My bike was on a strike last Sunday, and inspite of kicking hard, it refused to to cough.
I understood, it needed a long sleep, and I was only trying to do exercise unholy practises on an innocent soul!
All I wanted to achieve last Sunday, was to go to Hampankatta, buy daily paper, read it over idlies or dosas, wash them down the gullet with a strong coffee and return home feeling like a warrior conquering half of the world!
I cursed my stars, the company that manufactured my 20 year old bike, the nosy neighbour that always used to ask "What’s the problem? Need any help?!" who went on a foreign tour just the previous day, and the ever irritating Gujri collector who asked me, if my bike is for disposal! He offered to pay Rs.20/- per Kilo, and he swore by his throat, that it is the best deal he offered to anyone so far! I picked up a big jalli stone, and before I could aim, the poor chap vanished from sight!
Feeling abandoned and alone, I picked up my old faithful umbrella and walked to Chilimbi Bus Stop.
It is not unusual for a usual Mangalorean to catch a bus to go to Hampankatta, to watch a show in Town Hall, buy fish and vegetable at the Central Market, see a movie at Central Talkies, or even have a "Tuppa Dose" at Taj Mahal Restaurant.
For me it was a rare experience to catch a bus, since I never found the need for, in the last 20 years!
Murphy’s law they say…..My bad luck I sigh!
Every bus that appeared once in 2 minutes happened to be going towards Mangaladevi or Kankanady via Bejai!
It is strange but true! These buses never show up when you need them, but….they come one after the other like 100 Tablos in Mangalore Dassera Procession that I’d seen a few years ago!
At last, I got Route No.45, and got into the bus with much difficulty to keep in rhythm with the conductor’s masterpiece, "Right Poyee……!"
After catching the bus, I thanked my stars for having all my limbs successfully loaded into the bus!
The conductor, like any other Mangalorean Bus Conductors, had a unique style of screaming in a soprano tone –
Ladyhill…Lalbagh…Shedigudda…Bunt’s Hostel…Jyothi…Hampankatta….State Bank…Jeppere Undaa?!….Feeeeeee….Right.. Poyeee…..Dumbu pole….Piravu pole…onte barik pole….!
Luciano Pavarotti might resign, if he comes to Mangalore and observes this kind of a genius!
The conductor approached me and asked – "TicketTicketTicket…!"
I said "Hampankatta..!"
He tore a ticket and tossed it into the air. I dived to catch it, but it had travelled through the open window already and probably been relished by a starving cow near Ballalbagh!
I searched my pocket to find change, never found any coins, as the right hand pocket of my two year old pant had a hole enough to drop a tennis ball down!
Feeling embarassed, I tried to reach my T-shirt pocket, and realised that the costly Crocodile T-Shirt gifted by my friend from Dubai doesn’t come with pockets!
Butterflies started flying in my stomach, and I started to shiver like a Maleria Vivax positive patient!
The conductor was indifferent, and he announced "Mooji Rupai Elpathain paise."
I was about to plead, when a big blast was heard, and the bus came to a halt.
Everybody panicked and ran to the doors. I almost got stampeded, but managed to get down from the bus, intact.
The rear tyre had burst, thanks to the tyre resoling company!
The driver and conductor were worried, and passengers slowly moved to the nearest bus stop to catch the next bus.
We were in between Shedigudda and Bunts Hostel.
I stood there and watched, as they slowly removed the stepney tyre, fixed the jack and replaced the tyre. I gave them a hand.
When the tyre was fixed and the bus started, I stood still, worried about what my next move would be!
The driver honked the horn twice, the bus started moving slowly and it went a few yards and stopped. The Conductor popped his head out and asked "Barpujaaraa?…..!"
I nodded my head and showed my thumb rubbing my fingers denoting "No Money!"
He was annoyed, and he said "Baley Rayare! Kaas yer kaendaer…..!"
What happened next, I don’t remember, for my eyes were wet with gratitude! All I remember was sitting in Taj Mahal with Daily newspaper in my hands and hot Tuppa Dose and single coffee on the table!
"Taj Mahalda chaa dumbuda lekke ijji rayare….aandalaa namak ini kodeda sambandhanaa! Budyere aapuji…!" said the conductor, sipping his cup of tea.
I came home, walking happily with the marching tune from "Bridge On The Kwai" ringing in my ears.
Looked at my bike and said "You better behave. It’s time, you did!"
I gave her a kick, and like a thoroughbred horse, she started whinnying!
I still owe Rs.7.50 to that great soul, because he refused to take money for the breakfast and the paper.
I still try to stop that bus everyday to repay the loan but the driver and the conductor give a broad smile and pass-by, without attempting to collect the dues! All I hear from the conductor is "Right Poyee….!"
This happens only in Mangalore!
Author: Rajanikanth Shenoy- India