Saturday, January 20, 2007

At the Bus Stop

‘Mallik’s’ is a store which I had noticed from the bus on my way home on earlier occasions. ‘Asian Food and Spices’, it boldly stated and since I have no other choice left nowadays but to fend for myself in the kitchen, I had decided to give it a look over.

Half an hour later, I emerged from the shop clutching my bag of Asian food and spices and stood at the bus stand in the cold that I am getting slowly used to. Eight o’ clock in
Bristol is a pretty late time. Streets are empty and there is hardly any movement on the roads, making the night seem much darker. Mallik’s seemed to be the only shop which was open in quite a stretch. The cold always makes the wait seem longer than it is.

“Is there a bus coming?” I hadn’t noticed but a short, stout, middle aged black woman had been standing a few feet away. I craned my neck but couldn’t see a bus coming.

“On the board, is there a bus coming now on the board?” Just in front of my eyes on the board on the bus stand were the timings when the buses were supposed to land up on that particular bus stop.

“Oh man, it’s freezing out here!” she said to no one in particular.

Mallik’s shop-hand was now lifting crates of Asian fruit and vegetables and shifting them back inside the shop, preparing to shut down.

“What did he pick up now from the ground? Was that tobacco? Man, must be his lucky night!”

“I saw a woman earlier drop something”, she continued. “But sometimes when you try to help somebody, you get into trouble? So I’ve stopped doing that. Man, what’s happening to me?” She shook her head.

“Man, this country’s going to the dogs, I tell you. Everything’s closing early, even the pubs! Everything’s getting tighter, too much security, I tell you. The council! Even the council closes early. Do you stay in a council flat?”

I mumbled my ignorance.

“Man, it’s cold out here tonight! Am gonna have some hot soup when I get home.”

“At last, there’s a bus coming!” She exclaimed.

I couldn’t see any but sure enough a second later, the bus came around the bend and fully into view.

“Oh hell! Its full, the damn bus is full!” she exclaimed in disgust. Sure enough, as the bus came nearer, it became evident that all the seats had been taken.

“Am not getting on this. You can go if you want”, she said.

Of course, I come from a country where a bus is not full unless it leans on one side at an angle of thirty degrees.

“Yes, I’ll go”, I said and climbed in.

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