Happened some years ago.
The Ashoka bus sped off just as my second foot left the ground. Tightly clutching the handle bar, I had to swing around a couple of times to finally feel like I wasn’t going to die after all. I found my balance on the footboard and tried to make it to the interior without letting cetrifugal force take over. The driver was accelerating so much that I wondered if he was conducting a particle projectile research for NASA. I felt privileged to be a part of this exciting breakthrough of a project. Soon we saw a bus similar to this one in an accident, overturned on the highway (a common occurrence in Mangalore). Our driver slowed down for a bit as if to pay homage and then the tragedy was all forgotten. I was again hurled to the other side of the bus and found myself sitting on a goat, right under someone’s underarms; coz it was stinking real bad. Was to later find that it wasn't a goat, but a basket of fish. Conductor shrugged apologetically and walked over for tickets. I sighed and looked for my purse amidst the pushing and shoving. No purse! Either it was my absentmindedness or someone stole it this time.
Talks of the next stop being a great place to get off had started. Also mention of freeloaders and ancestors came up. Mr. Conductor didn’t care less if I was a regular customer on this roller coaster. Even if he was willing to cut me the slack, people sneered and predicted that the conductor would succumb to my charms (I used to have some spare). He ought to throw me off the bus, if he was to preserve his manliness- they bickered. Bloody hypocrites! Freak shows!
I panicked. I knew the driver wouldn't take too kindly to any rude interruption to his experiments. Getting out of the bus was one thing I had no practice of. Usually when I did get off near my work place, it was the final destination. I could be assured that the bus wouldn’t take off with half of me dangling. Secondly, walking back home would take me half a day from the middle of a freaking forested highway.
One kind young man came up to the scene and offered to pay my fare. The proud person that I used to be, I would have normally turned it down. This would give me enough leverage to prove to all those cynical people in the bus that I was not the kind of woman to take favors. But this was not the time to prove a silly point; I gladly took the money from Mr. Nice Guy and thanked him profusely. I spent the next hour talking to this guy out of sheer obligation. He turned out to be quite interesting. I asked him for his address in order to return the ten bucks. He vehemently declined my offer to repay him, but did mention that he was a lecturer of Mathematics at St Aloysius College (a college I was familiar with) and asked me to stop by anytime for coffee. He was a decent bloke who even offered some cash for my return journey. I politely refused knowing very well that I could force some cash from my colleagues.
I reached office in one piece, with dignity intact, thanks to an archaic thing called chivalry. It wasn't like he saved my life or anything, but it was truly appreciated. I had full intentions of returning the money with a note of thanks and maybe take him out to a coffee shop.
I thought about it. My mind rewound to every Hindi movie I had watched. Same message. I feared Mr. Nice Guy must have had an interest in me and hence the effusiveness. I assumed that going out with him meant succumbing to his overtures, and maybe giving him false hopes that I might be attracted to him too. I took it for granted that I would land myself into a situation where I might have to say ‘no’ to a marriage proposal.
My mind could have been on an overdrive or maybe I was right in thinking so. But I was never to find out, which I regret. I am awfully guilty for not having returned his gracious favor even though it was a matter of a paltry sum. If I wasn’t right about him, I just hope he’d still go ahead and be as helpful to another and not feel that he made a mistake before.
If I was right...why !?
Rhyncus does it again and answers my question too. Check out the shocking thriller, the back end to my meek story.