One fine sunny yet not too warm and perfectly temperatured day, I decided to take the bus to work. Full of good intentions and absolutely proud of myself for taking the bus, I stepped into the bus and offered a ten rupee note to the conductor as fare. A little smile played on my lips as I thought about the good deed I was doing for the environment. I am sure a halo twinkled around my little head too, but I was too modest to check.
The conductor, a tall strapping young man who looked like he had been feasting on human blood the whole night and chewing the cud for breakfast, snatched the note brusquely, pushed his finger into his mouth, swabbed a generous amount of paan stained saliva on his finger, pried a ticket loose from the tight wad he held in his hand with the same finger and pushed the ticket into my hand before I could scream “Nahiiiiiiin” like Hema Malini in the movies. It all happened in a second. I had no time to react. The crumpled ticket with blood red saliva lay in my hand like a Maghai Paan House flavored bus ticket. The smell was overpowering.
I looked at the ticket in horror and then at the conductor. He was gone; to the rear of the bus to sell more paan flavored tickets I presume.
I gingerly lifted my hands and tried to throw the ticket into the bag. But it wouldn’t budge. The conductor has ensured that passengers will never have to worry about losing their tickets and paying fines by - you wont believe this - eating sweet paaan!!! Yes dear friends, the industrial strength sugar syrup in the paan ensured that I could do any thing...like Kung Fu or Karate, or climb a mountain "and" award a few Common Wealth Games contracts on the side without having to worry about the ticket falling down, EVER! Amazing.
I decided to look at the bright side. Suppose the bus turned sharply, rolled over a dozen times and then fell slow motion into a deep ditch like in the movies, I could secure myself by sticking my hand on any part of the bus!!! I would perhaps be the only one standing!!
But it was hard to be positive when there is a terrible stench emanating from your hand. Yes dear friends, by this time the paan syrup had started decomposing and my hand smelled like a morgue. Extending my hand in front of me and covering my nose with the other was an impossible task I achieved due to sheer nausea and great repulsion.
I got out of the bus with great alacrity and sprinted to the office toilet like someone suffering from diarrhea who has seen a toilet after a really long time. After washing the hand a hundred times and being refused the phenyl a hundred times (No dear, you don’t need phenyl to sterilize your hands. Soap is just fine)I walked to my seat, a changed person. The old Silverine was dead. In her place stood a female mutant bus ticket hating ninja turtle err girl.
Nowadays, when the conductor hands me the ticket, I no longer gasp and act like I am being handed a severed human head. I merely hold up an eyebrow tweezer and pluck it straight out of his hands. The ticket is then dropped into a plastic bag that is promptly thrown into the dustbin when I reach office. I do get strange looks from some conductors, but most of them are fine. Because they are too busy wetting their fingers with saliva for the next passenger, to notice.