By Jaya Makkimane

The sharpness of the winter air brushes against my skin and it tingles as the goose bumps prick. I breathe in the fresh smell of earth and dew. It is a wholesome sensation. A feeling of rejuvenation. I hear the roaring sound of the bus’ engine as it screeches to a stop; a metre from where I stand. The bus is empty, as it should be on the first stop. The bus rumbles through the narrow, curvy roads; picking passengers along the way.

I hear numerous birds chirping in the trees as we halt to a stop near a shimmering lake where the water laps against the bank. We wait for a few minutes. I see a vast pink sky with streaks of fluorescent and dusky rose. The school children chat nineteen to the dozen while the working adults stare into their phones with utter concentration. I sigh as I mentally prepare myself for another ninety minutes of travel. The bus speeds on its way to the ferry as the ferry must be caught on time.

Getting on the ferry, I take utmost care for I do not wish to slip and fall. The two times it had happened was embarrassing enough. I sit on the cold metal bench so that I can watch the sun as it rises over the horizon. The ferry takes fifteen minutes to reach the opposite bank. The sun rises, slowly and steadily. It is mesmerising and glorious. The ripples in the water as it reflects the sun’s warmth and hue. The glow of the sun as its light shines through the water. The golden and orange and yellow against the azure sky. The same reflected in the waves below. It is always heart-warming to watch this sunrise.

The ferry’s engine gets silent as it nears the bank and everyone gets off. We wait for the bus which takes us to Panajm bus stand. It is a ten minute ride filled with loud, irritating music and sleepy passengers. The bus screeches to a stop and we enter in a hurry. No sooner do we get in than it speeds away, overtaking vehicle after vehicle. My stomach drops and I feel nauseous at this break neck speed that I’m not used to. The music blaring in my ears. Men, women and children all squeezed against one another, standing. We swing violently to a side as the bus takes a sharp turn. Someone’s hand lets go of the handle bar and they fall into the face of an old lady who violently brushes them away muttering to herself. I often notice this particular old lady and she is rather peculiar. She hates being touched by anyone and is always muttering.
Meanwhile, the bus conductor pushes his way past everyone, flattening them against the seats, and collects the fare. As we near the city we are greeted with a stench that wafts into the bus. The smell emanates from a garbage dump that’s being treated. School children shut their windows with a thud and cover their noses, making faces of disgust. I take in one sharp breathe and hold it in for as long as my lungs can muster.

William Wordsworth rightly said, “To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran; and much it grieved my heart to think, What man has made of man.”
We all huddle out, being pushed by people behind us and walk towards our next bus like we’re in a simulation. This is life. From one bus to another, one destination to the next.

The incessant calling of the bus conductors of the location of their buses makes me realise my bus is about to leave. I stride towards it and get on. One empty seat. I sit, sighing in relief. This bus takes twenty minutes to reach Mapusa city. As soon as the engine roars to life, loud blaring music hits our ears. Out of habit, I open the window to the fullest and put on my ear phones. I rest my head against the window pane and shut my eyes, drowning all the humdrum around me. The bus ride is jolting, to say the least; with my head hitting the hard metal grill fitted in the window with every bump on the road and causing me to wake up from my drowsy sleep every three seconds. We drive past vast stretches of grassland where the fog is still visible. Stretches of coconut trees. The nature calms my soul and gives me peace. It is so pleasant to see the greenery around.

There are migrant workers with their young children starting their day. Their endurance to the harsh weather is only because they have to fend for themselves. The stout bus conductor makes his way past the standing students, squishing them against the seats as he collects the fare. I ready myself to get off and catch the last bus which would take me up the hill to my college campus.

The bus that goes to college is filled to the brim but the conductor, a young man; doesn’t care. He keeps adding students inside until there are girls hanging out the door. I did not even imagine it were possible to fit these many humans in a metallic cuboid. I feel the sweat trickle down my neck. It is stifling hot with so many people breathing the air around in this closed environment. We’re stuck to one another and can’t move. Our hands eternally holding onto a railing. We are ready for takeoff. As soon as the bus starts, the cold air starts flowing and it makes the ride a bit bearable. The bus trudges up the hill. I see some students walking up. Even I used to walk all the way up, but by the time I reached the college slope I was ready to drop dead. It is a very tiring walk. The short cut is bearable and not nearly as tiring but maybe I prefer being stuck between other college students with no air to breath and my bag in some random girl’s lap. I was too lazy to walk all the way up.

Once we reach the gate, the bus stops and the driver and conductor stand outside, collecting the fare. I enter college, finally relieved that the travel is done with but I realise I am late and I run past the many students to attend my first lecture which is Organic Chemistry.

Thus ends the two hour long commute from the island to the city.

(Writer is a student at St Xavier’s College, Mapusa)