Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Road to Nagpur

The journey was in fact much extended right up to Pune. The Jabalpur beginning was as troublesome as  the ending at Nagpur. The journey begins in a rickety old bus paradoxically called luxury bus.

"Which Bus to Nagpur?"  

"Check Your Ticket!"

The bus has a characteristic scarred exterior with peals of paint with lost bindings. The interior does not look inviting either. Oh! Well one more weather beaten body inside.    

I twist and turn in order to avoid the ladder that leads to the sleeper bed on top. Eventually I manage to get into my seat, pull the lever and stretch myself maximum. The sun hits my face directly causing discomfort. The bus is warm and humid from inside, though it is October, but the parking is right under the sun. 

I wait in expectation for the bus to begin its journey onwards. The driver finally alights and begins chatting with the cleaner. The conductor is leaning out from the exit door. "Nagpur! Nagpur! Chalo Nagpur!

This is supposed to be a luxury bus, and only those with reserved tickets are allowed to embark. Who cares? "Nagpur" Nagpur!" 

Stuffed to the brim the contraption eventually moves forward. Amidst that sea of humanity, I try to close my eyes and relax for the seven hours tormenting journey onwards. The seat is not ergonomically designed, well  for a two hundred Rs fare one should not expect too much Luxuryyyyyyyyy. 

Throughout the journey I squirm like an acrobat to offer a comforting angle to my aching back and limbs. This does not work out much and discomfort continues. The bus traverses through picturesque surroundings of what where once dense forests. 

Its nothing new, the bad road condition, but the jerks break your bones and torment your muscles no end. You have to be careful so that you do not land on your neighbor. I peak from my window and see no sane piece of tar, only pot holes ravaged continuously by marauding wheels of buses and trucks. With each pounding the hole becomes larger and provides more space for the wheels. There are large stretches of road that contain nothing but loose sand and pebbles. There is no sign of any repair work throughout the National Highway. It is evident that proper ratio of material has not been used. The road is in utter state of neglect. Shameless! 

The extreme cataclysmic movement does not bother those in lofty seat as much, most of them are lulled by the rhythmic jerks that pass through the cross section like seismic waves. The unfortunate seat less travelers without a reserve ticket are engaged in constant maneuver to balance their bodies. And to save themselves from surrounding metal objects. Their journey is short hence they stand through. Years of discomforting travel has taught them how to hold one self  against life threatening thuds as the wheel falls into the pothole.   

In spite of the badly scarred road the driver pushes the accelerator to get the maximum thrust. The heat worsens as the sun rises and at each stop it is "Nagpur" "Chalo Nagpur". At each stop one lot disembarks  another alights to maintain the equilibrium. The inside smells of sweat, bad breath, oily snacks and garlic chutney all around. In India people eat throughout the journey, perhaps an instant source of energy that makes the body fight the hardship of travel better.            

The bus passes through small isolated hamlets that remain standstill, frozen back in time, centuries past, unconcerned with the changing pace of urbanity. The arid fields, rickety cows and goats are means of survival nothing exists beyond, most certainly the urban surroundings and its inhabitants. A lot which has discovered alien life and learned to ignore. The small towns on the way are engaged in a battle of survival between different eras, a conglomeration of rustic and modern structures. Noisy Baazars, loud blaring speakers and constant rant of the vendors characterize Indian townships. Stray cows, dogs and pigs are ubiquitous commensal  of man.   

The largest town half way through is Seoni made famous by Rudyard Kipling and his Jungle Book. Mowgli's Home, Pench National Park resides in the confines of Seoni and Chindware District close to the town.

The bus barely manages to drag itself uphill and the sharp turns make the ride more bumpy and troublesome.

The discomfort is compensated by the amazing scape of this National Park. The entrance to Pench is at Khawasa about 50 km from Seoni Township. At Khawasa the bus crosses over from MP to Maharashtra after a brief stop for tea, snacks, pan/bidi/cigarette and of course passenger exchange. "Nagpur" Nagpur!"    

We The People 

Roads in Maharashtra are better but not on this stretch, the journey lasts for another four hours exchange stops included. The passengers in seat wait eagerly for Nagpur to arrive. As decent law abiding citizens none has taken note of the road condition, a motley lot that represents all of us. A chalta hai lot that is voiceless and suffers in silence. The politician contractor nexus survives because of our silence since ages.

Perhaps the lot could teach those trying to turn turtles against the corrupt system. How not to confront? Chalta Hai Yaar hum bhi to khateein hain many would say.         
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