Every mode of transport has its own fun. In buses, the number of people travelling make up the journey rather than the destination. (While I learned about travelling in public transport, a native of Skopje, Daniel Kiteski spent a year in India and carried back 9 important lessons)
Mumbai to Shirdi
These were the days when I was an un-informed traveller. All my plans were wrong, the timings were wrong and the money spent was even more wrong! I would invariably end up spending twice the required amount. So, I was staying in Andheri East and had only a day with me. I decided to take a night bus to Shirdi. I asked the hotel to do my bookings and ended up standing at a roadside bus stop in Andheri. Luckily it was a busy shopping street and Mumbai never sleeps.
Like me, I found two more people standing with their suitcases and discovered that they were going to Shirdi too. But on a different bus. Their white staid buses came and I showed my ticket too. This is for a Volvo, I was told. That sounded like Greek to me– what was a Volvo? It was late and I was alone in the streets of Mumbai. Out of the blue, this big dark coloured bus arrived and I showed my ticket. So, this was Volvo, it had large comfortable seats, AC, Video and ample space for luggage.
While some ate their dinner, others were napping. Those were the days of Saathiya and Vivek Oberoi and Rani Mukherjee were crooning on the screen. I tried to peep out but darkness engulfed my vision. Reaching Shirdi at four in the morning, I was booked at a hotel for a few hours, as I had to go back to Mumbai the same evening. I didn’t know that you could bargain for a few hours stay and ended up paying a full day’s amount. A quick shower and I was off to visit the temple.
Shirdi to Shani Shingnapur
Darshan over, I sat around the temple area with a huge bowl of prasad. And overheard a group talking about Shani Shingnapur. This was a village with no doors, no one stole and no one cheated. This was a unique India! I had to see this and I discovered that it was just an hour’s journey from Shirdi. Here, there was no Volvo. It wasn’t the huge transport bus either which went through the narrow rural roads. It was one of those rickety small vans with people squeezed into each other. Their shoulders rubbed and body odour reeked.
Fortunately, most of them were coming from the temple, and had bathed. Their belongings smelt of prasad. A family with a small child came and sat next to me. As I was one of the early passengers, I had managed to get a seat next to the window. I clutched on to my bag, eating a bit of prasad. And praying all would be well. I was going to meet the lord who cleared all karmas.
A group in the seat behind me discussed what they had eaten, how they had reached Shirdi, who all couldn’t come with them, and how the Shani temple could be our redemption ground.
Suddenly the van jerked; it was overloaded–people were squeezed in every possible space. Shaking and creaking, it started on the narrow road, through the fields. And then the child next to me began to howl and the parents were frantically trying to pacify him.
From the back, I could hear burps and someone was thumping the back. Keep it under check, it’s just the samosas, they were shouting.
An hour later, we reached in one piece. I had something to eat and was off to the famous temple. There was still the journey back. Which didn’t turn out to be so bad, as most people slept off.
Shirdi to Mumbai
By now, I knew the difference between different kinds of buses. And it was back to the luxurious Volvo again. The bus went through the city and it was daylight, so I could see more landmarks related to Sai Baba. I wished I had explored it in the day.
And then we hit the highway. This time, a thriller was running on the screen. I don’t recall the name. As sunset had not happened, most people were sitting with their feet up, shoes off. Some chatted, others listened to the music. Nothing unusual was happening here. Some were digging into snacks. As usual, someone wanted to switch seats to sit with their friends or family. And this didn’t have any smells.
I gazed out of the window. And then the Triambkeshwar temple dome near Nasik emerged on the skyline. And then the vineyards. And I cursed myself for being an un-informed traveller. If I had planned it, I would have seen so much more on this road. But the sun was setting and the colours were breathtaking. And this did make me feel a little better, even as I was thinking about my stupidity.
To make me feel worse, I reached Mumbai at midnight, didn’t have a hotel booking and my flight to Delhi was at 10 am. So I buzzed a friend for a night stay before taking the cab to the airport in the morning.
If nothing else, I came to know even buses are of different kinds on this short, less than a day’s trip.