This is the second part of a two-part story about the Nepal – India border crossing.
If you haven’t yet read part I, go here.
After some time we stopped for a toilet break. On these midnight occasions, which we have now become rich in experience, my boyfriend, Maté, and I do shifts. Maté usually goes first, to check that there is actually a toilet nearby, so I don’t have to stroll around searching too much in the middle of the street in the night, and I watch our belongings. Then we switch.
Maté came back to the bus, unsuccessful with finding an actual toilet, but had done his business either way. Most of the people in India are very helpful, and as soon as a girl asks for the restroom people go out of their way to find one. So we thought I might have a better chance of finding an actual toilet.
I stepped out of the bus and into the crowd of chai-drinking men and asked the shop-owner for the toilet. After a few minutes of bustle for finding a person that understood some words in English, they realised what I was asking for. A few more minutes of chaos ensued while they searched for a person who could show me a toilet.
A man came, and the chaos stopped as he pointed towards the back of the building, which opened onto the street on the other side. I looked curiously in the direction without seeing anything remotely resembling a toilet, when he again pointed to the door on the side. “Madam, you can just do your business in there”. I walked in the direction of the door and saw that behind it was an open air “room” full of mud and old woodwork – the mud most likely created by the countless litres of urine released on the premises.
“Madam, you can do your business in there. I will come and watch. Ehem… I mean stand guard.” And so I went, thankful for the amounts of napkins we had collected for these kinds of situations. And so he did, stand guard. Luckily outside of the door.
Another scary factor when speeding on a dark road with no visible road shoulder and seemingly no traffic rules are the vehicles doing exactly the same, just in the opposite direction. And most vehicles on the Indian roads at night are lorries. And Indian lorries are something of its own. Usually painted in vivid colours, often decorated with glitter, neon colours framing the windows, through which you can see more of the dangling statues of Hindu gods than the actual driver. When they appear in the head lights on a dark road, in the centre of the dust, that when lit up creates an atmosphere between a murder scene and a sci-fi horror movie, they look like monsters coming to get you.
And it feels like the drivers are constantly playing a game of chicken, where whoever dares to stayon the lane longer claims it. And the first who chickens out has to get their vehicle off the road as quickly as freaking possible, to avoid colliding with all the gas-transporting lorries that are coming at you as if you are going the wrong way on a Formula 1 race track.
Oh, and also, since our driver seemed to be in such a rush, he was passing by every car that was in front of us. He might have had a compulsive need not have any vehicle in front of us, because his passing was unchallenged by any consideration of on-coming traffic. If a car was in front of us, he would drive our bus all the way up close, before veering our bus onto the ongoing lane. So close to the car in front, and so fast, that it was certain he had no chance of seeing whether oncoming traffic was approaching. Not necessarily a certain death, but certainly a sudden death, if our luck changed.
And yes, while he was doing these suicidal manoeuvres he was not just texting on his phone, he was also using the flash light on his phone to light up a letter which he opened and held with his teeth and one hand while trying to read the intricate handwriting – all while blasting through the Indian night traffic.
A few rows behind, we were sitting, taking times to rest our head on the other’s shoulder, while one was on duty to ensure the driver did not fall asleep. And about a half meter above our heads was a metal barred shelf carrying our small backpacks. The areas where the shelf was attached to the wall had rusted off, so the whole shelf was relying on one and a half attachment to the ceiling of the bus. And occasionally, when the Sanskrit-student was shifting positions in his sleep, he lifted his arm and held on to the shelf. We made silent prayers that the shelf would not fall down on our heads.
On some occasions when the mentally ill person was acting up, and a group of passengers gathered around him to help and laugh, the Sanskrit-student awoke. He saw us staring at the commotion across the aisle, and our repulsion to the fact that they were all laughing of the mental patient, who probably was 100% percent sure that he was about to die, must have looked like we were worried for our own safety. The Sanskrit-student looked at us with a smile and tried to calm us with his best English while he pointed at the commotion and said “Enjoy! Enjoy!”. Although telling someone to enjoy is not too far from telling them that everything is OK, which I am sure he attempted, the choice of words made the situation even more absurd.
Oh, yes, and even though it is still far from raining season, it was raining cats and dogs. And, at this point it is even excessive to say that the whiskers outside the window had not worked since the early 80’s (I guess). In the pouring rain we were blasting down the road, honking on every moving figure like there was no tomorrow.
And indeed, the circumstances screamed: there is no tomorrow!