I miss the road

It is almost eighty days since I last went to my workplace. As I sit before my laptop on my dining table, logged on to Google Meet, I start feeling nostalgic.

Last 5 years, I had been commuting every weekday from Delhi to Gurgaon for work. This commute easily consumed 3-5 hours of my day. I would crib about this to all and sundry.

Initially, I tried using the Metro for my commute. But, standing in a queue at the station before boarding and then in the crowded train and finally haggling with auto-rickshaw-wallahs every day would suck the juice out of me. So, I switched to my car despite the pollution concerns in Delhi. Some days it would take me 2 hours one side, and my calf muscles would hurt after having driven in first gear for most of the journey.

Almost an year ago, I moved to Shuttl. I could book a seat on an AC bus for my ride. My travel time did not reduce but everyday exertion did. The best thing about using Shuttl was that it allowed me to slip into my own private zone.

I would reach my pickup point everyday at a fixed time. The bus driver Bhagwan, had started recognizing me. He would stop the bus and open the automatic bus doors and welcome me aboard with a smile. I would press the chirp button on my app and walk towards my more or less fixed window seat.

Once seated, I would put on my headset and listen to podcast related to daily news, business or spirituality. In the evenings, on my way back, I would prefer listening to audio books. I managed to listen to more than 10 audio books in last one year. One was The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, which was almost 70 hours long and took me more than 2 months to complete.

On many days, I would doze off listening to these stories. At the start of my journey when I would be awake, a murder would occur and all suspects would be introduced one by one. And then I would be sleeping during the entire investigation by Holmes and Watson. I would wake up 10 minutes before my drop point and manage to listen the final revelation – the name of the murderer. That was enough for me, mystery solved, time to move to another story.

I would see regular faces on the bus everyday. Some would acknowledge my presence with a smile. It was a nice small community of fellow travelers. I got to know some through the journeys and became good friends. Sometimes, I would overhear people talking loudly on their phone and get a peak into their lives outside the bus. I was even witness to love blossoming between two fellow commuters. Like many such stories, it reached a crescendo and then withered away.

But today, I am missing my bus seat and the hustle-bustle of the traffic. The one and a half hour I had to myself in the morning helped me recharge for the full day’s work. And the two hours in the evening, helped me forget about the day, slipping into my dreams. What I miss most is the human connection, I felt with fellow travelers and strangers on the road.

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