The Bus Ride

Sonal Sai

The road was filled with vehicles, although there was no jam. It had been a while since I had left home, and my ride thus far had been pleasant to say the least. Looking out of the window, I could spot beautiful red Bougainvillea trees, the kind that I had always liked. The cool breeze would occasionally turn my curls into a playful mess, prompting me to tuck them behind my ears every five minutes. Every so often, the bus would stop and pick new passengers. I went back to looking at the lovely red flowers.

"Would you mind if I sit here?", a deep but chirpy voice startled me. I guess I had dozed off. It took me few seconds to recompose myself, and I let the new passenger sit next to me. I thought I could make a conversation, because the destination still felt far. "So, did you run away too?", I asked. "No, I was just made to leave.", I was met with a smile, that was accompanied by sad green eyes. "Why did you run away?" Not quite the question I had expected. I sighed, glancing away at the Bougainvilleas.

"Tell me, do you like mythology?" An enthusiastic nod. "Then let me tell you two stories.", I said, clearing my throat. "As Ovid went on to describe, one fine day in the Temple of Athena, where Medusa was a priestess, Poseidon, overpowered by his lust, robbed Medusa of her well-known chastity. Because Athena couldn't get angry at Poseidon, the god, so she cursed Medusa instead, which is why mythology has shown her as the snake-hair yielding, turning-you-into-a-stone monster. Closer home, in Indian mythology, Ahalya was Lord Brahma's most beautiful creation, married to Gautama. On a rather unfortunate day, Lord Indra disguised himself as Gautama, and made love to Ahalya. When the real Gautama learnt of this, despite all her pleas, Ahalya was cursed to turn into a stone, or in some versions, a dried up lake." I could feel the confusion. Taking a deep breath, I continued, "You see, these events happened with celestial beings, or gods, where the supposed protectors turned against the victims. Do you think it'd have been any different for me, a human? I was raped by 3 men, one of them being my father's friend. Father and Mother kept saying how I ruined every bit of respect they had in the society. It wasn't my fault, you know? But I couldn't take it any longer. So I ran away from home. Anyway, enough about me. Won't you tell me your story?" The same smile with the sad eyes.

"I was three when my mother passed away. I don't really recall any memories with her. But I grew up watching family albums. She looked the prettiest on her wedding day. She was all dolled up in a beautiful red saree that had these golden flowers sewn onto it. When I was eighteen, I imagined myself wearing that saree on my wedding day. I felt it would be a gift from her. I didn't tell it to anybody, it was my happy little secret. One day when I was all alone, I looked for the saree in the cupboard that once belonged to mother. When I found it, I kept staring at it teary-eyed. Something inside me asked me to try it on. I looked at the mirror for a really long time, would mother have liked her saree on me? Would she hate me if I wore it? Would she..."Hey! What do you think you're doing?", I turned around to see Bhaiya standing behind me. The look on his face was a mixture of shock, anger and disappointment. Before I could speak, he took off his belt and started hitting me with it. "You are not supposed to wear that! You are not supposed to wear a saree!", he had switched into a maniac mode, he didn't stop hitting for a second. But even though I kept growing feeble with each blow, it took me some courage to eventually get up and walk away. That's pretty much about it. Oh! I am Puneet, by the way.", perhaps that was the only time he smiled heartily.

"I'm sorry, I am Chitra." The bus came to a sudden halt. Turned out that we had reached our destination eventually. Maybe I could use a friend after all. I had nothing to lose, and I didn't think he had any either. Walking towards the gate, we were met by the receptionist. "Could you please confirm the date and time of your death?", she smiled. "13th January, 2017. 4:11 PM", we both said together, and then walked inside the gate, a smile on our faces, and more red Bougainvillea in sight.

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