Yesterday, I had one of the most anti-climactic trips of my life (Shimla, by the way). It was good but… something cool could have happened or maybe it was alright and that feeling exists only because I passively compare every trip with the first independent trip of my life – when I went to Agra with my friend in the winter of 2015 – usually dubbed as the day our bus left us in the middle of an expressway to die while becoming the subject of eternal ridicule and humour.
October 1st, about 8:00 PM
Prateek and I were travelling to Agra in one of those local buses courtesy UP Roadways. The bus stopped for refreshments and food. I had not travelled much before this and neither had Prateek so we did not ask or know the break’s duration. We assumed it’d be enough to get fresh, eat something and come out. We had assumed wrong. After a burger, pee and a can of Coca-Cola we were not greeted by the bus. This might have to do with us trying to take a long-exposure of the starry sky (it was gorgeous that night) on Prateek’s new OnePlus Two but none of us have ever admitted to that.
“Prateek!? Where’s the bus?”, I bellowed intentionally.
“Umm… it was here, wasn’t it?”, Prateek replied in a shocked and disappointed way.
“Oh well, we’re screwed, aren’t we?” I said meekly.
“Royally”, he said.
So, it was like this. We were stranded on a place abundant with food (no problem, tummy) in the middle of nowhere (Yamuna Expressway) and had no bus to take us either to Agra or back to Noida, both of which were at equal distance from the point where we stood disappointedly and it was dark and getting darker. We were glad enough that we had taken our backpacks out of the bus which made the situation a bit less grave than it could’ve been. However, it was still a situation.
We talked to the nearby guard who confirmed that the bus had indeed left. UP Roadways does not do a passenger headcount which in my one year of interacting with four different roadways is a property unique to them. Anyway, we juggled for ideas.
Idea 1 – Ask for a Lift to Agra
The idea didn’t feel as stupid. We analysed a few cars and asked a few people for lifts. All of them denied but I remember this little quote from the police officer going to Agra with his family.
“I am a family man. You act surprised but think about it. I can’t trust you the same way you shouldn’t trust me. For all I know, the two of you could have a gang held up a few kilometres ahead this road. For all you know, this may not even be my family. Point being, stop asking for lifts, it isn’t safe in this country, at least.” (Loosely translated from what he said to me in Hindi)
So, we dropped the idea.
Idea 2 – Hitchhike on Another Bus
We went up the banking of the road and stood there. We held out our hands and arms (thumbs are clichéd) and even jumped a bit but no bus seemed to stop. It is called an expressway for a reason, you know? Also, this was way more dangerous since the closer we got to the middle of the road to be noticed, the greater the possibility of us become red jam. We dropped this idea.
Idea 3 – Find Help
We took out the ticket to see if there’s any customer care. There was a number so we called them up. The person picked up which was surprising but well, he asked us for the bus number and told us the obvious, “Sir, as per the schedule, the bus is about to reach Agra now.” However, he did give us the idea to take another bus from UP Roadways and explain our situation, they had a duty to take us on even if we didn’t get any seats or that’s what he told us. (more on that below)
So, we figured the only way to make a bus stop is the Toll Booth and so we walked up to the Toll Booth about 600 metres from our position. Perhaps, it wasn’t as middle of nowhere as we thought. Forgive us for the adrenaline fueled exaggeration. On our way, we found a police car and so we told them what happened. They were helpful. They talked to a few people from UP Roadways who suggested the same thing. Later, I learned that this is the correct and well-known solution to the problem. The trick is convincing the bus conductor of that.
We went up to the booth and explained our situation to the operators. They asked us to sit on a pole, literally and wait. At least it was sideways. A few minutes and a lot of vehicles later, a UP Roadways bus came and we chimed with enthusiasm. We got in the bus. We thought the nightmare was over but to our dismay, the boss level was left. The driver agreed but the conductor for some unexplainable reason did not. That’s where the argument began. I have never convinced someone so much in my life till today. I’m usually the first one to walk away with sass when I’m expected to beg or persuade. 15 minutes of argument, clever retorts and sarcasm (as per my travel journal, I do not remember my comments) made the passengers laugh so much, that they ultimately persuaded the conductor to let us travel with them. We had to pay some part of the bus fare but it was just formality at the moment. We reached Agra late where Prateek’s uncle came to pick us up from the bus terminal and that’s when one of the best experiences I have ever had ended. Though, it was an experience because nothing bad happened, it would’ve been an accident otherwise so, thank you lady Fortuna, I believe in you. Ultimately, this trip was a felix culpa.
So, that is the story of how we escaped becoming the mishap headline of October 2nd’s daily. No one would’ve liked something like “Adolescents Murdered on Expressway”. This is probably why I couldn’t enjoy the trip to Shimla as much as I should have. It’s like sex, nothing comes closer to your first time… and since that analogy might make you ask – I’m still a virgin.