Spice of Life: Slow can be beautiful on trusted bus ride to Kaza - Hindustan Times
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Spice of Life: Slow can be beautiful on trusted bus ride to Kaza

ByVeenat Arora
Jul 10, 2024 07:34 AM IST

From mundane travellers to construction workers to excited tourists, the conductor let everyone in and made room for them to sit or stand, knowing that anyone left behind would be stranded for the whole night on this beautiful yet rugged terrain.

“Kiska baccha hai ye (Whose child is this)?” yelled the bus conductor as he noticed a little boy wearing a Kinnauri topi sitting on his seat. A man from a distant seat in the overcrowded bus raised his hand in response, making it quite a task to spot amid the crowd. The conductor shouted back, “Where are you going?” The man replied, “Kaza,” apparently, the last stop on the route, which was 11 hours away. To this, the conductor humbly responded, “No problem, your son can sit on my lap.”

HRTC) runs two buses on the Reckong Peo-Kaza route daily and I took the one departing at 9. (File)
HRTC) runs two buses on the Reckong Peo-Kaza route daily and I took the one departing at 9. (File)

Thus began my journey from Reckong Peo to Kaza. The Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) runs two buses on this route daily, and this was the last one departing at 9am. Tourists like me buy tickets in advance to secure a seat, and I was fortunate enough to receive a 50% women’s concession as well. Locals, however, simply hop on and sit if there is a vacant seat; otherwise, they bravely stand, holding onto whatever support they find during the treacherous mountain journey on a road full of curves. Feeling it unfair to have the luxury of a seat while my fellow passengers stood, I offered my seat to a standing passenger next to me, agreeing to take turns sitting and standing until he found a full-time seat for himself. Perhaps, it was my only chance to do my bit on this long journey. As we made our way along the serpentine route, enjoying the magnificent vistas outside, twisting, turning, and leaning on one another for hours with pit stops for breakfast, tea, pee, and lunch, I learned that being slow can be beautiful.

The driver and conductor formed an excellent team. The duo managed to repair a punctured tyre without causing any inconvenience to the passengers on one of the remotest routes in the country, where there are no humans seen for miles, let alone service centres or repair shops. Situated in the trans-Himalayan region, Spiti Valley is known for its serenity, isolation, and remoteness. On this exclusive route with an already packed bus, the conductor stopped for every hand he saw waving on the road. From mundane travellers to construction workers to excited tourists, he let everyone in and made room for them to sit or stand, knowing that this was the only bus service and anyone left behind would be stranded for the whole night on this beautiful yet rugged terrain.

Trailing through the narrow road and peering into deep crevices that provided a thrill to remember for a lifetime, this adventurous ride gave me butterflies in the stomach at every curve. Deep down, we were all just praying to reach our destination safely. I wondered at how, in this era of superfast vehicles, SUVs, and smart technology, this humble carrier ferries hundreds of people every day on this difficult road with not just courage but joy also. As we reached Kaza after hours of this caterpillar-like ride, having made friends with the driver, conductor, and a few other co-passengers, I noticed a sign on the roof of the bus. It read, “Aapki apni bharosemand sawari (Your own trusted ride)!” Indeed, I couldn’t agree more. veenat333@gmail.com

The writer is a freelance contributor

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