Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Bus Lover

My mom has taken her love for riding the city buses to a whole new level. She is crazy-obsessed about the bus, to the point that we often wonder if she had some feelings for a bus driver or a conductor at some point. Whenever we need to visit the other corner of the city, my knee-jerk response is, "Abar bari theke berote hobe?" (Do I have to step out of home again?), while hers is, "Yaay! Amra bus a kore jaabo!" (Yaay! We get to take the bus!)

Needless to say, mom and I are always fighting and arguing. I don't necessarily mind taking the bus, but a cab is faster, although mom questions what I will do with the extra time since I am on vacation. Then again, I do not fancy standing in a crowded bus, tucked between the armpits of people, smelling their sweat and perfume and whatever they ate for lunch, and occasionally getting a squeeze in the bum. She takes language classes three times a week, and loves commuting to the other end of the city (easily 2 hours one way) in a bus. For me, it is simple. I spend roughly €3-5 in Germany on bus fares every day. I can easily take a cab in Calcutta with that money. 

Earlier, mom and I used to waste a lot of time standing at the bus stop and arguing about this. She would say things like, "Chol na, raasta dekhte dekhte jaabo, koto hawa debe, koto lok dekhbo, poisha noshto korishna, taxi waala bodmaash lok hobe, onno kothao niye chole jaabe”, etc. (We will see so many people, it is breezy, the cab driver might abduct us, etc.). Then, she got smarter. She would say, "Yes, let’s take a cab.", and while we waited for the cab, me happy that mom has finally grown wiser and wondering why not a single cab is in sight, an extremely slow and rickety bus will crawl up at a snail's pace, the conductor inviting everyone with open arms to board it. Mom would get super excited seeing the bus, and like Chachi in the movie Chachi 420, she would run and hop on the bus and wave to me, "Aaye aaye shiggiri aaye, bus chhere debe" (Come quickly, the bus will leave). Talk about deception. Once she is on the bus, I cannot keep standing on the roadside, flagging cabs. I am forced to take the bus, fuming, and she looks at me innocently and says, "Look, it's so empty. There was no cab anyway." She has tricked me so many times now.

When she cannot argue anymore, she will say something like, "We are humble people. We have to travel like this." Once on the bus, she will nicely plug in her iPod and listen to music. Now, I find it hard to believe that someone with her collection of electronic gadgets comes from a humble background. Once, the family went for a wedding, and when I asked how was the wedding, she said something like- “It was great. We had a lot of fun, being decked up. And that bus ride was amazing.”

So mom goes to Sikkim and injures her spine. She is in a lot of pain, and cannot move an inch. We somehow manage to bring her to Kolkata, and get the doctor's appointment in the other extreme fringe of the city. I mean, this place is so far that I have never even been there or do not even know how to get there (I pride myself in knowing most areas of the city). We book a cab that picks us up from the doorstep. It being her birthday too, I try to pep her up and tell her how this will be a fun birthday ride, traveling in all this comfort. We suspect a slipped disc, a dislocated spine, and she is really nervous. When I tell her what a slipped disc is (having suffered that myself a few years ago), she is petrified and breaks down. She fears that she will never walk normally again. 

We go to the doctor's, who says that although it is not a slipped disc, her condition is bad. He recommends physiotherapy for a month, and gives her pills (10-15/day) that is expensive enough to blow big holes in the pocket. We have waited at the doctor's for almost 2 hours now, and in that time, I have managed to see what pain and suffering looks like. There is an evident stench of sickness in the air, and I have controlled my gag reflexes a few times now. We are finally done, and dad and I have managed to buy all the pills and understand how many she needs to take at what times of the day. Mom is limping a little less now, although the limp and the pain are very much there. 

"Did you hear, no slipped disc", she says.

"Yes, that's a relief!", dad says.

"So now, can we please take the bus home? Pllllease!"

She looked so heartbroken that evening, taking another cab back home.


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