“One Ticket to Karjat please!” Ayesha asked the conductor who was taking money in exchange for a ticket and paid three rupees in coins. She had gotten on the bus at Churchgate and needed to visit her family as it was her little sister’s birthday. She was planning a surprise by visiting her family for the first time after her marriage a year back.
Ayesha was an attractive woman, dressed in a beautiful sari filled with white polka dots on a red X material and a neat red puffed sleeved blouse. It had suited her thin silhouette very well, with her hair styled with a half updo, slight curls at the ends and letting them be adorned with some beautiful smelling roses. Her lips were painted in red which was complimented well with a beauty spot under the rim and her eyes had dark kohl lined up. If she were single, she wouldn’t be for long and the only object that defied that, was the Mangalsutra around her neck.
Ayesha smiled at the conductor as the ticket was handed to her. She felt smart, powerful, and confident only because of the way she was dressed. She would have felt even better as her day started on a good note. The only issue she had was the fool that was sitting beside her.
Her day began when she woke up, prepared breakfast, did her daily puja, greeted her husband and in laws and cared for their needs. She also managed to discuss plans with her husband about visiting her family today. She had planned on going a bit late to work and had taken permission from her seamstress boss. Her husband thought it was a wonderful idea and asked her to take some money for Ayesha to buy gifts, so it came from the entire family. Ayesha happily spent it on getting a beautiful dress and a small box of sweets for her younger sister.
After she collected everything and stood in line for the bus that would take her to her childhood home, things were still normal, and she had a smile gracing her lips. As she thought about her visit, she also noticed that the line was quite long, which meant the bus would be very crowded. Ayesha sighed. She was hoping to get a seat because she wasn’t going to be standing for an hour.
The bus came ten minutes after its scheduled arrival time, and passengers huddled around the entrance, pushing and pulling each other to be the first ones to get in. Ayesha got her pallu stepped on twice. She was in the middle of the commotion and pushed to get in. She also got a quick look at those who stepped on her sari so she could pretend to be angry at them later.
Somehow, she managed to squeeze in and secure a fourth-row seat by the window on the left. It was perfect. Not at that back so the effect of the vehicle’s motion wouldn’t affect her, and her seat wasn’t too close to the engine’s vibrations. She sighed in relief. Thankfully this didn’t dampen her day.
A man came and sat by her side. Ayesha got a quick glance and took a double take at him. Ah, here is the man who stepped on her sari and dirtied it in the process. Ayesha grimaced as she quickly checked on the end of her pallu, dusting it. The man beside her looked at what she was doing and scoffed as he understood what had happened. She clearly stood out with the vibrant colours she was wearing compared to the women who wore salwar kameez in bland colours.
Ayesha caught that and glared at him. “Do you have something to say?” She asked, her tone was quite rude. The words had just tumbled out before she could stop herself. The man rolled his eyes.
The man’s name was Kareem, and he was dressed in a white shirt tucked in his black pants. Despite being older, he was clean shaved and towered a bit over the lady beside him. He even knew his looks were quite average, which made him quite the blatant realist who always spoke his mind out, without a care in the world.
“Are you a BTM? Or are you an HMT?” he asked as if looking down at the woman. Ayesha was confused. BTM? HMT? What did that mean? Is that some slang that people use these days? Kareem began to laugh at the emotion that coloured her face. “’Behenji Trying to be Modern’ and ‘Hindi Medium Types’”, he clarified. Of course, he caught up with the current lingo. Ayesha blinked in astonishment, “What?”
It took a while, but when the thought finally registered into her head, Ayesha’s face grew red, and she wasn’t happy. “How dare you!” “Madam, where do you want to go?” The conductor with his huge peti asked her, unaware and totally didn’t care about interrupting the conversation.
Ayesha’s tune immediately changed, and she smiled at the man as she paid for her ticket. Bored of his routine, the conductor gave her the ticket and repeated the process to Kareem seated beside her. He was apparently going to the same place as her. And to that, she rolled her eyes. Could this day get any worse?
Apparently, it can. Cause it just did.
Kareem hadn’t forgotten the conversation they were having. “You were saying?” He mocked her. Ayesha was getting mad. She has never seen such a stupid fellow who liked to cause so much trouble for no reason. She tried to say something but just ended up yelling at him. How dare this stranger who knew nothing about her just judge her like that?
She didn’t realise that now she was shouting, and Kareem was trying to get her to quieten down. They were drawing too much attention and Kareem didn’t like it one bit. He already stood out because of the clothes Ayesha decided to wear. And now she was yelling, “Isn’t this too much already?”
People were already looking at the spectacle. Some were clearly being disturbed, while others were quite amused at the sight. This was like a ready-made comedy show happening live between some couple, which was clearly not true.
In the end, because she wasn’t listening, Kareem ended shushing the lady loudly, getting her train of words to come to a halt. She gave a disgusted look and turned away. This caused Kareem to chuckle.
The bus came to a sudden halt, causing everyone to jerk forward while the smoke began to engulf the bus’s hood. It seems like something has gone wrong. But the couple here were glaring at each other. Clearly, this was more important than the fact that they had places to go and the bus had broken down.
“Madam ji, I was just getting you to keep quiet. You are drawing too much attention.” He fought back lightly. Ayesha’s glare was intense and wouldn’t back down and so their bickering started again. They were so loud that people were barely able to hear the announcement by the bus conductor, asking if there was any mechanic among the passengers who could help them fix the engine. Now people were getting annoyed, yet no one found it easy to ask the couple to keep quiet.
The bus stopped in the middle of a broken road halfway to the last stop, and it would take some while to get some help. The passengers decided to hitchhike, call for taxi or autorickshaw or wait for the next bus which would hopefully arrive thirty minutes later. A lot of passengers began to grumble. While some opted for the first option, a few gave the second option a try and no one wanted to stay behind, especially if these two were having their verbal brawl.
Seeing the bus emptying up caught the attention of the two. They looked around. What was happening? Were they so engrossed in their fight that they didn’t even understand what was happening?
The conductor came and banged on the metal rod. “Chalo! Chalo!” And they were herded out.
It didn’t take time, but they soon understood the situation. They had three options, just like the others. It was obvious which one they would pick.
Both stood quietly and waited for some vehicle to come. To their luck, it was a rickshaw, and both began to hail it. Arms raised and hollering they managed to get the driver’s attention who stopped in front of them. They both were going to sit and then realisation hit them. Were they supposed to share an auto ride?
Oh God, no!
“I got the rickshaw first so I’m taking it.” Ayesha clearly stated and sat in the passenger seat. Kareem shook his head. “No, you didn’t. So, get out!” Ayesha was flabbergasted. How dare he treat the lady like this? Before she could speak up, the driver let out a loud groan. “Both of you, love birds. Either get in or get out. Don’t make me wait.” He let out rather rudely. It took both Ayesha and Kareem aback and they kept quiet and sat side by side. A silent truce for now. The journey to their destination began again.
It was a long pause of silence, except for the whirring of the engine. So, they had a lot to think about. Kareem was silently humming a song in his head but then paused. “Is it bad that I didn’t tell the bus driver and conductor that I’m a mechanic?” Meanwhile, Ayesha’s eyes widened as she looked at the male beside her. The urge to smack his head is high now. God, seriously, can this day get any worse?
Contributor: Sanaya Parkar
About our Writing Program Student
Why fit in when we were born to stand out and do greater things? A passionate writer for whose words come naturally as ants to sweet jaggery along with design running in the veins. An avid reader, researcher as well as a learner whose dream is to change the world with each step.