Nice pillow!

I was reading noted Marathi humorist P L Deshpande's story "Mhais" in which he describes his journey from Ratnagiri to Mumbai in a State Transport bus.

The author writes that he was feeling "jealous" of the co-passenger sitting to his left. The reason: The co-passenger had taken for granted that the author's left shoulder was a complimentary cushion offered by the State Transport Corporation.

The sleeping man is awakened when the bus suddenly jerks; but he goes back to sleep after muttering a few words of annoyance. The author does not mention whether he woke up the sleeping man and told him to sit properly. I was not so lucky. In fact, I sympathize with the sleeping man; when you are asleep how can you control the movements of your head, hands and feet? And how can you stay awake at 3am?

I think I am muddling up things; let me begin at the beginning. It was the general elections in 1996. As a news reporter, I was assigned by my organization to cover the constituencies falling in the scenic Konkan region of Maharashtra. In those days State Transport buses were the most convenient modes of transport.

My seniors advised me to travel in the night. "You can sleep in the bus and wake up feeling fresh to start work in the morning," I was told. That sounded like a good piece of advice.

My first stop was Raigad from Pune. The distance was quite short. I spent a day in Raigad and after completing my work there, proceeded for Sindhudurg. Remembering the advice of my seniors, I decided to take a bus past midnight so that I would arrive at Sindhudurg in the morning. Once inside the bus, I will close my eyes and hey bingo, before I know I would be in Sindhudurg. The journey from Raigad to Sindhudurg was a long one and since I was travelling in the night, there would be nothing to look out at from the window. So a nice sleep was a welcoming thought.

My calculations began to go awry right from the beginning. For one, the buses were far in between. Secondly, there was a huge rush of passengers. So, when a bus arrived all the other passengers would rush inside and I would be left standing where I was. I had no reservation.

Finally, I managed to board a bus because the number of travelers had thinned owing to the late hour (it was nearly 2am). I found myself a seat. Unluckily for me, it was not a window seat, which I would have preferred. The window seat was taken up by a burly and sulky-looking man.

The bus started and I closed my eyes. Suddenly I felt an earthquake. I was being rudely shaken I opened my eyes to discover that I was wrong; it was not an earthquake. The man next to me was shaking me violently. I looked at him through half open eyes. "Sit properly," he growled. I was sitting properly; why was he grumbling? "My shoulder is not your pillow," he explained and things slowly became clear.

I edged away from him as much as possible and bringing my knees together, rested my head on them. That was good posture. Now there was no danger of my head seeking out his shoulder. I closed my eyes and was lost in sleep. There was the earthquake again. It took me much less time now to understand my position. "Go and sit somewhere else," the man growled. Defying all my instructions to remain on the knees, the head had sprung up without my knowledge and had found the man's shoulder once again.

This was very embarrassing. I turned around and saw that the rearmost seats in the bus were vacant. Many passengers had alighted en route and, hence, the bus had fewer passengers inside. I picked up my bag and made for the last seat. It was a window seat, and there was no one next to me! I closed my eyes, and blissful sleep at once took me in its tight embrace. I was rudely awakened once again - not by an earthquake this time but loud noise all around. I opened my eyes and saw it was bright daylight. I had reached my destination.

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