There are some events in life where you process everything in a haze as it happens and there are other events
when you’re just happy to survive unscathed.  This event is both.  As Erin and I look back on that night we should
have seen it coming.  It started when we were unable to purchase overnight train tickets from Udaipur to Delhi due
to the Diwali holiday which caused all trains to be sold out.  Having to catch a flight the following day in Delhi we
had to purchase two tickets on the dreaded government bus.  We secured our large packs in the luggage
compartment at the back of the bus effortlessly.  As the bus captain tossed our packs in the luggage compartment I
briefly wondered why there were no other bags in the compartment for this fourteen hour bus ride to Delhi.  We
located our seats near the front of the bus and shoved our small backpacks in the crowded overhead bins.  We
rolled out of the Udaipur bus station with a full but not overcrowded bus.  The evening started perfect so I began
to believe this journey would be no different than the many other overnight buses we have used over the last
eight months in other parts of the world.  As we traveled through Udaipur we made repeated stops and each time
a few more people climbed aboard carrying large suitcases and neatly wrapped presents for Diwali.
   No other country in the world can create so many moments where you suddenly think, “What the hell just
happened!?”  This thought hit me like a ton of bricks as instantly the bus became overcrowded.  People jammed
into the aisle and many seats made for two people now had three or even four people in them!  We had left the
bus station only twenty minutes ago and now I had the weight of Diwali presents on my feet and shoulders and
scabby elbows inches from my face.  Erin only had it slightly better as she was pinned against the window.  At each
bus stop I internally pleaded for people to depart.  Erin and I counted the individuals that exited and entered the
bus only to discover that many more passengers were walking onto the bus then leaving, and when we noticed
someone carrying large luggage we stared at each other in bewilderment.  Oddly, the aisle in the front of the bus
was packed first while the back of the bus had plenty of room in the aisle.  On an overcrowded bus no one wants
to be stuck at the back.  Therefore, at every stop there was the long and painful process of a newcomer making
their way to the back by aggressively pushing his way through the crowd of people and suitcases which led to
elbows hitting me in the face.  I quickly learned that locals, which was everyone but us, already on the bus used
this precious time to accumulate more personal space which translated to less space for Erin and me.  Gathering
more space on the bus is a cordial and silent process.  No one ever shouts or argues for more room they simply find
the opportunity and gracefully annex it.  Soon I was using every part of my body to retain my area. My head,
shoulders, elbows, hips, legs, and feet were simply a fence I constructed to guard my space.  If I had the room to
mark my territory like a dog I probably would have done it.  Eventually, the stops were less frequent and
boundaries were established.  I can still picture everyone around me.  Directly to my left in the aisle were three
students on their school break.  Also in the aisle next to me was an older gentleman with a large suitcase and
gifts.  His lovely gifts enjoyed the support of my feet.  At first I wondered why the bus captain would make this
situation worse by allowing this man and many others to bring their large suitcases on-board as opposed to
putting them in the empty luggage compartment with our lonely backpacks.  Later I would laugh at my silly
thoughts as I realized the bus captain was helpless to control the masses.  Sitting across from me were four people
in seats made for two.  Two men sat uncomfortably in the window seat and a mother and baby sat on the aisle
seat. The bus ride settled into normalcy which means rough roads, a crazy bus driver, and the woman who was now
breastfeeding across from me.
For Diwali, Udaipur shops decorate their front steps with art like
Udaipur full of lights as the Diwali festivities kick off.
