It was a peak summer afternoon. I got inside Bus No 114, a direct one from Vandalur to CMBT. Inside the bus, there were heads dangling from pulpy vertebrae and hands holding on to the bars like withered branches. Not a welcoming sight. I found a corner seat anyway.
The hot breeze through the window forced my eyes shut. Post that I saw everything in a haze. The oily heads and baskets of dried fish at the Tambaram stop would blur into a blank red screen. Next I would wake up to college lads playing tabla on the bus door to some MGR music. This would culminate in a splash of red. Next, a bunch of white ribbons tying the frizzy plats of school girls as they fight to get in. Blank red.
After what seemed like a day, I woke up to a slight nudge on my shoulder. It was a lady who was trying to unbutton her blouse to feed her baby. The kid, well above three, looked at me with her round eyes in despise. Heat does that to people. The innocent start loathing other equally innocent. I turned my face and let the sun brush my face black. The kid kept hitting my elbow as she rejoiced her mom’s milk.
I realised I had slept again when I woke up to a nudge for the second time. I wanted to be rude, but this time I could only see the lady’s back. Where was the kid?
The bus was almost empty with just a few fast asleep. The conductor was busy talking with the driver about a new release. I slightly raised myself up from my seat to get a better view of what the lady was doing? I was almost standing when she suddenly turned and sat straight. I sat back and pretended to adjust my dress. She picked the child from the bus floor, kept her on the lap and hurriedly pulled her shorts up. The kid smiled. A wicked satisfied smile.
The conductor whistled. As the bus came to a halt, the lady got off along with the kid, carefully placing her steps as she walked past to the bus door. Did someone puke?
I slid slowly on to her seat and looked down to see a trail of yellow urine meandering all the way to the back seat.
Atrocious! I looked around at the empty seats and sleeping faces. Should I tell the conductor? Just then his whistle halted the bus. School children chattered their way in, their new Bata shoes smudging what was then a lean valley. The chatters grew, so did the imprinted foot marks.
I cringed in my seat. It felt weird to be the only one to know the truth. But I couldn’t shout ‘Urine Urine’. I didn’t want to be a silent spectator, neither did I want to create a ruckus. I did what I thought was sane, got off the bus in the next stop like nothing happened at all. Once out, inhaled in deep, shouted ‘Yuck’, and continued walking.