After a very long time (over ten years or maybe even more) I used a bus for what we in Sri Lanka call a long distance journey. Colombo to Rosella usually by car three hours today four hours by bus. The post is just to indicate how far removed one can be from what is actually happening around one despite me thinking that I am very much feet on the ground and aware of life around me!!!
Buses start at the main terminal known as Pettah - please put aside any preconceived ideas of queues, uniformity, method and no garbage around. Pettah is just the opposite but it caters for a huge number of passengers, gets the job done and somehow life moves on. I was taken aback at the bustle and what goes on in this terminal apart from catching a bus!!! We had vendors for oranges, apples at the absolutely bargain price of Rs 100 for four (believe me that is cheap) then there were the books to teach children and even adults Singhalese and Tamil giving translations and pronounciation of each word (very timely considering that we just finished a war) and that in this tiny country of ours each race generally speaks only their own language and has no idea at all of what the other is talking about, then there were the astrologers who would be able to tell your fortune in two minutes flat before the conductor of the bus chases him out, the vendors of religious images, toys (I was very interested in something that looked good which did not need batteries - the attraction was the no batteries sales pitch) and for one hour before the bus left you had a choice of so many things all brought to your seat!!
The purpose of this post is not me being frivolous!!! I just realized that I am living in a small cocoon of my own, happily going my way without any idea of how people manage because believe me travelling even just to and from work is a big part of everyday life. I travel quite a lot in Sri Lanka because we have agricultural property which we visit every week - and this today was an eye opener for me. It was interesting because it was new but imagine having to sit in a bus and wait for one hour (9 am to 10 am) till the bus gets filled up to the driver's satisfaction - I will be grinding my teeth in frustration thinking of all what I could do for the hour. No you cannot get on to your laptop as no connections, apart from having the whole bus peering o ver your shoulder. This is not a place for personal space!Imagine listening for four hours to loud and I mean loud Hindi music (this in a country where Hindi is not one of our languages - its just that Bollywood is so popular here) something equivalent to Americans having to listen to maybe Russian hits for four hours.
I came away with one lesson learnt - patience and tolerance. All this will pass. And it did and I am blessedly quiet in Rosella where the only sound is a train every half hour which I can see very clearly from my bedroom window.