'Are you cold?', the father asked his son, after putting his son in the bus that was taking us to Madras. The kid looked like he had grown up in a hurry. He was slightly taller than I was (well, my hair tickled his chin when I stood up to let him in). He looked at least a couple of months from puberty. Every thing about him oozed out shyness. Even his facial hair. He refused to see anyone in the eye.
He responded to the bald mans question with a grim nod (the bus was artificially converted into a mobile freezer box). The man, with a clear sign of concern on his face, literally ran out of the bus to the car he had parked diagonally in front of the bus, concerned they might leave the hulk of his son, behind. He returned, panting and gripping a silvery shawl to protect the kid from freezing over. He slowly started to stretch the huge frame of his son across 2 seats, making sure he was as comfortable as can get. All this was happening while the rest of us were glowering at the duo. The bus had started 1 hour late, waiting for these buggers. We had managed to convince the driver into rolling the bus out of the city and into the bypass, and now here we were again, stopped in our tracks by a mad man who chased our bus and parked his car in front of us, and was now pampering a big boned teenager.
'OYE DRIVER!!!!', he had the audacity to scream, from inside the sound proof seating area of the bus, to the driver who sat on the other side of the flexi. Seeing that his voice did not manage to pierce thro' the 6" thick glass, he smartly started ramming the back of his hand on the glass till the TV behind the glass stated to wobble in protest. He did not stop till the driver and cleaner, afraid the TV might fall on their heads, ran into the seating area for cover. 'Yena???Unga vandila porvai tharamatieengala???Nanga konduvandhutom, paavam, mathavanga enna pannuvaanga???',(in a politer tone, Don't you people have blankets for your passengers? I brought one, what about the rest of them there) he rambled, shaking his head in the direction of where I lay, clearly shivering. He was protesting, in our support, or so it seemed, until he snatched 2 more shawls from the cleaner's cabinet, picking the best there were. 'Intha saamii', (here you go sir) he said, laying one shawl after another on the prostrate frame of the kid. Tucking him with all possible care. He was taking his sweet ass time in making sure every inch of the boy's outgrown skin was covered. When he was done, after a nerve rattling 15 minutes of our time, he was satisfied with himself. He had left a small opening for his son to see him leave and another small vent for a stray molecule of oxygen to pass through to the mummy's nostrils. When he was ready to leave, the mummy managed to wiggle a couple of fingers form under the sheaths of silk, to make the bald devil leak from the eyes. I was convinced he was only crying for fear for his son's life. The door shut on us. The lights turned out. The bus didn't move a flicker. Looking through the screen, I found the crazy man directing the driver to stop at the kid's school and cross the over grown beanstalk across the street to the school. The school was supposedly on the by-pass road leading to madras. The father then shook hands with the driver, neatly managing to slip in a couple of notes into the drivers hands.
Now that the ordeal with the crazy father was over, we moved on. the bus was careering through the nigh traffic. It looked like the driver was making up for the lost eons by trying to extinguish the human race. One man who I had kept eying for the strange likeness he shared with a maddened grizzly, suddenly let out a sickening belch and threw up on the poor weasel of a man who was sharing half his seat with the grizzly. Sudden movements, puke bags being passed to the grizzly, pardons exchanged, seats shifted. And through all of this, the mummy lay unaware.
The bus kept rolling away at the same break-neck speed. I couldn't sleep from nervousness. The guy next to me was shifting uneasily and I was expecting him to burst from every orifice, anytime. Just when the roads seemed to clear and the drivers speed was setting into everyone, out of the blue, a rare deer, swiftly and gracefully jumped in front of the bus and as quickly as it had jumped in front, it had scampered back into the bushes, or so the driver claimed (in the driver's words, oru dearinga, vandikku munnala dunggunnu dunggunnu kuthicchi vanthicchi. Onnume panna mudiyala). Well, whether it was a deer or something that rhymes with it, the driver stamped on the breaks (air brakes, meant to stop the bus in its tracks at any speed), the ABS kept the bus from slamming into the stream of cars in the next lane and the thick growth of mangoes on the side. Well, this is when I should have been flustered and angry with the driver for making up an utterly insane alibi or at least thankful I was still alive to be doing what I was doing. But I was not, because I was delirious with laughter, tears streaming down my eyes, the sides of my stomach aching from spasms. I was chocking on my own laughter. The mummy had slipped clean from his seat and had somehow gotten itself wedged between his seat and the one in front of him. The shawls his loving dad had wrapped around his seemingly healthy body, were binding him like a strait jacket. He was struggling to free his hands. Half way through the struggle he lost track of where his hands were and was blindly shaking his shoulders. I was going to die soon if I did not stop laughing now. I laughed at this thought coz I was sure the poor kid was going to die if he kept struggling against the straight jacket. Suddenly, at God's will, his hands popped out from no where. Now I was consumed by a fresh bout of laughter from watching the kid trying to figure out where one shawl ended and where the other began. But he did not have to figure that out until the next day as me and the grizzly pulled the kid, wit his drapes, onto the seat and there he lay, no longer stretching across his seat, but curled up against the window. I was too tired from laughing that I had no time to feel sorry for him. We reached Madras the next day, just half an hour later than our scheduled arrival.