Some memories get etched up in your memories forever. They become part of our being. For a sensitive person like me, sometimes even an insignificant thing becomes a permanently marked memory. It may sound idiotic in today’s practical world.
Spending vacations were not in fashion in the eighties when we grew up. The term vacation simply meant that one travels to his or her native place. People would look with awe and wonder when one traveled to places like Shirdi or other places of pilgrimage. Today the scene has changed totally.
Our vacation like many others, those days only meant that we were packed up and sent to our native place in Konkan, the coastal belt of Maharashtra, well endowed with nature and natural beauty. But then, the journey was not easy as it is today. The only accessible mode of travel for a common man was the State Transport red buses which are even today called as ST buses. Traveling by Private Luxury buses were not the luxury that our parents could afford them.
The entire trip was a sort of adventure if anyone of my generation remembers. The reservation counter would start booking one month earlier and exact dates were to be accordingly planned. A day before the date of reservation, my dad would go to Parel ST Depot and wait in the long queue, so that he gets an opportunity to book the ticket the next morning when the counters opened at 08.00 am. Almost every time my dad would come like a winner waving those prized tickets which he booked after a struggling wait for around 10-12 hours. Computerized reservation was not a known term then.
As the date of journey neared, the excitement used to increase. The packing of clothes, sweets, and dresses for our extended families in the native places would make it sure that we had to carry large baggage. The metal trunk, which I still have kept with me as my prized possession of those good old days used to become very heavy.
The bus would arrive at the stand in the Parel Depot at around 2.15 pm and there used to be another fight to enter inside. Although the entire bus used to for reserved ticket holders the fight never ceased. Then there was always a nightmarish experience to locate a Coolie to load the bag on top of the bus. Every time at least one fight used to take place with co-passengers over seats, luggage etc.
Exactly at around 2.30 pm, the bus used to chug out. Traveling by window seat was and still continues to be my favorite activity. The Mumbai in the eighties was not as crowded as it is today. The city used to end somewhere after Vashi. The first stop those days, from where we used to assume that we have really started our journey was Panvel. Panvel used to sound so far away those days. The bus ride was never a joyous one, but, what can a person do when he has no other option?
The bus would halt for dinner break at Indapur. The canteen there was a shabby place and was always crowded. I used to feel nausea and would sometimes vomit during bus travels, due to which I would intake very less food.
The very unique and very innovative thing was that exactly at the same time, a bus would depart from my native place daily and they both met at the same time at Chiplun Bus Depot, which also indicated that we have reached halfway to our destination. Sometimes, when the driver of one bus drove fast, the passengers would have to wait for the other bus. The uniqueness was that the drivers would change and the driver that drove the bus from Mumbai to Chiplun would drive the bus that came from my native place to Mumbai. The other driver would do the same and drive the Bus that came from Mumbai to my native place.
Tired will be a very weak word to describe the entire journey. However, as a child, I used to enjoy every bit of it.
After the vacation when we left our native place the village folks, my cousins would gather at the Bus stand to see us off. Their teary moist eyes meant a lot then, those tears were true. However, as the world around us changed, everything has changed, selfishness has engulfed all relationships. Gone are those days of true closeness. There is an air of formality in the relations now. My relatives and cousins are no different. Whenever economics rules over emotions, emotions are lame losers.
The Konkan Railway changed the entire scenario. Travel has eased, people have progressed, commercialization is taking place at a very mad pace. I happened to be near the bus stand at around 2 pm expecting the jamboree of people to see off their near and dear ones. But, there was an air of silence, apart from few stray dogs and a couple of people who had lost it shared the empty bus stand. I asked the person accompanying me what happened to the 2.30 bus. Pat came the reply, they have stopped the bus service as people have stopped plying due to easier mode i.e. railways.
I felt bad, the change was good, I tried to convince myself, the journey has now become relatively easier. But, the bus had contributed a handful of memories in my life, that won’t fade away so easily.