The bus is jam-packed at over double its capacity. People are leaning against each other and some are simply hanging onto the door handles. It is hard to figure out which legs belong to which head. It makes me think of cockroaches inside a little dirty chocolate packet left in a dustbin. The mixture of body odor, perfume, cigarette smoke, and vehicles is nauseating.
I am seated right above the engine, which is covered with thin foam to prevent female passengers from getting burned. My Kameez is wet, clinging to my sweaty back.
As we wait in a traffic jam, a lady wearing a black veil tries to get in the bus. The conductor has refused and begins to argue with her. Amidst people’s chattering, nonstop horns, music from the nearby CD shop, and the sporadic noise of construction work, the conductor’s shouting is only adding to the sound pollution.
One man curtly shouts, “Ladies are foolish and always make trouble. Now we do not even have any places to stand!” In response, a woman from my part of the crowd yells at the conductor, “Let her in!” Some of us join her with supportive words.
The lady enters like a cat. When the bus starts to move, her hands look for something to grab for balance. My hand successfully reaches hers. I manage my legs by leaning my feet against the seat to make some room for her to stand. She holds my wet shoulder. I feel that she is me and I am her. After two stops she looks at me and gets off the bus. I see her walk along the footpath—a singular girl. She joins the crowd of women walking ahead, and she becomes one of many.
Nipa Nandita is a student of first semester Development Economics South Asian University