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To Calcutta by Bus

TerritorialMale • • • Monday, February 27, 2006

Saturday, 25th April

A letter through speed-post...

"This is to inform you that Y-O-U are to report to the RD at 123 Street, Salt Lake, Kolkata on the Sunday, 26-02-2006. You are to report by 9:30 AM..."

The letter was received at 1:30PM.

What followed was the apparent frenzy of packing, getting documents and presentations in order, making a memo of important items and issues, screaming for help to find me something, taking a breather, cursing (though not necessarily loudly) for having to prepare in such short notice and repeating the above all over again. Thankfully, it was all over without incidents.

Now it was time to arrange for transportation and evaluate the pros and cons of each medium. The only train would be leaving NJP junction at 7:30PM and would arrive at the destination in about 12 hours. The last bus would be leaving Siliguri at around 8:30PM would arrive Kolkata at 8:00 AM. All flights for the day had already taken off. The next flight would leave Bagdogra airport on the 26th at 8 in the morning, fly all over the place and arrive at the destination at 11:00AM. Too late. Taking a flight was out of the question. The train journey would be a harrowing experience without a reserved berth. Besides, they are never on time. The best option would be an overnight journey by bus. It was going to be a rough ride and I needed to gear up for the occasion.

The next requirement was a three hours drive down to Siliguri. I looked at the watch. Damn, it was 3:30PM already! Just enough time for a quick bite. Lunch was over in fifteen minutes and I was out of the house by 4:30.

Once in the cab, all I needed was some divine intervention to get me down to Siliguri in one piece. Anything can happen in this hilly terrain.

I reached Siliguri at 7:30PM sharp. The Divine had intervened indeed. Thanks buddy!

Seeing me with baggage in tow, a swarm of brokers surrounded me.

Kolkata? Good push-back seats. Video coach. New bus.”

I didn’t answer.

“Front seat.”

I kept mum.

“Front seat for rupees two hundred only.”

I usually opt for the Government bus service but since I was in no mood to haggle, I took the offer. The seat brokers usually offer front seats to gullible clients but usually don’t deliver once the money is on the table. But for some strange reason (celestial intercession maybe!), I did get a good seat this time. The broker was a young man, probably a few years younger than me. Given the opportunities like me, he perhaps would’ve have made a great businessman and I could’ve been the one knocking on his doors. Overcome with pity, I tipped him a tennerI am a stoic on other days otherwise.

The bus was neat and had good comfortable seats. The conductor guaranteed that the roads were good and that we would reach on time. I was reassured of a peaceful journey.

The journey wasn’t so bad I should say. Ofcourse, there was this stupid movie that was being shown - something about students, an art college, a guy threatening to leap out of a Ferris wheel if the girl didn’t accept his proposal and other acts of idiocy. To further impair the predicament I was in, the sound system in the bus was horrible. Sick of the movie, I took solace in the trees whizzing past. It was all bliss when the DVD froze. The conductor was obliged to put on another movie. It was an Amitabh Bachan thriller – Sarkar. Much better. Most definitely viewable and a masterpiece compared to the other.

The road wasn’t too bad either. We were on the newly constructed highway for most part of the journey. There were rough and bumpy stretches in places, mostly due to the construction work going on. The inconvenience caused was pardonable. There were brief halts in three places. One in Krishnanagar for late night dinner and two more in nondescript places to vacate bulging bladders in the dark. My preference for fish and rice was a major blunder. Fish was a dry and rubbery piece of disaster. I had never seen fish in curry that made a cracking sound when broken into manageable pieces. I will stick to niramish (vegetarian fare) next time.

We reached Kolkata early in the morning. The bus eased through lazy Sunday morning traffic via E. M. Bypass, Dum Dum to Ultadanga. This was where I got down.

• • •8:18 PM• Permalink0 comments



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