Free-Wheel: Ode to Vehicle

Public transport is a Tata Sumo is a multi utility vehicle.

Tata Sumo! An accepted mode of public transportation in hilly region, which can carry ten passengers in each trip excluding the driver. Three in front, four in the middle and four more in the rear.

However, travelling in it is both extraordinary and a grueling one, especially when you are going via Hoji to Itanagar or Ziro.

Nearly three hours ride of rough road.

Did you ever notice that the onus is always on the passenger no. 3 who usually does the work of a doorman? If a passenger from rear seat need to shed some loads or for some other purpose, it’s no. 3 who has to get off first.

A scrawny passenger like me can be easily tossed about like a roll of dice in an empty vehicle or when it had too few passengers. So I always have had to grab whatever support I could find and hold onto it to stay put in my seat. But, when the vehicle is jam-packed with passengers and I find myself seated between two plump passengers, which may have never happened with you, can instantly reminds me of the thin slice of salami of SUBWAY’s sandwich.

In such lucky hot humid dusty summer day, when perspiration rise from hibernation and tickles every passengers’ foreheads (I guess plump people sweat more than the skinny one) and its odor amalgamate with strong perfume that your co-passenger is wearing to conceal their body odor, then suddenly someone rolled up the window to prevent the dancing dust to get inside the vehicle. I tell myself it’s not a carbon monoxide. This is not a time for your breathing exercise. Inhale it just this once and won’t feel the difference later on.

Then there’s the fare of Tata Sumo. Brand new fare for the passenger travelling to Ziro from Itanagar and vice versa at Rs. 300/-. I reminded the employees at ticket booking counter that it was Rs. 250/- sometimes ago. “Hike in petrol price, they reasoned.” But their faces seem to be saying, “You Moron”.

Increment of Rs. 3/-in petrol price is directly proportionate to Rs. 50/- from each passenger. I said, “You Moron” with my face. I immediately realized, while taking out the Rs. 50/- note from wallet, that I was actually the real moron – you know, he was the first person to use the word and besides I was paying him.

Imagine you are languishing in a hotel owing to Strike/Close/Bandh for three or four days while hotelier is happily lapping up your rapidly running out cash with their worthless but expensive breakfast, lunch and dinner. You spend a wakeful night in a hotel bed, counting the remaining coins and praying “bandh, bandh ho jaye”.

In another trip; in order to escape from money sucking leeches, nauseating Tata Sumo and to deprive the employee at the booking counter of an added argument, I decided to drive my third-hand motorbike to Itanagar. The ride on my motorbike was pretty perfect until my return trip to Ziro.

This time I choose to dodge the rugged road that test your spirit; that test your endurance.

En route, there were almost half a dozen cattle resting on the warmth of bitumen covered road. My eyes were on the road. I remember seeing an ox approaching the resting group. Suddenly two ox packed with full of testosterone and their horns locked against each other, moved swiftly towards me and bumped my motorbike.

The impact of smack was great. But I am amazed; the first thing that occurs to my mind was will I be able to reach home. What if my bike is broken down completely? So I got up to see the damages done to my motorbike. It looked okay. At that moment, I realized that the bone at the ball of the thumb is dislocated. I could clearly hear a sound which was a little familiar – F@%k! – When I was fixing my bone by myself.

Really I am not that very enthusiastic about motor vehicle as I am in to some other things. Bookcase crammed with novels? Yes please. iPod? Definitely yes. PS3? Why not. I can comprehend people’s fondness for their engines. And why the “have-nots” want to have it? I, at any given day, I would settle on hitchhiking rather than maneuvering it – talking to the person on steering and keeping him awake.

Last time when I was at my friend’s place I asked for a car as a present for my “not-in-the-sight-marriage”. I was, in fact, kidding. Have I succeeded to give you a fright, my friend? Don’t worry I would be more than well-contented with the Dslr you are planning to buy from online shop.

I wonder why Department of Transport won’t upgrade all those vintage “blue and sky blue colored buses” that have been plying on the road of Arunachal since time immemorial.

Would it be a sin if I plead to be carried in a clean public transport? Not in freight truck.

Till then, can I hitch a lift with you? We could save some fuel, money and bloodshed. More importantly, I can give you a treat to a plate of “butter chicken and Nan” at Punjabi dhaba in Banderdewa. All on me.