Naturally, I was carrying 12 pounds of guavas in a plastic bag.
It might not have been so bad otherwise, but a punishing amount of semi-ripe fruit just makes an unplanned nighttime trek seem insulting. I was feeling judged. Like, who the hell is this ridiculous fruit to be mocking me? I'd like to see it get on the correct bus.
So, I'd gotten on the wrong bus. And not only that, I'd done it blithely, to the point of smugness: Yes! Finally! The Devegere bus! I'd be spared getting off in Nalakhamba and walking the mile back to campus. Which was especially nice on account of, you know, the guavas.
As the 229 bus pulled into the Kengeri bus station, where I was sitting on a bench with my guavas on my lap, and the conductor called out, "DevegereDevegereDevegere," I leaped for the bus door. Hooray! I never manage to catch the 229!
Turns out I should have clarified if he meant Devegere Colony, where I live, or Devegere village, where I do not.
But did I ask? Of course not. I sat down - there miraculously was an open seat! - and beamed in a self-satisfied manner as I handed over my 19 rupees fare.
Oh, it was a convivial ride! Zig-zagging down Mysore Road, the bus glowed from the inside with an aquarium radiance as it weaved through the inky night. The balmy evening air tumbled in through the open windows, bringing with it an India perfume of highway dust and burning trash and incense. I closed my eyes and turned my face into it, not thinking about much at all besides my guavas.
Have I mentioned that I live in the countryside? And that it's quite dark out here?
Anyway, I wasn't paying attention, is the point. But when the bus zipped past the road where it usually turns to go to Nalakhamba, I thought, "Wait a sec..." I've seen the 229 - or a 229, at least - drive directly past my apartment, so shouldn't this bus... ?
Meanwhile, we boldly charged down a road I'd never been before.
I cast a furtive look back over my shoulder at the conductor. He appeared inscrutable, so I didn't know what he was playing at.
A quick glance over my other shoulder and I saw that the women behind me were beaming. At me. In amusement/pity: piusement. Great.
"Um?" I asked no one in particular, pointing a sad inchworm finger at the road up ahead. "Devegere?"
Several women nodded, and smiled even bigger.
"I don't think I live there," I explained helpfully.
"Village," one of the ladies said.
"Oh," I sighed. "Colony?"
Nope. They shook their heads in piusement, and I offered a "What can you do? Oh, wellllll" shrug that I really wasn't feeling. Ha. Ha ha. Got on the wrong bus again! Whoopsy daisy!
A mile or two later and the bus stopped in Devegere village. So I got off. I looked hopefully to my left, thinking maybe I could spot the school that's up the hill from mine and thus orient myself, but nothing doing. The bus took off and I stood there in the dark with my guavas.
Across the narrow village road I spotted a lady who works at the school, so I waved merrily. Hi! Don't mind me! Just out for my evening constitutional with a bunch of fruit in a bag! She smiled and pointed behind her to a doorway glowing friendly yellow, and I assumed that was her home.
"What a lovely home!" I enthused in English, giving her a big A-OK sign. "Beautiful! So, so nice! OK, I'm just going to, um... walk home now! Bye-bye!"
And I strove for a jaunty, devil-may-care stride as I headed up the dusty shoulder, navigating by the light of the moon. Out of sight of the village, I alternated between a self-pitying shuffle and a "why is nothing ever easy???" stomp. It turns out defeat and rage are a potent fuel for forward momentum. I alternated the bag between hands every so often so it could do some equal opportunity digging into the flesh of my palms.
Finally, I came to the road I recognized, where my usual bus usually turns. Onward I stomped, my false pride not allowing me to ditch the guavas, staring straight ahead in white-lipped, homicidal focus. It was while I was in this mien that a kid on a white scooter pulled up on the roadside opposite me and asked if I needed a ride.
Keeping in mind that it was dark and I was alone and I don't speak the language and this was among the stupider ideas I'd had in a while.
"Sure," I said. "Thanks."
I swung a leg over the back and secured the stupid guavas on my lap, pointing him in the direction of campus and my apartment. And delightful thing that he is, he took me straight there and dropped me off with wishes that I'd have a better night. I gave him two guavas.
And I forsook all 229 buses forever.*
*Except for the next week, when I actually did catch the correct one.