I grabbed a handbag and rushed towards bus station. I nearly missed a bus while eating fried rice from a nearby restaurant. I was still catching my breath when I sat next to an elderly woman. She looked at me for a brief second and turned away preferring to look at scenery outside. I made myself comfortable and took out an earplug and listened music. I am not very fond of travelling, I get a travel sickness. I closed my eyes while Luke Bryan soothingly sang my favorite ‘Play it again.’
The bus braked abruptly jerking the passengers out of seat. I woke up and heard a frustrated moan from the men sitting behind. The bus safely parked by nearby shoulder. We haven’t travel an hour from 10 hours journey towards Samdrup Jongkhar and the vehicle broke down. It was a usual case, the fact that driver isn’t prepared for a long journey frustrated me more. Looked like it was going to take some time. Thank god! I have eaten breakfast otherwise I would be starving. I looked at a withdrawn woman sitting next to me.
The journey was achingly going to be a long one. Not liking an idea of sitting long without uttering a single word with a seat partner, I broke an ice of a silence. “Ama, don’t you want to go out? The bus broke down and it looks like it’s going to take some time to get repaired.”
She feebly stared at my face without any response. I am not very observant but I could see an undeniable sadness in her wrinkled face. I repeated the question little louder this time, probably assuming that she might have difficulty in hearing.
“Mind your own business.” She rudely retorted slapping a sense in me. I was trying to be nice but sometimes some people just don’t appreciate it. I felt my face warming up with an embarrassment. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind which slowly started igniting anger in me. I suddenly felt suffocated needing to get out of bus more than anything. In urgency I stood up and at least had a courtesy to nod my head to a woman before I stepped out of the bus.
Outside, a chilling morning breeze was still blowing in a thin jungle of West Bengal. I scanned the area hoping to find something interesting enough to distract me from souring my mood. Nearly after 48 minutes of waiting, the driver instructed the loitering passengers to get inside.
With a mixed feeling, I boarded on bus. I silently seated still clinging on a rude outburst of a woman. Who told you to interfere? Served you right…my mind started singing. I couldn’t help watching at an unknown woman faced window. Once again, I stole a glance and there she was wiping fallen tears with her forefinger. I froze…I could neither ignore nor offer a help or condolences.
Without turning my head, my pupil averted to right corner to see an unknown woman. She clamped her lip as tears freely made way down the cheek. The words clogged at my throat and hand froze in a midway. She needed a space to sort her feelings and tears. Best was to leave her alone without interruption.
Clueless…I forced myself to sleep as nausea won over the crying woman next to me. Bus stopped waking me again. This time, it had stopped for a breakfast. I preferred to stay inside as it was drizzling outside plus I wasn’t hungry. A woman didn’t even budge. Her gaze was fixed outside; I doubted she was really looking. Something was not right with her.
My mind started playing detective trying to solve a mystery of a sad, angry and distracted woman. Why was she travelling alone? You are travelling alone too. She must be dumb…you are dumb. Remember how she told you to mind your business. May be she lost a beloved one…Possible…she may be going or coming from a funeral. What if she is dead and you are sitting with an avenging ghost? You might have unknowingly caused her death. I shuddered and discarded the detective game. It was taking me to graveyard of thoughts.
The journey was resumed. So did she, continue facing at window and occasional wiping of tears. Her mind was occupied and possessed with the things I desperately wanted to know. As expected, she chooses to stay inside during lunch stop. Then it struck in my mind that she might not have money to eat. I didn’t have much but had enough for two. I gathered my courage expecting a retort “Ama, let’s go and eat lunch. “
She stared at me for what felt like a millennium, and then she nodded left and right and said “You go and eat. I am not hungry.”
I insisted “You didn’t even eat breakfast. Let’s go, I will pay.”
“No, I am fine. Thank you.” She said. I understood the hesitation, not pushing further. I went, ate and brought some snacks and juice for her.
Knowing that a woman wasn’t the type who will accept help from a stranger, I opened and offered her snacks. Hesitantly at first but eventually she managed to have few bites from a pack. For whole journey, she didn’t sleep; just continued staring at outside. I slept, listened to music, ate snacks and finally reached destination alas.
I was glad when I saw my uncle and aunt at bus station. I hurriedly gathered my luggage and resign for a day. A day was not a pleasant one and I couldn’t get an image of crying woman out of my mind. I shrugged off the images immediately and ordered myself to mind my own business.