My room partner got hitched this past Monday. Since I had some pressing work at office that day, I could only attend the pre-marriage feast on the preceding Sunday at his village.
The to and fro trip turned out to be exhaustively extraordinary.
Saturday, 1930 hrs : I have a bus at 2115 hrs from the outskirts of the town. The bus will take me to Palanpur (9 hrs tentatively) and from there, after meeting old mates, I’ll have to take another bus to my destination (2.5 hrs approx.). I come back to my room from the temple and start preparing an early dinner.
2035 hrs : Dinner preparation takes a bit longer-than-expected. Still, I somehow make it in time to the bus stand and ask the conductor to inform me when we reach Siddhpur (some 10-20 kms out from Palanpur) in the morning so that I could ask one of the old mates to pick me up from Palanpur.
Sometime after 0630 hrs on Sunday : I ask the conductor whether we crossed Siddhpur. He replies in the affirmative. I call up my friend.
0730 hrs : The conductor calls out for Palanpur passengers to get down. I alight. Across the road, a police station signboard in big bold letters in Gujarati reads, “Highway Police Station, Unjha.” Unjha is 41 kms out from Palanpur. I curse the slimy fool conductor and make alternate arrangements.
1015 hrs : After the mini get-together, I board the onward bus (good old GSRTC/ST). As I look out the bus, the view is pretty similar to Bhuj — arid landscape, Neem trees galore and strong gusts of sand-laden winds. The passengers sharing my 1-by-3 seat are two old ladies whose dialect is such that even the bus conductor is having a hard time deciphering what they are saying. They try to communicate with me. Their questions make me feel like I’m being interviewed as a prospective groom for some girl from their family. I somehow provide them the info they ask for, in Gujarati. Needless to say, I’m nonplussed. The gust picks up as we get further north. There’s sand deposits all over my clothes and hair.
1330 hrs : I reach the venue in one piece, lungs throwing out sand particles alongwith carbondioxide. I enjoy a jolly good time there. We get news that in neighbouring district Mehsana and in Ahmedabad, Patel community members have restarted their agitation for reservation which, unsurprisingly, has turned violent. I’m mildly concerned, not knowing what is going to befall my fate in less than 5 hrs.
Around 1600 hrs : My room partner, the groom-to-be, arranges for me to be driven to Radhanpur, some 70 kms away, with his colleagues in a car. Enroute, Whatsapp messages tell us that the aforementioned agitation has led to mobile internet services being stopped and state transport (ST) buses being affected (euphemism for not being available) throughout the routes passing the affected districts. Holy cow! Panic well and truly increases.
1800 hrs :Radhanpur ST bus depot enquiry has a board informing passengers that bus services have been suspended indefinitely. Bravo! Just the kind of trouble I didn’t need.
1830 hours : After waiting nearly 20 minutes at the highway for some private vehicle to take us home, me and 7 other people are helped by a Chevrolet Tavera owner who says he’ll take us to Gandhidham (approx. 1 hour out from Bhuj and 3-3.5 hours from Radhanpur). We thank our stars and get on with the journey.
Gandhidham ST bus stand, 2150 hrs : I hop on to a bus for Bhuj (ironically coming from Palanpur) and get joined by a colleague who’s returning from home plus another gentleman who’s the groom’s colleague, returning from the same function as me. We should be in Bhuj by 2330 hours.
Adipur, 2220 hours : The bus breaks down and the crew take around an hour to get things back on track. We ask them to shift us to another bus and let things be done. But our never-say-never ST crew try their best and then drive us till the bus’s rumblings clear all doubts that they’d have to shift us to some other bus in Anjar.
Jubilee Ground, Bhuj, 0030 hours Monday : I get down from the bus we’d boarded from Anjar and walk to my room, some 12-15 minutes on foot (no autorickshaws, please).
0050 hours, outside my flat : After all the mayhem I’ve been through because of extraneous factors and finally thinking my troubles to be behind me, I get the information that after all, I’ll have a hand in my troubles too. An own-goal if you please. Turns out, I misplaced the key to my flat somewhere in the journey. Brilliant! What a bright piece of idiotry! (Okay, the word is idiocy. 😀 ). After checking and double checking all pockets and my bag, I call my neighbours — students at my Alma mater — and get the lock cut with a hacksaw blade.
0200 hours : I take a dump and a long, cold bath and finally get to lie down on my bed. I’ve had a lot many difficult voyages, from missing trains to walking 30-odd kilometers in unrelenting rain. This was another unwelcome addition to the club. I’m thankful to God that at least I reached my destinations safely. 🙂
It goes without saying that I had a deeper-than-usual sleep.
Thanks for reading.