The Allure of Bullock Cart
Our school, Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 2, was tucked away under the canopy of trees in the Survey of India Campus, Uppal. It was about three and a half kilometres from my home at Ramanthapur. Every day, we used to walk with a heavy school bag to the bus stop, which was a half a kilometre from our place. Few children were fortunate as their parents dropped them at the school. Travelling by a school van or an autorickshaw was a luxury. We depended on the public transport for attending the school.
Very few buses plied from Koti and Charminar to Uppal. There were hardly any buses during the school hours betweenand between . Even if a bus arrives, the passengers were packed like sardines, we used to get in squeezed or travel by footboard. It was risky and inconvenient but had to endure the ordeal.
During that time I found that a train of bullock carts moving from Chaderghat to Uppal was empty. All along the banks of the Musi, the farmers cultivated Para grass with sewage let into the river. The fresh grass from these fields was favoured by dairy farm owners in Hyderabad for a good yield of milk. The grass used to be cut in the evening, delivered the next day while the empty bullock carts would return to Uppal.
One day all the buses were full and there was no room. I saw these bullock carts moving towards Uppal. Then I followed one of them, placed my school bag on it and walked along with it. The man riding the bullock cart told me not to follow him instead catch a bus. After travelling some distance, he understood my plight and signalled me to hop onto the cart. We became friends and chatted all the way to my stop. It became a routine as the man used to pass the route at the same time. If I missed the bus, just got on the bullock cart and went to school. Once I was half way through the distance, a bus was approaching us with few passengers. Understanding my predicament, my friend parked the bullock cart in the middle of the road stopping the bus and then told me to get into it. Going to school had always been a great experience especially on the bullock cart.
Most of the buses tilted towards the left. This is blamed on more number of passengers including women travelling on the footboard. The imbalance in weight of the bus caused the shock absorbers on the left to go crazy!
Later in my life whenever I had an opportunity, I used to get on the bullock cart. The most enjoyable ride was when my cousin got married. He went to bride’s home in a chain of bullock carts after the wedding ceremony. My dream was to get married in a similar manner. Keeping it in mind, I had chosen a beautiful image of a bullock cart procession for the wedding card. Unfortunately, it remained a pipedream.
While returning from school we faced the same transportation problem. We used to come out through the small gate to catch a bus at Ampro Biscuit Factory. As usual, the buses were full, rarely stopped or stopped far away so that some of the passengers can only alight from the bus. Some of the students hated the buses so much that they used to throw stones at them.
There used to be a row of old and beautiful ficus trees near the bus stop. Some of us climbed the trees, plucked and ate red coloured sour fruits and tasty leaf buds. Stones were used to digging the nodes for some kind of edible material from the trunks. Then we marked initials of our names at favourite places on the branches. Now, these trees are gone as they were axed for widening the road.
Sometimes we walked to the next bus stop at Modern Bakery, where buses used to stop. To quench our thirst, we used to go to the Modern Bakery and request the security guards to allow us to drink water from their cooler. There we got to know how the bread is baked. Some workers were kind enough to share pieces of bread with us.
There used to be a Mirchi bajji and Masala vada selling cart. A heady combination of the smoke from a coal stove and frying Bajjis and Vadas made us hungrier. In those days we did not know the concept of pocket money. If anyone had some money, he would buy things and share it with friends. The journey to the school is a memorable chapter in my life.