A couple of years ago, I traveled to India in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and to partly fill my embarrassingly empty passport. You could say that the late great Steve Jobs did manage to influence me also. We were a group of three friends who decided to head to Dehradun, India. While the journey to Dehradun was smooth-sailing, much can be said about the journey back to the capital, Delhi. The capital is only an 8-hr drive from Dehradun and we thought it’d be best if we traveled by bus.
Now, as much as we had enjoyed our stay and had a glowing opinion of the Indians we came across, there was still a modicum of stereotypical madness creeping up under our skin when we made the journey back to the capital. There were overwhelming fears of getting robbed, mugged, murdered and even raped; we had a lady friend amongst us. Such things can start doing jumping jacks in your head when you travel at around midnight. Our extended stay in the hills of Mussoorie, which was refreshing, landed us in trouble as we reached Dehradun late in the evening. Completely spent, we decided to eat at a local restaurant and before we knew it, the clock had already struck half-past nine.
So, we collected our belongings and took a cab to the main bus stop. We reached our destination at around 11 pm and much to our dismay, there were hardly any buses around. So, we went about searching and came to a realization that the standard deluxe buses had already started their journey to the capital. The only ones available were the considerably cheaper, overworked non-AC buses which had passengers who fit our potential criminal conventional image. Years spent catching Bollywood flicks in the cinemas played a major factor in creating such a strong delusion.
We had a flight the next day and had no intention of missing it. So, hesitantly, we boarded the non-AC bus. As soon as we took our seats, we imagined that we were potentially in a world of trouble. The bus was reeking of alcohol and smoke. The passengers were unusually loud even in the wee hours of the morning. Our luggage was, by far, the biggest around and it didn’t help that we were guarding them tenaciously. The driver, completely oblivious to our fears, set the engine running and put the pedal to the metal.
The three of us promised to stay awake the entire night, taking turns to guard the bags. It didn’t help that my friend hit the panic button half an hour into the journey. I spent the next hour and half half-heatedly trying to convince him that it would be fine. Unfortunately, I wasn’t convinced myself and he saw my weakness as an opportunity to turn me towards his side. Soon enough, both of us started get hysterical and that freaked our lady friend as well. Dog-tired as we were, all of us collectively agreed that it would be an impossible task to stay awake during the entire journey. And even if we did, how would be defend ourselves if attacked? Soon, my unstable friend went bananas, immediately got up and shouted at the driver to stop in the local dialect. After repeatedly screaming, the driver finally gave in. The passengers were astonished. While we made our small journey towards the door, we could make out that they were telling us to stay. Of course, we weren’t! Why wouldn’t they tell us to stay? They were plotting to screw us over!
We breathed a sigh of relief when the bus finally left. After that, we realized that we jumped out of a crocodile’s mouth only to land into a frying pan. It was a pitch-black night and we were stranded in the middle of a highway. A few vehicles sped past us intermittently while we walked back to Dehradun with our luggage firmly strapped to our backs. We calculated the journey we had taken thus far; we had already traveled for two hours. So, walking back wasn’t an option. Our common sense finally took over and we decided to catch a lift. Unfortunately, the few deluxe buses and cars that we saw zoomed past us without showing any signs of stopping. We can’t really blame them; we wouldn’t have stopped for anyone in that location as well.
Finally, a bus stopped for us and ironically, the bus bore a similar resemblance to the one we exited only thirty minutes back. Nonetheless, we hurriedly boarded the bus and reached back in a couple of hours. We stayed the night at a lodge and quickly fell fast asleep. We missed the flight. But, in our minds, we actually missed the ticket to hell. So, we were relieved.
Now, it makes for a wonderful dinner table story.