“Don’t worry I will follow your footsteps and won’t let you all down…. You travel safely” my sister who was in tenth grade responded with her usual devilish grin obviously aware of the fact that I did not follow the advice that I had just given to her. It was early morning and the world outside was still too quite probably comfortable in their warm blankets before they began their daily hustle and bustle. The wall clock was ticking by, its arm pointing at 4 and sleepily I checked if all my things were in place before I departed to stay away from home for about four months.
“Hey good news….. I got the ticket but it means we will be reaching at our college three days before the exact reporting date.” one of my classmates who too stayed at Paro informed me.
“Will that be ok? You wanna go with me?” she added.
“Yes! Yes!” I shouted before she could finish her sentence. To get the tickets for the schedule bus was quite a hectic job usually when the reporting date for the various colleges nears. I had to grab that opportunity even if I had to sacrifice some few days that I could have spend with my families.
A loud horn from the trucks passing by woke me up. I had fallen asleep for about an hour and when looking out of the window to enjoy the scenario outside, we had already reached at Babesa. My mom was chanting bazaguru with the distant look in her eyes probably sad to let go of her daughter even for a short while.
“The job market is already turning into a competitive one. Study hard as you have to get a good job so as to look after your younger siblings”, my dad advised me as I stepped into the bus. I gave a cursory glance through the bus and noticed that most of them were probably students. At the back seat of the bus I could see two lovebirds away from the crowds snuggled against each other in their own romance world.
The bus started off with the passengers dozing off probably getting back their sleep which they had sacrificed earlier so as not to miss the bus. I could see my friend who had called me about the ticket in the front seat accompanied by the music from her phone. The air was cold and the environment was also strange obvious of the fact that the other passengers were all strangers to me. The bus conductor who possessed the character of humor kept the environment lively by cracking jokes and showing his funny moves whenever a song blasted from the music box.
The bus stopped to a halt at some place unknown and there entered a guy who was probably of my age and took the seat next to me. My heart skipped a beat when I stared at his face which somehow looked so familiar. He was tall in height and was of somewhat fair complexion who looked serious and had that look of ‘Do not mess with me’ type. I was surprised though when he greeted me with his warm smile and I too greeted him back coyly with a smile.
“So we are going to be seat partner for the journey… you good name please?”
“I’m Lekzin and what’s your name?” I questioned back.
“Rinzin… so guess you must be a student?”
“Yeah and you too right?” I learned later from our conversation that he was pursuing his education in India and was currently going to Trashigang to meet his sister who was insisting on meeting him before he went off to his college. He turned out to be quite a talkative person who was interested in experimenting new things. The journey was filled with his talks and surprisingly I didn’t doze off like I usually did at the boring long talks.
Outside the dusk was falling and I could feel the chilly breeze of the Bumthang valley blowing over my cheeks. The bus conductor informed us to stay at the particular hotel since it would be easy if all the passengers were together. So like the other passengers my friend and I booked a room which we later came to realize was smelly and infested with bed bugs. The wall was decorated with the red spittle which was probably the work of an ignorant ‘doma’ eater. Worst of all there was no socket which meant an end to entertainment as the battery of our laptops and phones were already down. So after having dinner my friend and I tried to get some sleep but hardly did we close our eyes when the sound of drum and chanting from above woke us. Irritated we got up to wait for another hour only to realize that the noise never ceased to end.
We could hear the faint music from outside and went to seek solace in the night club instead of getting stuck in the room without any sleep. Outside the club though I was surprised to find my seat partner.
“So the mysterious noise from above finally succeeded in chasing you here”, he winked
“Yeah we had no idea what was with that strange noise”, I responded.
He was with his friend who was in the same college with us and so the four of us went inside the club only to find the dance floor all to ourselves. It was awkward with only the four of us on the dance floor but soon we blended in. we chatted and danced and soon were unaware of the time flying by. More people joined us by the midnight and sadly our only entertainment was closed down by one o’clock. Unwillingly we went back to our smelly room.
