The bus is moving forward, leaving behind the distances and destinations. Outside the window, houses, bushes, trees and at times people pass by, leaving behind their memories. Inside, there is the resounding and echoing sound of engine of the bus. Now it has turned to be as something rhyming and people have seasoned their minds and ears with this, though it felt a bit irritating in the beginning.
There are different types of people inside the bus; the old, children, females, rich and poor and so on. Some dangers are expected ahead so every face appears to be more or less grave and concerned.Only exception are the children who time and again try to melt down the ice of silence by their giggles and slight laughter and elders try to discourage them by staring them, as if showing their surprise as why they don't realize the seriousness of the situation.
Wherever and whenever people come together, it becomes a good laboratory to test their tempers and discover their qualities, both good and bad. The person responsible for checking the tickets came running into the bus. It seemed as if he had got late and this had made his temper rise a bit.
He started checking thetickets and shouted at a person who could not show him the ticket as quick as he expected. He acted as if passengers were responsible for making him late. Some old passengers, who could not produce the ticket quickly, became the victim of his short temper.
On the other hand, those who tolerated his inappropriate behavior also learned as how to react when the person in front of you behaves inappropriately.
Though the journey lasted for only 9 hours but there were the observations and lessons that could not have been learnt in years. An affluent family was also travelling who had brought a number of baskets filled with edibles, water and juices. A thermos was filled with ice and cold water while another small one contained the hot and boiling tea.
After short intervals, they took out something to eat or drink and shared it with the neighbors as well. An old man, whose one eye was covered by a bandage and who told me that he had got operated his eyes from a hospital in Kabul and was now heading to his house in Herat, had no companion at all to look after him.
He had finished all his money in the hospital and the bus driver had offered him a ride for free. But now he had nothing with him to eat anything on the way and hunger and weakness made him feel dizzy. When the family came to know about him, a young boy brought for him a glass of water and few things to eat and at once life returned into his body. In fact, this family had made the people in its vicinity feel better.
When the bus stopped on the way and passengers came out, two young men helped the old man to come out. When passengers were getting back into the bus, same men were ready to help him step up onto the bus. The old man could do nothing but to pray for them from the core of his heart.
In the darkness of morning, bus stopped at a place for prayers. When I and some of the other passengers were offering our prayers, horn of the bus started honking violently. We quickly finished the prayers and ran to the bus. I could not understand why the driver was so much in hurry. At some places, he wasted some time talking to one another or made the passengers wait for him till he finished his cigarette but here, when everyone was busy in an important assignment, he had at once realized the importance of time and discovered that he was getting late.
When the bus was about to leave, a man came running into the bus and when he passed by some passengers, he shouted to stop. He had got into a wrong bus as there were many buses standing there. Some people laughed while he stepped down and hurried to another bus. He didn't know which bus he had come by and now only way was to get into the buses and check the faces of passengers. I was afraid he was going to miss his bus.
For lunch, the bus stopped at a place which was very beautiful and green. It was a small village with a few shops and mud houses. A restaurant, though old and gloomy, stood prominent among the old shops. There prevailed a soothing silence in the village which was disturbed by a vehicle that passed by like a wind. As we finished our lunch and waited near the bus for the rest of the passengers, a number of small boys gathered around us. They were having a small metal bucket from which smoke came out slowly. At times, they threw something inside this bucket called 'Ispand' and the smoke got even darker.
They went to the passengers and tried to bath them with this smoke and in return the person paid some money. It is believed that this smoke keeps the evil eye away. Some people believed in it while some not but having a look at the condition of the boys, my belief started shaking. Lack of proper food and hardships of weather had snatched away the light from their faces that is usually seen on the faces of children.
Their clothes were torn and their faces and hair were dirty, giving the evidence of the difficulties of life. A man called one of the boys and the boy at once got actively busy in his work. He threw some more 'ispand' into the fire and the smoke got darker. Then he paid the money of the boy in a way as if he was doing any kind favor to him.
He said, "So my son, you need your money haa? How much is it? What? 5 Afghanis? Oh, that is too much, you unfair people. What have you done that I should pay you this? Hahahaha". In the meantime, different colors came and went on the face of the boy, one after the other. He once smiled shyly, then got a bit angry and then gave a pleading look. At last he and we were all relieved when he got his money.
In the heat of the afternoon, the bus reached to its destiny. People again hurried outside, not looking for their turn. The journey ended but the lessons it shared will always be remembered and used. Journeys were the source of learning and meeting different people and experiencing different habits and personalities when people travelled on camels, horses or other animals. Journeys, no doubt, still remain a source of learning today when animals have been replaced by fast moving vehicles or flying planes. The only thing needed to be done is to keep the eyes open, both the eyes of vision and of the heart and soul.