Sunday, November 26, 2006

precious people

So this Saturday I was at NLS for Legala, their Lit-Cul fest.
Went Friday, too. Took part in three team events (I qualified for the finals of two of them, and ended up second to last in both. Sigh. Much resentment). Wrote creative writing five times. Three poems and two stories.
Met old friends and recent friends. Made new ones. Died of envy at talent and teams. Got invited to join two pot-pourri teams on the spur of the moment. Missed my mother’s school annual day presentation, for which I had written a poem for the fourth standard production and the outline for the ninth standard play. Ate food. Lots of food. Different kids of food. College fest food stalls are dangerous.
On Friday, I left the fest at eight in the evening. Got home at nine.
On Saturday, I left the fest at a quarter to seven in the evening. Got home at nine. Why? Because I had adventures on Saturday. Transport adventures. The only kind worth having.

I was supposed to have been at my mother's school in Koramangala at 5:45 in the evening, as per promises. But the What’s the Good Word finals (where I proved that, with a good (PERMANENT!!) partner and some practice, I could possibly be formidable competition) stretched up to six thirty, and so I didn’t get out of the campus till six forty-five.
The sun had set and there was a slim crescent moon hanging in the sky. I admired it for a few seconds and then headed out the gate. Spotted a girl up ahead. Female = relative safety, in my opinion.
I walk up to her and say, “Excuse me, are you going to town by any chance?”
“Yes,” she replies. “I’m just going to catch an auto.”
“May I walk with you?” I ask her. Indeed. The people have made me bold.

I walked down to Nagarbhavi in the company of the stranger on the road, and made friends. It’s positively a talent, now. At the Nagarbhavi circle, I took her leave. Then I boldly took the wrong road and walked 50 metres, until, a little unnerved at lack of traffic in general and buses in particular, I walked back to the main road after asking directions of helpful people at the nearest shiny petrol bunk.
I waited at the bus stand annoyed and disappointed and considerably rumpled in spirit. I waited for a bus to Banashankari, from where I could catch a bus to Koramangala. Discovered I’d get no direct buses to Banashankari, and would have to go to Vijayanagar instead. And so I waited for a Vijayanagar bus instead. None were forthcoming for the next half an hour, and so I gave it up for a bad idea and hopped on to a Majestic (from where I could catch a bus to Tippasandra (which is where I live)) bus instead.
(too many insteads. but in lieu sounded far too pretentious. just pretend it's a theme.)
The bus was of the kind where the first few seats are set facing backwards and into the side instead of facing forward. All seven places; the ones facing backwards and the ones facing sideways were occupied by men. If I’d had a fraction more energy, I would undoubtedly have asked them to vacate a ladies’ seat, but I was loath to spend the rest of the ride sitting rigid and bolt upright next to shady characters.
And so I stood, till a lady got off barely two stops down; and I took her seat with a gratefully murmured "Well, that was lucky." (And I mean murmured. I talk to myself on public transport as a general rule).
Took out the journal and waxed eloquent about pleasant events and the unpleasantless of the lack of partners. An elderly lady got on, and I, in the spirit of gratitude and goodwill, offered her my seat. She thanked me, but she was getting off at the next stop, she said.
At this point, I noticed the eyes of one of the men on the seats on the side staring at me. A man, forty-five or thereabouts. Big frog eyes and discomfiting leer. Alarm bells and scary sensations. “Ignore him”, I told myself. After a while, my discomfort got rather unbearable, and so, in an attempt to shame him into stopping (Yes, I'm an idiot, I know) I stared at him for a few seconds, hoping he’d drop his eyes, as the man at the bus stop had that morning.
And he says, "What, madam."
So I tell him, "Please look somewhere else", and then I take out my journal again and start writing. Do I need creepy guys staring at me in the middle of the night? No.
And then, he starts talking to me. Asking me what I'm writing. Peering over my shoulder. Asking me to take down his address.
“Are you taking my address? What madam?”
At this point, I was one step away from freaking out and losing my head entirely. I was in no condition to handle some evidently drunk sleazeball. So I tried to ignore him completely, and congratulated myself on almost succeeding completely; and then, the women (unhelpful; heartless; unconcerned) sitting next to me got off.
He’s going to come sit next to me, I thought. Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…
And I, being in no mood to handle some random guy trying anything because I was tired and had missed my mother's school function and had won nothing means nothing at the fests, decided to turn to perfect strangers for help.
I'd noticed a bunch of college students in the seats behind me when I'd gotten on the bus, and just at the last stop, one of the guys had given his seat up to a lady and had squeezed in next to his friend. They looked decidedly uncomfortable, and I thought they'd leap at a more convenient arrangement.
So I turn back to them and say, "Excuse me, would one of you guys mind sitting next to me, I'm a little scared of that creepy drunk guy in front." Naturally they find this highly amusing and start ribbing each other over which of them will sit in front with me. And then Mr. Creepy Man helps out, by leaning over and asking one of the girls sitting next to them, "Which country you are from, madam? Nepal? Singapore?"
One of the boys gives him a single incredulous look, and then he says, "I see what you mean. Tell you what, why don't you come and sit here, and the two of us will sit in front."
:) Yay.
So I sat next to the two girls, and, just to be sociable, I ask them, "So you guys are all from the same college?"
Turns out, yes. And guess which college they go to? NALSAR.
So I told them I knew Vinaya. And we spent the next hour on the ride to Majestic talking about things. They're all first years who'd come to NLS for the parliamentary debate, and they regaled me with amusing anecdotes (many of which I needed explained) and I, in my turn, impressed them with my intimate knowledge of NALSAR politics. All in all a very pleasant ride.

And then we all got down at Majestic Bus Terminal, and it turned out the seven of them were headed in my direction. They wanted to take autos, and I think they would have offered me a spot, but I decided to take my tried and true public transport home rather than go out partying. They were headed to Stones, a pub in Indranagar. Practically next door, sigh.

I walked into the terminal smiling. I do that a lot lately. Every time mind dwells not on design, more sigh.
So I waited for a bus, the 314, which drops me practically at my doorstep. But none came, only a series of 138s and 139s. And I was exhausted and my feet hurt and I wanted my bed very badly.
So, I just took the next 139, which goes sort-of-near-home-but-not-quite.
Got on, and I sat next to this lady.
AND. Guess who she turns out to be. Go on, guess.
She turns out to be the same stranger who fed me chips on a bus ride a week ago.
I asked her if she remembered me. She hadn't recognized my face. I told her I'd recognize her anywhere. I have a fabulous memory for faces, but even so, that would probably be true after last night.
This time she gave me biscuits.

Sometimes the things that happen to me I think no one in their right minds would write into fiction because they're so unbelievable. And that's why real life is better, you two. Because it always surprises. Only in life do you see the truly unexpected. It's what makes life worthwhile.

And so I came home.

The end.

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