Thoughts & Ideas

Friday, November 08, 2013

Kursela Days 18 – Pothia



Pothia was a village about 12 kms down a side road from Kursela. SBI had a branch there with a staff complement of about 5 – 7 persons, which included the Branch Manager, Cash Officer, clerks, Canteen Boy, and Guard. We were the link branch for SBI, Pothia which meant, apart from other things, that whenever the Branch Manager of Pothia wanted to go to leave, an officer from Kursela had to go and hold fort.

The road to Pothia was narrow, winding, and heavily pot holed. The only regular means of transport from Kursela to Pothia was an old, wheezing bus, which was hand painted in bright red. The bus left Kursela at about 8 in the morning and reached Pothia about an hour later (ie average speed of 12 km per hour) before meandering off to some place I forget the name. The same bus on its return trip picked up passengers along the way and returned to Kursela by evening 5 pm. The bus did not follow strict timings, nor did it have fixed stops. To get on it, one just had to wait anywhere on the route and flag it down as it reached you. Similarly, when you wanted to get down, you either hollered or banged on the side of the bus. If you missed the bus, or did not have your own means of transport (bicycle, mobike, or jeep), the only option left was to hope for some kind hearted tractor wala to give you a lift if you were lucky.

I had been living in Kursela for more than 6 months when I was first deputed to Pothia, and was looking forward to some change and excitement. Somehow I had never visited Pothia, though during this period I had explored most of the highways, roads, lanes and by-lanes from Naugachia to Viratnagar (in Nepal), with Kursela, Kadhagola, Purnea, Katihar, Gulab Bagh, Forbesganj, Araria, Madhepura, and Birpur in between. I was familiar with the red bus which travelled to Pothia each day since it was a regular sight on my way to office. 

I reached the spot from where the red bus left every morning a little early in the hope I would get a seat, but that was not to be. It was already filled to normal capacity. By normal capacity I mean that every seat was taken with 3 or even 4 persons sharing the seating space designed for 2 and people squeezing into the aisle. As more people came in and found that there was no more space inside, they started climbing on the roof. Even otherwise, people with large sized luggage like wicker baskets full of live chickens, bales of cloth, maybe a baby goat etc., preferred to travel on the roof. By the time the bus creaked out of Kursela, it was difficult to see its red colour from outside due to the number of people clinging on to it from every hand-hold, foot-hold, and toe-hold. It was summer, and I was soon cursing myself for taking this assignment. Not only was the inside crowded but it was also smelly, stifling hot and humid. I do not remember how I reached Pothia but I finally managed it in one piece and alive. The branch staff were aware that I was to come, and they were waiting for me on the road side in front of the branch. As BM, I was carrying the keys and the branch could not open without me!

I was made comfortable, given some cool water from an earthern pot (ghada), then some hot, sweet tea. The canteen boy had also made arrangements for my breakfast and lunch. Work load was light and by 3 pm I was free and anxious to take the bus back. When the bus reached Pothia, one of my staff members murmured something to either the driver or the conductor. Thereafter, I was always given a seat, howsoever crowded the bus used to be. If nothing was available, I used to share the driver’s seat! And the 4-5 days I spent on deputation in Pothia went off peacefully.

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