My eyes flipped open at precisely 6 AM. I have never woken up this early before. Normally, my cellphone alarm tone would frantically beg me to turn it off, pleading along a succession of snoozes until I finally pity it, turn it off and drag myself out of the bed. My next school of thoughts would magically turn to office and the long list of monotonous work that awaited me in the entire course of day. That thought generally results into a myriad of emotions, which are anything but happy. Today though, nothing of this sort happened. What’s so different about this morning? I tried to penetrate my subconscious to check the reason. The backpack, sunscreen, beach towel, our tickets and rest of my half packed belongings, scattered on the floor seemed to reinforce the fact that after 8 long months of mundane work life, we are finally going on a vacation. Most certainly we are going to catch a bus and leave for our destination at 9 PM this evening. Aaaah..That happy Hour! I jumped out of the bed like a horse and started getting ready for office.
The day grabbed the most sluggish pace possible but my impatient, wanderlust struck soul finally saw the end of it after what seemed like an eon. When the lead caught me for another set of testing just at the end of the day, I found an escape route under the pretext of missing my bus due to the horrendous Bangalore traffic. Now, If you are as much a Bengalurian as me, then you would know that no other excuse could render as much sympathy as the traffic one. For the first time in my life, I was falling in love with the traffic Gods.Heaving a sigh of relief, I rushed out of the office gates like an exonerated prisoner and waved down an approaching cab. I spotted my husband, who was right on time, with all of the luggage.
The first travel rule in Bengaluru : No matter where you reside in bengaluru and no matter which mode of transport you avail, start a good 2 hours ahead of the bus/train/flight timings. If you are an unlucky one like me, who resides in Whitefield, you need to grow a larger brain and thus take an extra hour in hand. For the lucky non-Bengalurians, If you happen to visit Bengaluru and come across an area that literally overspills vehicles out of rugged,cemented roads, Bingo, you are at Whitefield! We started at 6 PM, did the math on distance and speed, and concluded that we could reach the stop by 8:30 PM having a grace period of about half an hour to ourselves.
My thoughts revved up with the cab engine. I had already drowned myself into the pool of sugary vacation dreams for about a good 15 minutes when we encountered our first traffic signal. Well, this was a small one and we crossed it in lesser time than what I had anticipated. Miraculously, we crossed the following two huge signals in multiple jifffies. It seemed, the start was already starting to get good. In less than 10 minutes, we halted at a tiny traffic junction. Although the no. of vehicles suddenly looked huge, I was sure to get going in 5. This was a small junction after all. The driver plugged in his earphones. I could hear enough whispers and coos to make out that he sure had a demanding girlfriend to cater to.
A good 15 minutes passed by, listening to the multiple ‘Love you’ and other similar vocal PDA adjectives, and yet there was no sincere movement in traffic. I strained my head out of the window but, apart from the heaps of craned out backs, I could spot nothing unusual. My saintly husband had already dozed off, uttering a word or two to pacify me. The cab had moved lesser than an inch in the next 10 minutes. Restless now, I asked the driver to enquire about what has happened ahead that is causing the delay. The driver obviously did not want to be disturbed and gave me a murderous look after convincing his phone lady to be back in a second. He stepped out to check the traffic. A second, Really? In love or not, how can people really believe that? He returned after a zillion seconds to give me a ‘Bengaluru Traffic mam, kayabekaguttade’, which translates to ‘Bengaluru Traffic Mam , Have to wait’. It was now, my turn to return the murderous look he passed me earlier. This is the reason he got me after 30 minutes of waiting at a signal which people hardly care to notice. Before I could pull his hair out, the vehicles started moving. Our hero, who was about to stuff the earphones back into his ear, shook his head in disappointment, kept the chords down and returned to the steering wheel. I thanked the Gods and sat back as the breeze hit my face. The wheels were operative for another 20 minutes and then rains happened.
Here is the part when I come to Rule 2 of Bengaluru traffic: If it rains and you are stuck at traffic, then Probability of you reaching your destination = (distance/time/speed/anything)* ZERO.
The wheels screeched to halt again at the next signal. My face turned back to colors of dark clouds looming above in the sky and like an instant opposite reaction, the driver’s sulky face got a huge grin writ on his face. He stuffed back the earphones with pride as if we both were participants in this contest wherein I would win if we don’t stop at any signal, which is definitely, a non-existent clause in Bengaluru traffic agreement. I checked my watch. Time was racing and so were my pulses. The most irritating part of any situation crops up when you are so tensed you can eat a shoe without a second though and your companion is snoring away peacefully beside you. Tired of the driver and my husband, I opened the cab door and stepped out. Plonk! I landed ankle deep on the standing water. Streams of water from an overflowing drain were in course of damaging the already damaged roads. While the angry and tired drivers sitting in swanky and imported 4 wheelers, looked out of their windows in frustration, for a little space ahead to move on, smart bikers zoomed past them sidelining them, sneaking off through tiniest squeezable gaps possible. In a zest to keep moving, passenger feet on 2 wheelers with rolled up pants tried to wade through, tapping the ground at alternate seconds. Others got down from public buses and started walking. Owing to the horrible traffic scenarios on Bengaluru roads, one could reach his destination much faster if he walked. A bunch of nitwits were in such a hurry, that they started striding their bikes on the footpath, leaving the wayfarers bewildered. I was as much in shock myself. I personally think, if such people get an access to bus tops, they can actually make their way out stunting off, from one rooftop to another. Enough seen and pondered, I got back into my cab. The driver was still busy smooching his mic and my husband was still blissfully asleep. As a matter of fact, If you are stuck in Bengaluru traffic, you can chat, dine, finish a book, catch up on sleep, maybe get yourself a good spa service at a nearby salon and yet when you are back, you would still have time for many other things which you have always wanted to do in your leisure time. I was on the verge of tears when finally, traffic woke up from its slumber and we started.
All this while, I kept wishing my bus driver starts late. I still held my hopes high. Reciting all the Godly verses I knew and bribing the God with a thousand vows to turn into a better human, we finally reached the bus stop.I jumped out of the cab and my eyes started scanning, the back of every bus passing our way frantically for that one familiar number plate. As soon as I got it, screaming with joy, I turned around to call my husband. As I turned back again to make sure, I realized it was not as close as it seemed at the first glance. It was actually moving. We started chasing the bus, waving out to catch the attention of atleast one passenger who would accidentally turn backward and spot us. But magically, the rambling bus gained speed and swiftly moved away from us, as if we were a bunch of cops and the bus was full of A grade smugglers. Panting and hopeless, as I halted to catch my breath, my eyes fell on the upper part of the moving bus. It said “Welcome to Bengaluru” in bold letters with a big, bright smiley right below it.