Saturday, January 3, 2015

The most dangerous journey I ever had

I don’t remember exactly which year it was, but I was returning to my school in Khaling from the long winter vacation. After waiting for a few days at Samdrup Jongkhar, I and my father could finally manage to get tickets to Khaling in a passenger-bus bound for Trashigang. It was a mini-bus as it was called during those days and its engine roared like that of a DCM truck. We boarded the bus at around 7 o’clock in the morning and began our journey to Khaling that could take about eight hours. I was seated near the driver.

The bus was fully packed with passengers as it was a common practice during those days for the drivers to carry even extra passengers most of whom had to travel standing. As the bus pulled itself up the narrow winding road carved along the hilly terrains, I was already beginning to get motion-sickness because of the twisting drive. Suddenly at one point, the engine of the bus stopped and the bus began to roll backward. All the passengers screamed with a panic. I also grew anxious but did not scream. The driver called out “Kota, Kota!” and his assistant jumped off the bus picking up the loaf of stone they had carried with them on the door-step of the bus and stuck it beneath one of the wheels. The bus came to a stop. The driver re-ignited the engine and moved a few inches forward while his assistant collected the stone and boarded the bus. I guess it had been a common practice because the driver and his assistant did not seem bothered by what had just shocked all the passengers. It seems they were always prepared for such a thing because they had carried the loaf of stone right from Samdrup Jongkhar.

After this incident, everybody in the bus remained alert. No passengers could afford to relax and fall asleep. As the bus accelerated uphill along the steep highway, the engine would suddenly go off and the bus would once again start rolling backward. The driver would once again call out “kota, kota!” which means “brother” and his assistant would once again jump off the bus with the stone and put it underneath a wheel to stop the bus. If he misses a shot, the bus would go rolling of the road, into the steep ravines below. This happened a couple of times before we reached Khaling. I and my late father felt so relieved the moment we arrived at Khaling. I feel that it was the most dangerous journey I have ever had in a passenger bus which was supposed to be very safe. Fortunately, I didn’t have to travel in such a bus thereafter. It was very scary. We were lucky enough that nothing tragic happened to us on that day.

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