Boda realised too late that he had climbed aboard the wrong bus. A slender boy with a little suitcase had also hopped on the bus and, seeming a bit upset, sat in the seat in front of him. With anxious looks, the boy kept asking passengers in front of and behind him if the bus would go to Model Town.
“Yes, it will,” replied somebody. “Where do you want to go?”
“Block G, Model Town—will it go there?”
“Yeah, yeah,” replied his neighbor, a middle-aged gentleman who had grey hair and who was rather serious looking. He said it most casually, straightened his glasses, and turned back to his newspaper.
So this was the Model Town bus. Then why had Boda climbed in? Partly in the rush, partly because in the darkness he had not bothered to look at its route number. From a distance he saw it waiting and had raced forward, but just before he got there, the conductor closed the door and blew his whistle. But when the door of the moving bus fell open again, he had sprung onto the footboard and with great effort and determination forced his way inside. At the next stop, when a man got off, Boda had grabbed his seat. And now he discovered that he had boarded the wrong bus. “Oh well, it’s just a seven-paisa loss. I’ll get off at the next stop.” But he did feel irritated about having to get off like that and wait once again for the right bus. He remembered other bitter experiences like this one. It often seemed that buses on all the other routes would come and go, but not the one he wanted. Strangely, when he had to go from home to town, buses going in the other direction would be stopping across the street at very short intervals, but when he wanted to go home, buses would be lining up for passengers going towards town. On his side of the street, the stop would be desolate, without even the prospect of a bus appearing. Other times, his bus would rush by while he was still far from the stop, come to a halt, and then speed away just as he caught up to it. Then there would be the same long wait, standing beyond endurance, pacing . . . Today, when he caught the bus right away, his spirits had soared. But then he found out that he was on the wrong bus.
At the next stop, he struggled to decide whether or not to get off. It occurred to him that he was even on a different route. How could he catch the bus on the correct route? His only recourse would be to march back to the previous stop and begin endlessly waiting. He stood up. He sat down. “But why am I letting myself be carried along? I’ll be even farther out of [End Page 137] my way!” He again resolved to get off. But no sooner had he decided this than the bus pulled away from the stop. He sank down again, and as the bus picked up speed, he became increasingly uneasy knowing that he was being carried farther and farther away from his own route. “Where will this bus take me?” He remembered Khalid, who used to live in Model Town. If Khalid were still there, he would have had no problem. The night would have passed delightfully at his friend’s home.
Khalid, Naim Patthar, Sharif Kalia—Boda began musing over his now-dispersed gang. All the others had gone, and Khalid was jealous of Naim Patthar and Sharif Kalia for months. In spite of getting C grades, they had left for America on scholarships. “Even without a full scholarship, if I could just get a little money I’d escape to London. I have really suffered here. Even if I had nothing, I could wash dishes in some restaurant. Just let me get out of here.” Boda had not really understood why Khalid had been so determined to get away. But now he was thinking that Khalid had certainly done...