between the crowd during the stop-motion jerk. Somehow the conductor manages to slither through the crowd. I hear the clickety-clack noise coming from the coins. The conductor’s hand is full of coins and ticket. He is moving his hand in a unique way to produce that noise which is a signal to pay the fare.

I tell him, ‘Not right now, let me find a seat or I will pay you when I get off.’

2003

On my way to my first job, Mundelein Bus stop, Chicago, IL. I get to the bus stop 10 minutes early, the bus arrives with the display of routes in the front. Automatic door opens, I get on the bus with no struggle. After climbing two steps, I exchange greetings with the driver while I slide a dollar bill into the machine next to the driver’s seat.
Then in an air conditioned bus, I see the privileged handicapped seating. I walked little further and get a seat near the window. I admire the view outside while I hear the automatic announcement of next stop.

Memories went flooding back 10 years, Oh where is the clickety- clack music and the Big Bang signal on the door? Where is that stop-motion jerk that alerted me from being sandwiched? Oh it’s only in my memories now. My stop arrives and I pull the string above my seat which signals the driver to stop. I get off the bus.

What a transition of transportation!

-Sarana Shrestha Parajuli


एकजना आमाले भन्नु भयो- “बाबु, यस्तो च्यातेको पाइन्ट किन लगा’को?”

अनि खलासी दाईको गुनासो- “मैले यो च्यातेको पाइन्ट लाउँदा ट्यापे भन्छन्,यहि पाइन्ट केटीले लायो भने हट भन्छन्। केटा हुन नि सार्‍है गार्‍हो छ।”

-Rojina Shrestha


Bhada Vs. Bhada

A curious little girl along with her father got inside the bus. They sat behind me. Her innocence stole my heart. She became a reason for my smile. Her fascination towards the things happening around left me dumbstruck. She gazed around and bombarded her farther with questions. She sang all the rhymes her teacher had taught her. Her mother tried hard to make her daughter stop talking, to keep her little girl from being the center of attention. But the girl didn’t fail to clear all her doubts.

As their stop arrived the conductor asked her farther for money ‘Bhada’(bus fare).

She immediately said, ‘Baba bhada ta kotha ma huncha yo dai lae kina mangi ra ko?

As they got down her farther answered her question and handed over the bus fare. The little girl proved to be different from all of us inside. She ignited enthusiasm to keep learning.

-Sefali Agrawal


Ladies and Gentlemen! It’s 31st May and the last chapters for 30 Minutes of Traveling (for now of course!) has arrived. Gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude towards everyone who read, followed and put their time to write and share their travel stories. 

I hope you enjoyed reading, reflected your good and bad times on the road inside the people packed buses. May be you got lucky with the window seat, may be you offered your seat for the elderly, and may be sometimes felt like the tuna inside the sandwich! 

They are but memories now, once the moment goes by, even after a fraction of time. 

Till then keep traveling, keep living, keep giving, keep writing, keep sharing the stories ignited inside the flames of your hearts!

Alfa

30 Minutes of Traveling: That Piece of Metal

You can’t fly like superman (even with undergarments worn above your clothes!), no not yet. The Star Wars life is still a dream (oh did they have public transport in Star Wars? Eh? I don’t remember!).

I would have taken a tempo if there was one, but I decided to go with the tiny micro, fairly because it is five rupees cheaper to travel in it with my trademark student ID. I hear people even have fake cards made to save the five rupee, may be?

3 PM

Not too many people inside, but I decided to stick to the seat right in front behind the driver’s seat. I caught a girl napping. Fair enough! Given the length of traffic jams. The bus was somewhere on the Jawalakhel road when it slightly skidded off.

‘Reckless,’ I thought instantly.

The back seaters were laughing at the incident which I thought could have equally gone wrong, instead of just being an adrenaline pumper.

A lady shouted from the second row to slow down, but she was cut off. A few more people got in and the vehicle ran off again, almost like a mini roller coaster. I might have landed into a public road version of Formula One.

Formula One would still be safer.

We were inside a video game. The bus was titling right and left, running at top speed avoiding scooters and bikes like they were hurdles in a game.

