I have a fear, an irrational one, of missing a scheduled journey by being late for it. This has been mine since a young age and to this date I haven’t missed a train, a flight or a bus journey because I was late for it. Nevertheless, the fear persists. Therefore, I do the following: I double check departure timings, sleep early to be up in time for the early morning schedule, ensure that an alarm is set and finally, after all this, I sleep fitfully. Hence, I have even arrived three hours ahead of schedule for a domestic flight in Cochin. A wintry morning I was denied entry into the Delhi airport as I was too early and I spent time walking around with my luggage so as not to freeze in the cold outside.
Last night was no different. I settled my accounts of the stay in the Circuit House even though Sharma, the caretaker insisted that it could be done this morning before my departure. While Sharma was sure that the departure time of the Kalpa-Shimla bus was 6.30 AM I insisted on being at the bus stop at 6 AM for the kind man at the information counter at the Peo bus stand said it would be there at that time. I had kept the alarm for 4.30 AM and woke up at 3 AM! I used the spare time to complete a blog post and re-arrange the luggage in the backpack. Despite all that I was ready by 5.15 AM. When I met up with Sharma to leave at a quarter to 6 for the bus stand he insisted that I had been given the wrong departure timing. I could not share with Sharma my fear and hence reached the bus stop before 6 AM. Sharma waited with me for 15 minutes and took leave of me after repeating at least every two minutes that he was right about the bus timing. Anyway, his departure gave me relief from the constant refrain and I was glad to sight the bus at exactly 6.30 AM. I was the first passenger in the bus and I chose the seat next to the driver once again because of the ease of accommodating my bags.
For the next one hour it was a virtual free tour of some of the villages I had not visited during the tour. One such was Pangi. The approach to the village was through a road cut through rock faces and had numerous precipitous ‘suicide points’. The outskirts of the village were beautiful with orchards and thick forests. The pickup drive lasted an hour and the bus finally left Peo bus stand at a quarter to 8. The bus filled up quickly. I was alarmed to see the driver using a mobile and driving with hand. When I saw him doing this repeatedly I requested him not to do so. He was not too happy about it but I could make out that the other passengers were relieved too. To the credit of the driver it must be said that he never repeated the’offense’.
Since the bus was better than the one I had taken for the trip from Shimla to Peo my ride was relatively more comfortable. I also rested my knees by getting down whenever the bus was stopped. Nearing Shimla the weather turned and it started raining. The bus started leaking and I had to sit on half the seat to avoid a splash; I put on the hood of my jacket to avoid rain water pitter pattering on my head. It suddenly became very cold and the visibility on the road also reduced considerably due to mist. Just 20 kms short of Shimla there was an unusual sound from somewhere under the bus and suddenly some heavy piece of metal fell off the bus. It would have been a nightmare to get off the bus in that weather and look for alternative transport to reach Shimla. Fortunately, the driver agreed to continue for as long as he could. We did reach the ISBT without any further ado. By the time I got off the bus I was shivering despite the protection I had on me.
The wait in the ISBT for a local bus to get to the railway station worsened the situation. I could not feel my feet and the hands felt like frozen meat. By the time I got to the warm confines of the Officers’ Rest House I was in relatively poor shape. The caretaker - he immediately recognized me as the one who had driven to Shimla from Kerala in a car - allotted a room and switched on the ‘Heater Tower’. He also supplied red hot tea. With these my conditioned thawed. Later the caretaker, Laxman Singh, got me a dhaba meal that consisted of rotis, rice, rajma, dal and paneer curry. I hit the sack early with the mind clear of any fear of having to take a morning train.