गुरुवार, २८ सप्टेंबर, २०२३

Down the Rabbit Hole We Go!

It was quite late when Bambu went to sleep yesterday. Her mother and father were busy finishing her school project and she also sat beside them watching cartoons on the computer. Obviously, her sleep was delayed and so was today's morning routine. Everything was delayed. Delay, delay, delay, plenty of delay, as much as you want, like some vegetable vendor selling delay. Plenty of it and at a reasonable cost. 

Then in the morning, as usual, everyone shouted at her for a variety of reasons. Maa shouted at her to brush her teeth, Papa to just get done with bathing and Aaji to have something for breakfast. Her grandpa, on the other hand, never raised his voice. He would just chuckle through his toothless smile. That’s the reason, sometimes, she liked him most. She always wondered if her grandpa too got delayed when he was a schoolboy and she always forgot to ask him, thanks to the delay. 

It was just about time for the school van and Bambu was all over the house like a headless chicken. It was well after the van’s horn had finally given up on her that she reached the gate, handed over the school bag and tiffin (with water bottle) to the van uncle that she finally got in and had a sigh of relief, a big one. 

The van uncle, he loved to drive or we could say, he was a proper driving enthusiast. Some of the parents had seen his spirited driving and had given him a well deserved reproach as well but the van uncle was not to budge. Sometime he would get this uncontrollable ‘urge’ to drive like a world rally championship driver (maybe because he used to drive a train in his previous stint with Indian railways) 

When he would have that urge, he would take down all the school and tiffin bags from the upper carriage, place them onto students’ laps and press hard on the accelerator. Once, he forgot to take down the school bags from the carriage and naturally, all over the street, it rained bags and bottles and tiffins, in all possible directions. Two motorcycle riders had contusions, three had their helmets cracked, four suffered from black eyes and five were awarded with water bottle medals for not paying close attention to what lay ahead on the road.   

Bambu never knew why on earth one has to hurry to school everyday. Why can't it wait? She had asked this question to headmistress mam once. Next day her mother came to school with her and spent considerable time in the headmistress's room. Does anything noteworthy ever happen in school, Bambu used to wonder. The world outside the school was so interesting, the roads, the vendors, the street dogs and stray cats. This happening world outside was so much fun. It felt alive and thus once the bell rang, Bambu ran out through the school gates and sat inside the van. She was very tired, but didn’t even know why.

That day, Van uncle was in great mood and he was whistling the tune of some Konkani item song. Obviously the bags and bottles were not in the upper carriage but were comfortably snuggled against each other on kids’ laps. The van moved , or we could say it exhaled a big whooshing sound releasing the steam, tore the sky with a loud whistle and slowly gained momentum as it left the school platform.

The guava seller near the school corner, the bhel pakodi cart, yummy kutchhi dabeli wala, all shot past as if they were in great hurry, busy setting their stalls before evening crowds gathered. Van uncle drove the van zip zap zoom through the afternoon crowd, his wavy hair flowing in gusts of air entering through the front windows. Today was the day of adventure!

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