“Hey we can’t sleep with those bed bugs. Why don’t we chat the whole night and sleep during the journey in the bus”, my seat partner suggested to which we totally agreed.
Rinzin questioned us after an awkward silence “Have you heard of the renowned gang leader in Thimphu called the viper?”
“Nope. Never heard of it” we replied unanimously.
“That’s not important. What I am trying to say is that once he was charging me without any reason and the next thing I pulled my pocket knife and stabbed him twice in the heart. He was hospitalized and I stayed in jail for two weeks” he blurted out with the tone of seriousness.
“Yeah he is telling the truth. You have no clue how bad a person he can be. I was the one to take food for him when he was in the jail” his friend added.
“So it means both of you are also gang members?”I asked regaining my composure after a few moments
“Yeah. We joined when we were in class ten only” replied both.
I got goose bumps when they furthermore described their adventurous incidents of gang fights and more. They said they could even add me and my friend in their so called gang if we wanted, to which we rejected gladly. We were speechless knowing their true character and after few more minutes both of them burst out laughing.
“Hahahaha we fooled you” they couldn’t stop laughing
“If I really stayed in prison how would I have got enrolled in a college? There had to be some entertainment and both of you were not taking the lead to talk” Rinzin laughed even harder.
Their lie of gang fights had already kept us awake through the morning and we could hear some of the other passengers waking up to get ready for the journey.
“We should better stop talking and prepare ourselves for the journey”, the two guys added with some traces of humor still lingering on their faces.
“Ok liars let’s get ready for the journey”, I added to which they laughed even more
When I entered the bus, I noticed that my friend and the guy from our college who was with Rinzin had something going on between them. The way that they looked at each other affectionately conveyed some hints to us.
“Did they already pair up?” Rinzin whispered with his mischievous grin when we were in our seats.
“I think so” I responded with my usual lopsided grin.
“And by the way thank you for entertaining us with your lie yesterday”
“The pleasures all mine” he laughed with his charming voice ringing in the air.
“I am not betraying you dear. I will tie the knot only with you. I will take care of your children as if they are my own and wait for me till I reach back at Thimphu. Don’t go out with other guys and take care of your health.” the bus conductor was talking with his sweetheart on the phone. Instead of sounding it romantic he made it sound even funnier with the way he talked. The laughter of the passenger woke me up and on looking to my left I caught Rinzin starring at me. He quickly shifted his glance to the other side when he was aware of my opened eyes.
Rinzin was smiling to himself and I caught him starring at the driver.
“Did I miss anything?”
“You indeed missed a lot of thing sleepyhead” he smiled.
“There is something going on with the driver and the women next to him. They had been holding hands for more than an hour and exchanging numbers too. Ah!! This bus is filled with romance starting from the driver to the passengers” he laughed motioning me to our friends who were now sitting together.
“Maybe we should try our luck too” he grinned and I laughed it off with the punch on his shoulder.
The phone of the bus conductor again ringed. “Darling please don’t call me right now. I will call you during the night time and we can talk freely. Right now the passengers are laughing at me when I talk with you. And please don’t go out with other guys” The bus soon exploded with uproarious laughter at his conversation.
Unwillingly our destination was nearing when the fun was at its peak and it meant that soon we would all go our separate ways. The romance was still continuing with the driver, our friends and the bus conductor on his phone. I wanted the journey to continue forever but the reality soon unfolded itself as we reached at Trashigang. Before I got off the bus Rinzin whispered in my ears, “The dance that I had with you felt so dreamlike and the journey I had with you by my side was the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me. If I were ever given a chance I want those moments to happen all over again. Maybe we were fated only to be a seat partner and I am very much blessed to have you even for a short while.”
With his bold confessions he got off the bus before I could regain my composure. I dashed outside only to see him enter the cab and disappear in the thick mist with his genuine smile which I captured in my mind. Just like the brief flower which blooms for a short while only to imprint itself on the viewer’s heart, he was just a memory that I was to keep cherishing forever.