I’ve only seen India by night. Through the windows of overnight buses. For the last three weeks we have been in Tibetan enclaves, tucked away in dusty quiet corners of India. We have been surrounded by Tibetan people, news and culture. From the bus window, India is a mess of watercolors splashed on tiny grubby rectangles of glass. The florescent colors are dripping, swirling and exploded on the other side of the window.
Our latest overnight bus ride was from Dharamsala to the Tibetan Colony, Majnu ka Tilla in Delhi. The ride was like a Saturday Night Live skit. We boarded our deluxe sleeper bus around 6pm with 35 other people. Every seat had its own funky problem and every white person wanted to change seats. My seat was situated at a very funny angle so I had to lean on Justin during most of the ride. My seat was also soaking wet from the monsoon rains that came earlier that day. Justin was caged into his seat by a metal ladder leading up to the sleeper cell above us. Every once and a while dainty plump toes would swing down from the sleeper cell above. Justin would duck to avoid getting kicked in the face. Some seats didn’t recline and others would only stay in the upright position. The whole bus smelled like armpits. Justin and I watched tourists yell and moan while frantic bus drivers tried to accommodate everyone. Mostly that meant grumpy tourists getting their way and local folks getting busted seats. After about an hour of intense arguments and seat rearrangements we started to head down the mountain.
It was misty and bumpy. Our three Indian bus drivers spirited us away, hurling us around hairpin turns while swerving to dodge oncoming construction trucks. Once and a while the fog would lift and we could look across a valley at the road we were just on. The hillsides were sparkling with tiny lights from homes and car headlights on the other side. The sliver of a deep yellow moon dangled above us. When the light was right we could see the steep and craggy cliff we were driving along. We only sideswiped a few cars before hitting traffic. I think there must have been some sort of landslide and the road just couldn’t fit our deluxe sleeper bus and the truck full of dirt ahead. But they tried. As our bus inched past the truck I buried my head in Justin’s shoulder. I was scared that the metal hooks on the dirt truck would bust through our window. What a sigh of relief when we our window was in the clear. But just then, CRAACKKK…POPPP, shattered glass all over the back of the bus. The breaks screeched and the three Indian bus drivers ran out of the bus to start fighting with the crowd of people standing around the dirt truck. A Tibetan woman in the back calmly picked pieces of glass off her seat and dropped them out the hole where the window had been. Each shard plopped down into a pile of dirt bellow.
Soon we were off again. I was so happy when we got out of the mountains. We were lucky I guess. Earlier this year a tourist bus drove off one of a cliff killing a dozen people. When we reached the lowlands it was hot but the heat seemed like a fair trade to be off those roads. For the next 9 hours we rattled through many villages full of incredibly poor people. Everywhere people were sleeping on the side of the road or on the median between two roads or in their cycle rickshaw. Sometimes we would pass glowing Hindu temples all lit up with multi colored lights and blasting music on loudspeakers. At some point in the middle of the night we forged a river because a bridge was unsafe. We were in water halfway up the side of the bus but no one seemed to mind. Around 9am we arrived in Delhi. A monk we made friends with on the ride walked with us to our hotel where we passed out.
Busted Bus Windows