Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Thank You!

This was written as a second edit piece.

The lal dabba, as it is often derisively referred to, holds very special memories for me. I was a gawky, confused teenager when I first came to Pune to study in a reputed city college.
I was always homesick for the first few months, and counted days when I could go home. The first opportunity came around the ten-day Ganesh festival. I took an autorickshaw to Swargate and then made my way to the platform for Mumbai bound buses. I stayed in a small village near Panvel, so I had to get down at a 'request stop'.
I, therefore, decided to wait for the conductor to ask if he could stop the bus at Dand Phata, the request stop.
When he came, with the driver, I was scared of his gruff manner and I fumbled. I had to repeat myself twice before he nodded. I was travelling alone for the first and that too on a bus, so after Khopoli I kept my eyes peeled for Dand Phata. I need not have worried because the conductor called me as the stop neared.
The next few times, whenever I made a trip back home, I invariably met the same conductor-driver pair. We didn't become friends, but I grew less fearful of the conductor.
I was soon to realise that he had appointed himself as my 'guardian'. After making a call home from Lonavla, he didn't let me linger at the stand, talk to strangers. He also ensured that I always sat next to another lady passenger.
When I entered graduation year I used to take a bus in the evening, which meant that I didn't meet the same conductor-driver pair. However, I met other 'guardians'.
There was one conductor, who repeatedly asked if someone was coming to pick me up from Dand Phata. He didn't let me alight till he caught the lights of my father's motorcycle. There was another driver, who had yelled at the conductor for letting a lady passenger travelling alone, alight at some unknown spot on the old highway.
They are all nameless guardians. I never asked their names nor checked their coat lapels.
It was because of their care and concern that I could relax on the journey back home. It was because of them that I could make myself trust strangers.
When I read or edit news reports regarding teenagers molested or abused on bus, in trains and in flights...I considered myself blessed. This is a Big Thank You for all the employees of the State Transport.

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