— Kshitij Gajjar
The 8:15 AM bus journey from Wadala to TIFR can be quite dull and lethargic. Today morning on our way to the institute I was sitting on the last seat of our bus as usual. Our bus driver was frustrated by a large truck that was blocking his path and wouldn’t let him pass. He finally found a small opening and tried to squeeze past the truck, but in the process the back edge of our bus rammed into the truck’s side mirror and shards of glass flew into my partner’s lap. But our bus driver did not even cast a backward glance.
This angered the truckers and they blared both their throats and their horns for the bus to stop. But our driver sped off at twice the speed, probably to avoid a confrontation. But the truckers did not give up. They gave chase and our bus driver was up for it. Everyone except the driver was off their seats. The truck driver had 2-3 companions. One of them was almost outside the truck, hanging by the hinges like they do on the local trains and yelling for our bus driver to stop. Warnings turned to threats. With the truck on our heels, we had more close shaves than the original one. At one moment, our bus was forced to slow down but the truck did not. I braced for impact because by my position, I would be feeling the maximum force of the collision.
The trucker veered to the side at the last instant. He probably realized that a minor head-on collision would just transfer his momentum to ours and a major one would cause more damage than he had already ensued. But this was still a straight road, and our bus driver knew that if he made a sudden turn with the truckers right behind him, they would not have much time to react. And surprised they were. But they did not let it slow them down. Making a sharp left with no loss of speed, the truck driver almost lost balance of the truck but not its control. Our bus driver knew that the trucker’s intent was to get ahead of him. So he blocked his path and wouldn’t let him pass – exactly what had caused this problem in the first place, but with sides reversed.
By now we were nearing a crowded area and traffic was coming from both the sides. Finally at a bus stop, the trucker managed to create a narrow wedge and our bus was stuck. Hurling abuses, the truckers charged at our bus driver, pulled him out onto the street by his collar, tore open his shirt and unloaded on him. Fortunately, their bare hands were the only weapons that they had. We stood dumbstruck, unable to comprehend whether to stay within and watch or go outside and help. But now comes the funny part.
The people at the bus stop were mostly on their way to work, and they certainly did not appreciate two large vehicles disrupting their traffic. From their viewpoint, three truckers were harassing the driver of a bus filled with innocent students. They turned on the truckers. Now the truckers were outnumbered and were forced to turn attack to defense. Even our bus driver, battered and bruised, threw in a few punches. Ultimately, with more people in favour of abandoning the fight than continuing it, the truckers had to clear the road. But during the altercation, our bus driver lost his mobile phone. It could not be recovered and we reached without further trouble. It was an exciting incident but I’d rather watch a 007 movie for a chase sequence.