India

Public Bus or Prisoner Transport?

Have you ever been on a bus in a foreign country and thought you might be on the wrong one? You’re sitting there and you get this nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe you should double check your ticket or ask someone? I’m sure we all have but this is one of those times I thought maybe someone else was on the wrong bus with me.  

While traveling in India, my group and I had just boarded a bus in Udaipur heading for Pushkar. We were the first ones on and took our assigned seats, sitting all together in the center of the bus. We watched with little interest as others began boarding and taking their seats, until one group caught our attention. Two armed (with rifles) military men came walking onto the bus escorting two plain clothed prisoners. How did we know they were prisoners you ask? Maybe they were friends of the military men? Maybe they were just other passengers who boarded right in front of the military men? Well, the chains (yes, regular chains that you can buy at your local hardware store) that were wrapped around the wrists of the two in plain clothes was the first clue that maybe they weren’t there on holiday like us. The armed escort directed these two men, who were also chained together, to take a seat right in front of our group.

Ummmm…. Excuse me, but could these men possibly be on the wrong bus?! Maybe they should check their ticket…. Or the little destination card in the front window of the bus that surely doesn’t say ‘Delhi Penitentiary’ on it? I looked at my friend sitting next to me and she had the same expression of confusion and disbelief on her face, that I’m sure was all over mine. Being in India, our motto had been ‘expect the unexpected’ which had served us well. We learned that in India, its best to just go with the flow, and well, expect the unexpected. But this? As we started to reason rationally out loud as to why these two men were being transferred on a public bus, you could hear the apprehension in our voices as every prison break movie we had ever seen flashed through our minds.

“They (the prisoners) must not have done anything too bad to be allowed on public transport,” I said aloud, while simultaneously picturing a well-coordinated ambush that I was sure to experience at some point during this bus ride, as thugs and convicts raid our bus in efforts to free their friends.

“Maybe this is a training exercise and both ‘prisoners’ are actually undercover cops?” my friend said hopefully. Meanwhile, I’m thinking that if anything went wrong and the prisoners tried to escape, we would be the first in line to become hostages or casualties due to our close proximity to the group.

Sensing our unease (or picking up on the uncomfortable looks on our faces) the military escort and their prisoners decided to change seats and moved to the back of the bus. Pewwwffff..… At least when the inevitable road side ambush/prion break occurred, it would (hopefully) be contained to the rear of the bus, a good 8 rows behind us thus slightly reducing the risk that we would become collateral damage in their ensuing fight for freedom.

As it turns out the bus ride was very uneventful, with the only drama and prison breaks occurring within our overactive imaginations. The armed escort and prisoners departed the bus about halfway to our final destination. I actually had forgotten they were there! I have to say, India, you surprised me again and again. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly expect anything more unexpected, you though a curve ball at me, just to keep me on my toes. And maybe I’ll lay off the Hollywood movies…

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