Monday, 3 November 2014

Last Bus to Lekhapani.





*      This is one of my favourite stories. Enjoy the bus ride to Lekhapani..........

Last Bus to Lekhapani


Pooran Mal Lakhotia alighted at the Dibrugarh bus station at 9 p.m. and rushed to the booking counter from where a dim light emanated, indicating perhaps the counter was open. But he was disappointed to find it closed. Dejected, he looked around for someone to inquire about the bus. Seated in one corner, he found a man brewing tea.
       Picking up the suitcase, he moved to the tea shop. Suddenly, he felt an instant urge to have a strong tea.
        He put the suitcase down, and asked the tea seller, rubbing palms to generate some warmth, “Bhaiya, when is the next bus to Lekhapani?” 
       The tea seller, with typical looks of a man from the Gangetic plains, gave him a wry smile and spoke, “Arey, sahib, you’ve just missed the bus by about fifteen minutes.”
       “When is the last bus to Lekhapani?” he asked instantly.
       “That leaves this place at midnight and the booking counter will open half an hour prior to departure,” he replied putting the kettle on the fire.
        “What time does it reach there?”
        “Before 4 a.m.”
        “4 a.m.!”
       “Ji Sahib. Perhaps you are coming here for the first time. In this region the sun rises early. It’s dawn by 4 a.m.”
         “What’s your name?”
         “Lallan.”
         “Lallan, could I’ve a strong ginger tea?” he urged.
      “Ji, Sahib. Wait a minute,” he said elatedly, dusted a plastic chair with his gamchha, (hand towel) and then gestured him to sit.
“I’ll wait here at the bus stop. There’s no point going back to the hotel room now,” he thought loudly, settling in the chair.
“Sahib, you won’t regret staying here,” he heard him remark.
“Why!” he exclaimed.
“Ji, nothing. I meant you could read the book or newspaper. You would be carrying a lot of books,” he spoke putting tealeaves into the boiling water.
“How do you know?” he queried in surprise.
“I’ve seen many sahibs reading books while waiting for the bus here.” he put sugar into the pan and stirred it vigorously. A minute later when the tea started boiling, he grated ginger into fine pieces and dropped them into the pan.
“Do you know how to read?” he inquired, but felt foolish a minute later asking that stupid question.

            (Please go to 'Short Stories' section for full story)
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