I thought a bus trip from Bengaluru to Hyderabad would be comfier than going on a tedious, 14-hour long train journey through the night.
I made the booking online on a “Sleeper (2+1), A/C” bus and took the upper berth, thinking that being a bit higher from the ground level would reduce the shock when the tyres hit a pothole and that the swaying would be much less when the driver manoeuvres a deep turn.
Riding on a sleeper bus is like taking an interstellar journey; you slide into your seat and lie down and wait to take off into infinity and beyond, and there are no seats belts.
At 9.45pm the bus suddenly lurched, swayed towards the right to get out of the dirt road on the side of the highway where it had parked, and I nearly fell off.
I was trying to get comfy in my coffin-like berth, removing my shoes, trying to find a place to keep them, then taking off my belt, my bulky wallet (filled with old receipts) from my back pocket, when we were on our way.
The berth was like sleeping in a minimalist Japanese hotel at Tokyo Airport. They give you what looks like a body container drawer in a morgue and you crawl in and you sleep inside it and hopefully you do not have any anxiety issues or fear of closed places.
Feet turn icy-cold
There was entertainment on board the bus and I could watch a very loud and very dramatic Telugu language movie on the screen near my feet. (I was reminded of the time when luxury cars in Dubai had TV screens in the back for the kids. Some cars even had a small screen near the rear-view mirror, for the driver’s viewing pleasure).
Suddenly, my legs turned icy-cold. This must be how dying feels, I thought. First the feet go cold and then it’s like Disney’s Frozen and you start singing. Luckily, I could close the A/C vent over my head, but not the icy blast on my legs.
I frantically reached for the wafer-thin blanket at my feet and then remembered some guy writing a review of the bus trip he had taken. “The blanket was full of bed bugs,” he had said. I had packed a bedsheet, but my bag was stashed away in the luggage compartment.
A moment later I understood what Sleeper 2+1 meant; a young guy climbed into my teeny berth, said, “Hi”, and started talking to his boss in Cybercity, Hyderabad.
After a while he started snoring and I realised I was sleeping with a stranger. He turned on his side towards me and tried putting his leg over me, while muttering in his sleep. I wondered if I could take a selfie of both of us without using the flash and send it to my wife.
Gifting a bus ticket
But that would have been like hitting your own foot with a hammer, as the saying goes in Hyderabad. “Act your age. Take a flight. This is not some great adventure,” she had said.
My friend had extolled the virtues of the highway to Hyderabad. “It is an excellent road,” he had said. (I have decided to gift him a bus ticket for a ride on a sleeper 2+1, A/C). It was like riding on a tuk-tuk and I think I will need physiotherapy.
I booked on a different bus company on the way back, and these guys were nice and gave us a small gift bag that had a bottle of water and a packet of fried dal (lentils). The night was noisy, and the pollution was bad.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.