The Girl at the Night Bus

‘Ticket please?’

‘My seat no. is also B15!’

‘No, their seat no. has been changed, yours is B15. Here is your bag to keep your shoes. You have given your suitcase at the luggage?’

I took off my shoes, put them in the bag and got inside the bus bare foot carrying the shoe bag in my hand. Some night bus eh! This was not the very first experience at a night bus, but in a way this was my very first in such a night bus. My first experience for a night bus was few years ago from Manali to Chandigarh, though that wasn’t anything special a night bus than what we usually see in any regular ‘luxury bus’ in India.

However this night bus I am referring to at the moment was in Cambodia. From Battambang if you want to go to any southern part of Cambodia, it has to be via Phnom Penh. So Battambang to Phnom Penh is about a 6 hours journey, then the next stop will be another 6 hours journey minimum. So to save the time and cost, keeping both as my primary priority, I opted for the night bus. Though, before I get into my story, let me describe the night bus first, as I am guessing many of you may not have experienced a journey on a night bus out of India. The bus was quite monolithic and completely air tight, the upper half of the bus was covered with glass and it was difficult to understand from outside whether there were any division existing between the windows. Once inside the bus, the floor had soft spiky green carpet and there was this one foot wide long alley continued till the end of the bus. At the both sides of the alley were small berths, looking more like a private cabin in a line, the berths at both sides were divided in two, there were lower berths with no window covering the lower half of the bus and the upper berths were by the glass windows.

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‘Oo I’m going to get my own cabin in the bus.. this gonna be fun.’ With the joy of this thought I went till the end of the bus but couldn’t find my berth. Then I saw in one of the cabin, two men were sharing a berth, my bubble of joy popped not to form back again, and I noticed that my berth was next to those two gentlemen.

‘Share a berth!! Share!! Whom am I sharing with?!’ The very general, usual, obvious storm of suspicion was running towards me with it’s demonic laugh.. ‘What do I do?? Ooo there’s already someone sleeping!’ someone indeed was lying on that berth covering head to toe in a blanket, I looked around one more time.. ‘Oo this person is quite a regular one may be, carrying a blanket!’ I could hear the demonic laughter getting louder in my ears now..

‘Excuse me.. Hellooo!’ and it was all quiet, just mute, was I talking about some laughter! My mind paused for a moment then started dancing it’s zany dance! Oo, these people do understand, of course they will, isn’t it obvious!! A girl will share a berth, only and only with another girl, Duhh!! I saw this cute straight haired girl, and she still had her liner on, peeking at me from her blanket, didn’t seem quite happy to see me may be!!

‘I am your co-passenger for the night.’

‘Oo, ok ok.’ She came a side, made space for me. ‘You take window side, it’s cold there, I feel cold.’

I like window seats no matter wherever it is, and I was wearing my sweatshirt, I had a stole with me, so no problem at all.. ‘No problem, I will go by the window.’

She offered to share her blanket (actually it’s given by the bus but you cannot take it home), and I settled my backpack and myself in that half of 4ft/6ft cabin. The window was big enough to look at the roads very comfortably. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to sleep or not, how the roads will look like at midnight!

‘Are you tourist?’ My co-passenger broke into my thought.

‘Yes I am.’

‘Where are you from?’

‘I am from India.’

‘You alone?’

‘Yes I am travelling alone.’

‘You were in Battambang? I mean…. a..m..?

‘You mean whether I came to Battambang to see the place?’

‘Mmm yes yes.’ (or maybe she was asking something else!)

‘Yes, I came to Battambang, I stayed here 2 days.’

‘Now you go to Phnom Penh?’

‘Yes, But from there I will take another bus.’

‘Ook, how long you travel?’

‘This trip you mean? It’s for two weeks?’

‘Wow.. I never went out of Cambodia. But maybe I will.’

‘You work?’

‘Yes I do.’

‘In India?’

‘Yes In India.’

‘I am a singer. My name is …’

‘Sorry, what is your name?’

She tried to explain in her way, tried to spell, but it was too tough to remember for me.

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‘Ok I add you on facebook?’

‘Sure why not? But you may not find my profile easily.’

‘May be you find me then?’

My internet didn’t work at that time so I gave her some option to find me on facebook.

‘Have you heard this song?’

‘I haven’t heard any Cambodian music yet. Sorry.’

‘Ooh, I sung this song, then this also. I have youtube channel, may be you check later?’

‘Yes, I will.’

The night bus had already taken it’s speed and I wanted to look out but she wanted to talk something and then the other.

‘I prepare for singing competition. Then I can go out.’

‘You mean a singing competition held abroad?’

‘Aaa..mmm.. ok, use translator?’ What!! We have to communicate through translator!

‘I am learning English, but not very good till now. I speak little English and understand little.’

Her translator was also quite tired at that time of the night, and her half Cambodian and half grammatical disordered English failed to bring any glint in my eyes. But she still kept on trying. So we mutually understood, not to get into a lot of details of any questions, just a straight forward answer and move on to the next. Whether that made anything easier? Difficult to answer!

‘Ok, so you are preparing for a singing challenge, which may take you to another country?’

‘Yes Yes. Where all you go?’

‘In Cambodia?’

‘Yes.’

‘I started from Siem Reap, Then Battambang, and then few other places I will be going to.’

‘Ok, I came for a wedding in Cambodia. Now I go back to Phnom Penh. I stay there.’

‘Ok.’

‘I have a band. We sing. I send you my songs. You will listen?’

‘OK, I will.’

‘Your English is good. You teach me English?’

‘I will teach you English? How?’

‘We chat on Messenger and you teach me.’

‘I don’t know how helpful will that be!’

‘We take selfie?’

‘Here in the bus? It’s dark?’ it was already clicked and we were looking like ghosts in our smiling-in-the-dark faces and necks covered in blanket!

I don’t know how long our half guessing and less than half understood conversation went on and when we fell asleep, by the time I woke up the roads were dark, all shops were closed, houses at rest, only few street lights and the head lights of the bus could give me some views of the surroundings. After an hour or so the bus came to a stop.. ‘Phnom penh.. Phnom Penh..’

‘So we can chat? And you will teach me English?’

‘Ok we can try.’

‘Ok, bye then. I will message you.’ And she grabbed her shoe bag in one hand, sling bag at the other and vanished somewhere…

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