The dust on the road was sprayed on the bus like a thin layer of turmeric powder. I had got into the bus just for old times sakes and was looking out of my perch at a window at the passing scenery with open curiosity. It has been ten years since I had taken this route and as expected, things had changed along this road that reached to the inner villages of Tamil Nadu. As the public transport bus wheezed to a halt in a bus depot at Vizhipuram, I realized that it was bustling with activity unlike the last time I was there. Young kids were selling peeled jack fruit pieces in tiny plastic covers by the dozen through the window. There was a pharmacy at a distance displaying colorful packs of sanitary napkins in the glass display. A jeep stopped nearby from which brown goats hopped out, like spilling coffee beans. Flower sellers, carrying bamboo saucers of white, yellow and red did their rounds around the bus and were frequently stopped by young men who bought them for their lady sitting in the resin seat next to them. The entire place was like a living, thriving organism where each constituent performed its bodily function.
I remember ten years back, when this very spot consisted of a single tea stall and a dilapidated shed that functioned as a bus stop and a cow shed rolled into one. As the bus drivers were on strike, there were very few buses plying into the city and I had waited along with the grandfather on one of the wooden stools outside the tea stall for something like four hours. The night had been warm and clear, with the sky filled with a smattering of stars that I have recently begun to associate only with my deep, dark ocean. The tea stall had been open well into the night, lighted by a single, slender bulb that attracted the inspection of curious insects. The waiting passengers, mostly farmers from the village and their children had been singing to while away the time, while me, in my 'city' clothes sat quietly listening in to their laughter and conversation. Sometimes, I do yearn for those simpler times.
Coming back to the present. A five hour bus ride and a wake-up later, I was in the city of Chennai, sipping a caffe latte with a few friends in one of the fashionable coffee joints that offered wireless Internet. A few college students sat in the table nearby, discussing animatedly about how Star Trek was still hip. The boys were dressed in baggy, waist level pants and the girls in jeans and singlets. A few Canadians sat in the next table with a Lonely Planet in their midst and passing around a camera looking at just clicked pictures. For a minute, I thought that this scene looked vaguely familiar - I could have been sitting at the Hard Rock Cafe in Melbourne, Singapore or Rio and the scene would have been pretty much the same. Youngsters in Madonna T shirts, a few girls having a good time , some tourists and a laughing bunch of friends. The realisation, I must sheepishly admit, made me feel proud.
This narrative has no concluding passage as to the moral of the story. But I can say that I am curious to see how that bus depot in Vizhipuram will turn out ten years from now.