The first thing that caught my eye about that group was the sheer amount of luggage. A trunk, a carton, a tote, two duffels and a backpack, The assortment implied that only one of them was boarding the bus to... wherever. Yet there were four guys and two girls in the gathering. I wondered which of them was leaving.
I did a run-over on each of them. The two girls were out. One of them was wearing a skirt and the other a pair of shorts. Both had slippers on their feet. Then I eliminated three of the guys. I decided on the guy in the green tee-shirt. He was dressed appropriately for a journey, complete with white shoes. Though what kind of a douche choose a pair of WHITE sneakers for a journey? I shrugged mentally. His feet, not mine.
`It was confirmed by the fact that he was holding one of the girls' hands, the tall, slim one. She could very well have been the girlfriend, given the tension between them. The other one with stout legs sat on the steel trunk, knees drawn close and chin cupped in her hands. She looked... miserable. Or was she just simply bored? She looked out of place with the much older-looking group. She could have been the girlfriend of one of them. Or a sister. I scratched out the girlfriend possibility; she would've been sitting with her guy otherwise.
I looked back at the couple, who had their fingers intertwined. The girl had her eyes locked on her boyfriend, while he sporadically broke away to check the incoming buses.
Speaking of buses, I checked my ticket. The bus had left the main station at nine. I sighed. It was only nine ten, and there was no sign of it.
A bike screeched to at stop in front of them. A tall, lanky guy alighted. On a second, longer look, I realized he wasn't a bad looker. He was cute, in a boyish way.
They kept craning their necks to read the names of the buses. One of them asked the Green Guy about the bus number. 9999, he replied.
9999. So he was headed where I was.
The guy in the blue tee got up and wished the guy luck before leaving. He was shortly followed by Mr. Cute Biker, but not before they burst into a chorus an atrocious version of 'O Laagaa Sunaari Mein Daag, Mitauuu Kese'.
I was glad I was veiled by the dark, so that they could not see me smile. Not that they were paying any attention to me, anyway.
If that was not enough, they started speaking in reinvented Hindi, and even sang a verse of 'Zinda
in the same spate, one that would have reduced Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy to tears.
Cute Biker rode off, and returned with a 'Japi' and 'Gamocha'. As I watched in quiet amusement, they went ahead with the coronation. The others burst into applause as one performed the act.
I smiled again. This was clearly a guy who was loved, if not by all, sincerely by the ones who did.
Then Green Guy crouched down near the other girl, the one in shorts and a black tee shirt. They started talking, or rather, he did. She nodded occasionally to whatever he said. Then, with an impish grin, she pointed to the carton. The grin got wider after a few more words.
It was nearly nine-thirty when the guys exclaimed. Here comes Shivaji The Boss!
I looked up and found what I was looking for. Bus 9999. I hoisted my backpack higher and fingered the straps absently while I waited for it to pull over.
Each one in the group picked something or the other up, so the luggage load was distributed evenly among them. Two of them split up the weight of the trunk and all of them formed a long line, loading the stuff one-by-one. I waited patiently for them to move on. A slightly amazed conductor asked if all of them were traveling together. He was even more amazed when they replied only one of them was.
Cute Biker asked Black Girl if she was going to put the box in. She shook her head. This is going with me.
I dumped my wheeled-suitcase in the boot, right on top of the steel trunk. The conductor shut and locked the boot and the group gave way for the passengers, namely Me and Green Guy and the conductor to pass through and onto the bus.
Green Guy went ahead. I hung back. The stink of the bus made me nauseous. I preferred to board it right before it started moving.
Green Guy hugged his girlfriend and kissed her forehead. He shook hands with his pals and hugged the close ones before patting Black Girl on the head and adding, Stay nicely.
Settling in his seat, he stuck his hand out and caught his girlfriend's. It reminded me of all the war movies I'd seen till date. The golden scene where the guy has boarded the train and still holds the hand of the girl, breaking away when the train starts moving, leaving the girl looking at him until he disappears from sight. She even had tears, which made it even more real. Classic.
Green Guy slipped his hand out when the bus started moving slowly. He slapped the outstretched hands of his pals, as a rock star would do to his fans. He waved at Black Girl, and she promptly gave him a two-fingered salute in return, balancing the carton on her hip.
I made a running-start and jumped onto the bus with the agility of a monkey, followed by the conductor. The bus picked up speed and soon the group was just shadows in the dim road.
I looked at my ticket for my seat number. I craned my neck, checking the seat numbers on each of them. I spotted mine in the left side, the row of single seats.