3.10 PM

We were already approaching the Bagmati bridge. I wished prayed for the traffic to increase. Only then would it slow down from this hunt. Late is definitely preferred over …well (take the trouble of filling in the blanks!).

We were now across the bridge with reduced traffic flow and off we went again. I wondered if an invisible Godzilla who was visible only to the driver was after us, or may be Voldemort decided to grace our day and was coming to get us. Or may be the One Ring was somewhere nearby and driving the person on the seat in front nuts! Not really though.

3.15 PM

Earlier than expected, with a thrill and not a good one. Off we went skidding AGAIN!

It was funny and strange both at the same time to see humans place an entire chunk of life over a small piece of metal and mechanism called breaks. People in love often say that they do not know the possibility of having their hearts crushed (completely!) by their lover. And there we were (still are) placing real breathing lives over a system that doesn’t talk, doesn’t cry and shout! We have backups of VIP documents because we cannot trust the metal (on which I write this story). What about lives? Had the break been a living thing would it have felt the mountain of pressure to work under such sharp precision? If it could talk, it would be flawed. But flawed it is the same. Thankfully it was a metal, just a metal really.

Someone was getting off at Bhadrakali, and swizz we stopped. Thanks to the little piece of metal.

I hope the metal talks, at least when it knows it’s going to go overboard. May be it does. And may be it is not loud enough to make the masters hear. Even more may be because it’s a metal it is expected to be perfect.

3.20

Slowed down a bit (thankfully!) due to a small demonstration, and I could see Sahid Gate. It only meant one thing, I was going to get down SOON! I got down.

Phew!


A big thank you to everyone reading my stories! Very very happy to receive stories of friends and family who have written down and shared their version of ’30 Minutes of Traveling’ which I will be sharing in the next post. 

Til’ then

Alfa

 

30 Minutes of Traveling: Three Rupees

Whenever I do have to get on the micro bus, I try to get on one behind the driver’s seat. I’m not quite the fan of going against the motion, but this uneasiness keeps me from falling asleep, forcing me to look at the number of jammed people inside the vehicle.

The scenery looks different when you are seated inside a public transportation;  the torn seat cover with the foam popping outside from inside, people getting in on every stop (or just anywhere!) and the conductor trying to persuade them about the availability of space.

The bus stopped at Kupondole, just before the Bagmati Bridge. The seats were almost filled, but no one was standing just now. The conductor slid the door open and called on two girls by the road to get in.

Cha didi cha,’ he said. They declined. He tried one more time. They marched ahead.

There were mostly students today inside the bus, with or without their trademark uniforms. A girl of perhaps fifteen was seated in front of me. She stared out of the window conscious of my gaze. I tried to divert my eyes, but her innocence kept my thoughts concentrated over her presence. How beautiful is childhood without the touch of the pompous world. What does she worry about? What are her dreams? Will she conquer the world someday? She gets off somewhere between Jwagal and Pulchowk. And there goes my thought along with her!

A middle aged lady in pink kurta signals that she will be getting off somewhere at Dumkal while she tried to search whatever change that remained in her cream colored bag. She abruptly handed over Rs. 15 to the conductor.

Athara ho didi,’ he said sharply.

The debate for the missing three rupee began. The lady claimed to have always traveled this particular destination on fifteen while the conductor boy was adamant that the price had been hiked. She complained that three is rather an awkward change to carry.

The boy exclaimed that public transportation users were selfish. Here beings classism and antagonism.

If the fare had been Rs. 16 instead of Rs. 18, no one would hand in the extra Rs. 1 that was needed (10+5+1!), he says.

The conversation was heated up by now. Their voices filled the bus, capturing the attention of all inside. She said with mistrust that working class people were cheats. She said this not in words, but merely through her voice. May be they represented the people in and out, and may be it was just a normal conversation of the passing day. She finally got down.

Luckily I got my student ID, but well for how long? Let’s worry about that another day, OK?


This May let me take you through the streets of Kathmandu, and my thoughts that travel along with them. Don’t forget to let me know what you think about these stories. If you have a story, don’t forget to share! 

30 Minutes of Traveling

Alfa