The moving houses of the 90’s which provided a space for the locals to discuss politics, history, culture and day to day happenings on the go.
Harboring more than one hundred passengers, the buses which are almost off the roads now, were a part of our lives when no other specific means of transport was available to commute from one place to another.
Two rows of seats, a few supporting pillars for those who couldn’t find a seat for them, an experienced driver and a well trained conductor, whose typical “language” and a unique style of luring the passengers to board his already overloaded bus, are a few memories quite unique to the people who have experienced travelling with this means of transport at least once in their lifetime.
Those buses would mostly ply from all the districts of Kashmir to Srinagar taking almost the same time which a high speeding smaller new age passenger vehicle takes, because back then we had no traffic jams, we had experienced and licensed drivers to drive those buses.
Sitting in the window side of the seat was what every passenger preferred and then how the rest of the journey would turn out to be depended on the other two passengers sitting by the side of this passenger.
One among the three passengers in the same seat would ignite the discussion in a typical kashmiri style, “Dapan Farooq Abdullah chu dili tormut az” [I overheard that Farooq Abdullah has fled to Delhi”] and then starting from Sheikh Abdullah, the whole Abdullah family would be the part of the discussion including the positives and negatives of their presence in Kashmir politics.
We have seen heated discussions taking place in the buses, we have seen people agreeing upon each others view points and we have seen disagreements taking the shape of an ugly fight in the moving buses.
Another seat in the next row hosted another discussion, “dapan hasa kirayi khot, wen chey shupian peth Bah (12) rupye dini” [the bus fare has been hiked and we will have to pay 12 Rupees from Shopian to Srinagar now.] And again starting from the regional transport officer to local officers, everyone would be ruthlessly blamed of being corrupt and not paying heed to the poor who suffered at the hands of those babu’s.
Back then “time” provided a greater “space” to the people, the months were longer, so were the years. So a bus moving towards Srinagar from Shopian would sometimes consume more than two hours and yet people would reach their destinations on time.
People travelling in those buses had ample time to discuss and make friends and sometimes relations with each other. Yes, you read it right. Two fellow passengers working in Srinagar in two different goverment departments are now relatives to each other. Starting from a discussing after sitting in the same seat, the tunes of their ideologies synchronised to such an extent that their children are now husband and wife to each other.
Such was the beauty of travelling together and exchanging ideas, knowing people, getting an opportunity to know each other’s political, cultural and historical likes and dislikes.
Coming to the humourous part of travelling in those buses, we would never mind hanging ourselves on the stairs at the back of the bus and up there on the roof which again was a beautiful place to sit on, particularly in summers and the wind playing with the trending hairstyles of those times giving us a feeling of being filmed in a Bollywood style, the way Amitabh and Mithun would flaunt their hairstyles while shooting their films in Kashmir.
The passengers standing while they remained stuck with the steel poles in the bus and watching their fellow passengers in the seats with envy was another beautiful part of that short sojourn in the bus.
College students mostly standing for being young, as they left the seats for women and elderly, would show off their baggy pants and huge collared shirts.
An amalgamation of love, knowledge exchange, agreements, disagreements, romancing with the wind and the time and space was what those buses carried inside their chests and on their backs, with ‘paksa Shupyan, Pulwom, Budgom and Shahar still echoing in our ears which are longing to listen to those simplistic and yet romantic voices and roaring of the 90’s engines.
Umran Hussain is a blogger and works for The Kashmir Radar as an online editor.
He can be reached at: email@example.com