So this one got published in the Hindu on the 31st of August 2010
There’s something magical about the school bus and how it comes obediently to your bus stop each morning and you unsuspectingly let it take you for a ride. There will always be some old hindi song that welcomes you as you climb the impossibly high first step and enter the bus. The music is lost the moment the engine roars to life and you only get to catch a sliver of the song at the red-light. You smile as you walk down the aisle and take your favourite seat, settle down comfortably and peer outside the window. You’ve travelled down the same route for the past six years everyday and yet you like to look outside and see what the world looks like this morning. Inside the bus, there is usually a structure to cordon off the area where the driver and conductor sit. This is fantastic to look at. There will be several pictures of film stars- new and old, framed pictures of a non-descript landscape and often phone numbers scrawled in huge letters: things to keep you company if there’s no one to talk to. The walls of the bus are ordinary, painted in colours varying from white to green and have sections marked Mahilayein and Emergency Door. The paint is fading and the letters peeling off, but the purpose remains intact.
The school bus becomes more enigmatic on rainy days. The rain patters on the shut windows, lending a subdued air to the interior. The lights are switched on and everyone instinctively speaks in hushed tones as the music wafts to the last seats. The world outside seems condemned as you sit comfortably in the damp shelter of the bus, watching people struggle with umbrellas and raincoats. The journey is quiet as the rain occupies everyone’s mind and the bus’s role is enhanced. It seems to whisper softly to you, assuring you that it will keep you dry for as long as it can, and wishes you good luck as you disembark into the merciless rain.
Next time you get onto the bus, observe it quietly. Don’t stare too brazenly, it’ll become self-conscious. Notice how the floor has tiny diamonds etched onto the steel and is so clean till you walk all over it. Notice how the windows are covered with a black plastic to protect you from the sun’s glare. Notice, and you’ll see the magic.