Shrinath Nama Travel Agency — Kota
“500 rupees” he said twirling his moustache.
“What” , I replied pointing towards the fare chart, “it says 200 here.”
“Last minute booking will cost more.Peek time hai bhaishaab” he replied with a smirk on his face.
He was right though, it was the end of Navratri. The watch on his wrist read 5:46 . A bus at 12 o’clock would be difficult to get, that too for Jaipur. Moreover, a close audit of my pockets gave only 432 in cash and 55 in Bansal Canteen Coupons. Negotiations were off the charts , well because I was in the motherland of Baniyas.
Disappointed, I left the place. Hope in me was also setting fast with the Sun far off. As I inched out onto the road, my mobile rang. Stupid Airtel was welcoming me to Rajasthan for the 100th time. The very next message read “6:30 Jaipur”.My heart was overpowering my logic.A fortnight since I last saw her(and I am talking about the pre-Skype era).
“Auto!” ,I shrieked on the top of my voice, “Bus stand chalo“.
Old Kota Bus Stand — Old Kota
Old Kota, unlike (New) Kota had the less fancy “On Spot Registration” facility. The crowd was enormous. India’s population does conglomerate on festive occasions. I did get a ticket amidst all the hustle and bustle. 11:45 would my joy ride arrive.I felt like sending smirk back to Shrinath Nama Travel Agency.
Having my dinner I marveled at the looks of the Garh Palace by the glittering Chambal. I just imagined her face, the feeling of surprise and happiness. Oh! Love does make you do the craziest things. “Omnis amans amens” as the Roman’s said.
11:52 , as my bus arrived, I was thunderstruck. “My joy ride” already came jam packed from Rawatbhata, leaving not a square inch of space. Roof was empty, but was filling fast. I opened her message again , this time reading it full “6:30 Jaipur low on battery love you”.
“Why not?” , I thought as I climbed the ladder, “I will not regret this!”
Somewhere between Kota and Jaipur
“Should have thought this through”, I pondered shivering. Temperature below 10 and with the bus at 50 mph was not helping. Being brought up in North Bengal, I am no stranger to subzero temperatures. But again we had jackets and occasional bonfires there.Fellow passengers were cheerful. They used to cry out for sporadic branches, where we all used to duck. I was sure to be in the 5th great tragic love story of Punjab, where the guy dies falling from a Bus.
5:35 , I reached Pink City safe and sound , but with my bottoms grilled. The Sun also came out to warm things up.
“Ok, I survived it”, I thought cracking my back.
Jaipur Junction — Jaipur
“1 coffee” , I ordered rubbing my hands.
“7 rupees”, he said handing my coffee.
I looked up the fare chart, it said “Kofee —- Rs.5”. Now, this time I was happy to pay more.
Coffee was refreshing as I waited for Asansol Jaipur Express. At 7:00 it arrived on platform number one. She awestruck as I intervened her. She smiled as I hugged her. All troubles were worth that smile, even another “bus ride” back to Kota.
“How was your journey?”, I asked holding her.
“Good. How was yours?”, she said , as we left the platform.
I replied smiling , “It’s a long story!”
One month later we broke up. As Kahlil Gibran said “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” But again, when I look back , I really cherish the experience.