Ravi Dhungel

The thoughts simmering in everyone’s mind are as diverse as the individuals themselves. What is more, their essence are obscured by other incidents. Any attempt to analyse them or predict their outcome without prejudice or bias is a no mean feat. Incidentally, a bus ride in Kathmandu once tested my ability to make such a judgement. Because it is almost a hazard to travel in buses in the valley, I either wait for the moment to disembark with anxiety or get fidgety while inside. I say a silent word of prayer. “No ladies with infants,” or “No elderly or the sick.” “No junkies with last night cocktail parties” and last, but not the least, “No pals with emetic tendencies on full stomachs.” I know what half of them will do after a few minutes inside the bus. I am no stranger to bus blues.

We were headed uphill. All kinds of passengers boarded the bus. Soon after the old engine huffed and puffed and began to chug along, passengers started showing signs of strain, of discomfort and dizziness. I sensed that the inevit-able was nearing and I tried remaining alert so that someone did not relieve his or her gastric contents on my clothes. We hadn’t even travelled half an hour when the lady perched next to me grimaced, choked and squirted out a yellow fountain, which splashed right next to me. “Thank god, you spared me,” I muttered. A foul smell mixed with the diesel and puke fumes filled the bus, ruining the ambience and triggering the chain reaction that was waiting to happen. If half the bus was blaming the lady for dampening their journey, others said she could have easily made it to the window. All of them were true, but now the worse had happened and, cribbing, I thought, would not undo the damage.

I was wondering if my successful prediction of her behaviour had prevented me from being hit by the fluid missile. But I was proven wrong when she burst into laughter after taking stock of the mess that she had created for everybody. I hadn’t anticipated this. Eccentricity at its heights, I thought. No less flabbergasted were the rest of the passengers. I could see that she was immensely relieved. How far can one bear such nuances? Though it would be inhuman to turn a blind eye to someone in need, there are limitations in the real world as to how far one could go in helping others. But there is also no dearth of those who are prejudiced and who see no reason to extend a helping hand. But that is what life is all about. Of wrong judgements, of prejudices and lots of surprises.