   We rolled in and out of villages and then a few hours later we stopped at a small but lively town.  I was hoping
that many people would scurry off the bus, but that was wishful thinking.  In fact, as more people piled in I abruptly
heard a thunderous scream.  I rose quickly from my seat.   I was three rows away from the scream but miles away
because the bus was so crowded.  I heard the deafening voice of a very angry woman. This hysterical woman had
stormed the bus with a broomstick in hand.  My eyes were in shock as this hysterical lady ferociously swung the
broomstick at a young woman seated in the first row.  My ears had never heard the loud repeated sound of wood
slamming down on another human.   Blood poured from the back of this lady’s neck making her beautiful sari look
like a wet old cloth her long full bodied hair was now matted against her head with blood.  Everything was a haze
and what felt like minutes were probably only five or ten seconds.  All the men near the commotion also seemed to
be in a brief daze, but finally a man moved in quickly and wrestled control of the older woman.  The older lady’s
wrath was like nothing I have ever seen.  As the offender continued to yell and flail her arms irrationally a large
crowd gathered around the bus.  As this occurred the bus driver quickly closed the door and left the bus station.  I
was in a little shock and glad that the driver had left the station because the gathering crowds and pandemonium
inside the bus was ripe for complete chaos!  A few minutes later we rolled into the local police station.  The poor
young lady stumbled dazed and confused off the bus with the help of several men while the older woman screamed
at her.  They soon had both ladies off the bus and many other passengers were emptying the bus to either get a
closer look or testify to what happened.  The shock in my eyes or the fact that Erin and I were the only two
foreigners on this bus must have been very apparent as one man put his hand on my shoulder asked me where I
was from and simply shrugged his shoulders and said “Relax, it’s India.”  At that moment I smiled and relaxed a
little.  A few minutes later almost everyone had left the bus to inform the police what happened.  It appeared every
passenger believed his story was the critical component to solving the mystery of the women beaten in front of
hundreds of people.   While we were waiting we could hear the gossip filling up the bus.  One of the students who
spoke English stopped in the aisle and vividly explained that the two women were sisters and having a family
dispute.  He capped off his story with “Family matters are very serious in India.”.  “No $#!!”, I thought, “a lady just
bludgeoned her sister on a public bus!”  An hour later our overcrowded bus departed the police station.  The
injured lady sat at the front of the bus, her assailant dropped off at the police station.

     I settled back into my seat, put up my fence and relaxed.  Midnight came and went and the hours rolled by
without incident.  In fact the bus started to become less crowded.  Around 3am we stopped for a quick rest near a
late night food stall.  The outdoor stall was serving hot chai and since I have a weak spot for a good cup of tea I
had to get some.  Yes, this was definitely risky and probably stupid but the best way to purify water is to boil it, so
a cup of hot chai at a road side stall in rural India at 3am was still a risk I was willing to take.  With a few rupees I
purchased a good cup of chai and chatted with a few students.  My new friends informed me that the young
battered lady was now supposedly the mistress of the bus captain and the older lady was his wife.  The wife had
learned that the mistress would be on this bus tonight and waited for her at that bus stop.  After that brief
conversation we returned to the bus and with all the nights excitement behind me I was finally ready for a little
   We began to pull away from the food stall but abruptly the driver slammed on the brakes.  At first Erin and I
could not determine what was going on.  Loud chatter erupted on the bus so we assumed the bus had stalled.  But
then everyone quickly exited the bus and conversations became more intense.  The puzzled look on Erin and my
face caused one man to stop and explain to us that the young lady who was beaten earlier was now informing a
local police officer that the bus driver had run her over!  Like the rest of the people on the bus he was going to
inform the local police officer that this lady was beaten not ran over.  Like many previous times on this bus, Erin and
I looked at each other with complete amazement.  Is this real or are we dreaming?  This lady who a few hours ago
was beaten with a broomstick was now claiming she was run over by our bus?  Again, I saw the man who earlier
told me “Relax, it’s India”.  He did not have to say anything this time he simply smiled and I understood.  There we
were alone on a bus at 3am in the middle of nowhere in India again watching more than a hundred passengers
surrounding a police officer all trying to tell their story as if each one had that crucial bit of information that would
ensure justice prevailed.  As we sat there alone and took in the sight outside we wandered if we were stuck in
some Twilight Zone episode and this night would never end.  Thirty minutes later everyone ventured back on the
bus.  Erin and I enjoyed a few moments reliving the events of the last six to eight hours.  As we departed I noticed
my stomach was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
   Thirty minutes later my stomach was screaming at me.  Erin had fallen into a light sleep as I was trying to
convince my stomach to let me sleep.  But I soon realized that sleep would have to wait.  I quickly woke Erin and
switched seats with her so that I could be near the window and moments later my head was out the bus window  
hurling chai onto the streets as we flew down the highway.  My body made sure every last drop of chai, or for that
matter anything else in my stomach, was dispensed.  After quite the wretching I slowly brought my head into the
window and looked at Erin thinking “Relax, it’s India.”
   Well thank goodness, that was the last of our bus adventure.  I felt much better and we both enjoyed a little
sleep.  Night did in fact become day and we finally arrived in Delhi around 10am the next morning no better or
worse than when we boarded the bus.  We still had our four backpacks and for the most part our health.
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Relax, It's India
Taj Mahal