As usual I woke up late. So typical of me. Still managed to reach Fatima Nagar bust stop by 8.30. Engineers efficiency, it has to be.
It's my first day to office and I couldn't afford to get late. Like all others at the bus stop I too waited for my bus. Anxiety and restlessness kept on building with time. I just flipped my hand and checked time on my watch. The realisation that I had the luxury of extra time allowed me to extend my glance, to the hustling and yet so self obsessed surroundings. The bus stop is crowded. Mostly with younger generation, of all kinds. Pune is restless, as much as her relatively younger population. And all her daughters are pretty. Still she manages to remain submerged in her own subtle busy business. Busy city and busy people .
The buses which never stopped at the bus stop confirmed it. Pune is damn busy !! The buses here are a sight of its own. The very sight of them reminds of some scenes in Frankenstein movies. Dusty , dirty, ill maintained and needless to say over crowded.
I had shaven my beard, not a common thing to be associated with me. While checking the perfection of my shave with my fingers, I noticed that the young lady onto my left just gave a beautiful smile and adjusted her covering cloth. The cloth she used reminded me of desert dwellers, who covers every part of their face but eyes. Her smiling face confirmed two things. First, I am well dressed. Second, the dust here's an enemy. Not only does it suffocates you, but hides the pretty faces around.
Then came my bus. I had a tough time reading the Marathi script for bus numbers. The short shortsightedness and stupidity of the authorities is quite unbelievable here. Everything around is in the local language. Somehow I interpreted it to be 2-0-2. The bus was dirty, as expected. The red paint made it further difficult to make out which part was dirt and which part paint. I virtually climbed into the running bus, and got my selves settled onto a corner seat.
I was dusting off the dirt which stuck on to my pant as I got in. As I was making myself comfortable at my seat a young woman came and sat near me. I was casually gazing away at the scenes which were passing by, the green ground onto my right side, traffic, shops etc. A sweet voice grabbed my attention. The girl on the left told me it was the famous race course of Pune. The green ground became the ice breaker here and she started narrating on everything I asked.
The narration was interrupted by a voice. I observed the man, rather annoyed with his ill-timed claim for tickets. He must have been in his mid forties. His teeth, embarked with pan resins, added to his stupid look. He had few missing tooth as well. His dress was not the best and attitude - not even close to being desirable. However the teller like machine he had in his hand and colour of his dress made it clear that he was the conductor. He shouted something like tickets in the local language. The smell from his mouth was so nauseating. The fear of him opening his mouth again made me offer whatever currency I got from my pocket and I claimed for tickets, almost instantaneously.
I told him my destination. That was my first mistake in Pune. He started speaking, saying that he don't know where that is, I should render him change etc etc and etc. For the odour I had to bear with then, I should have kept on adding etc's. When he came to know that I was not knowing the local language he started to speak only in Marathi. I said to myelf "Welcome to Pune " . Much to my relief, the pretty face came to my rescue.
I smiled at her thankfully. We introduced each other. She continued her narration of things around me, starting from the array of seats on the left side. The entire left side and seats therein are reserved for the ladies. Anyone could easily make that out from the heavy rush of 'gentleman' on that side, despite having plenty of space on the right side.
The bus strolled along. Often making noises during gear changes as though it's chocking because of the smoke in the road . And Pune's pretty face turned old and slummy as we entered some of the older parts of the city. It remained pale and old till we reached Deccan.
From Deccan the city turned younger again, newer and fresher with so much of younger people buzzing around. The pretty turned flirty turned funny girl stepped down at the next step. I bid her a whole hearted good bye. She has guided me throughout the journey and was a real sport. Moreover, who wouldn't mind a pretty girls company.
Since I was still unaware of the places, I had to ask the conductor regarding the stop where I had to alight. He nodded with an expression as if he's doing me the favour of my life time. However when I asked for the balance three Rupees he owed me, he stared at me like someone from some other planet. His expression looked more stinky than his foul smelled mouth.
I understood the meaning of his look when he asked me to get off the bus at the last stop. Neither did he tell me where to alight, even after me reminding him 4-5 times, nor did he help me. I had to travel 5kms backwards from the last stop in an auto.
That was the end of my first journey in '202'. With much struggle I reached my office well in advance.
But there started a relation between me, and the dirty red bus numbered 202. The journeys I had in this bus in the mornings were a revelation on our country's plight. The starting and end stops being villages, had lot of normal village passengers. And the return journey often was through the' Phule Mandal' one of the famous markets in Pune. The heavy traffics made me a more patient individual. The younger city and the older remnants of her made Pune THE typical indian city
Besides, every day had some lighter sides mostly arising from the dismal condition of the buses in Pune. To name few, the bar on the roof meant for holding onto while standing had fallen onto passengers head on several occasions. The annoying and different sounds from the bus, the chit chats with the co passengers of all ages and genres were all very new for me. It must be said that the educated population of Pune and uneducated face are contrasting characters. The extreme opposites. So is the slums dwellers and rich. So is the old and young. Each section has a common character and each section totally diverse from the other. Each one's busy looking after themselves and their comforts and barely cares for the other.
Yes 2-0-2 is a mere bus number. As far as I am concerned it served as the '0'pening between the two two's of Pune - Me and rest.