October 25, 2006

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 3 - The kidnapping ... almost!)

The bus stops at the border and some of the passengers including Verghese get down for a chai / smoke, etc. After around 2 minutes, the bus driver LS, sudddenly locks the door, jumps into the drivers seat and veers off the road into the wilderness!!!

Me and Harshit startled as we are, rush to the cabin and question LS, telling him about our friend (verghese). LS assures us that all is well and in 5 minutes he will tell us everything. The bus meanawhile jets like crazy in what was a bullock-cart path. It turns sharply at corners wide enough to let two cows pass. All this would have been OK if the bus had its lights on. But LS was apparently playing Chor-Police in realtime with real cops. The bus lights, headlights, etc was all OFF. The bus was rushing through the fields now in the dark without headlights, occasionally turning on the lights to search for firm ground!!!

At the other end, the police who were negotiating with HS were stunned too! How can you leave your passengers behind?! they asked HS. The reply was even better,"My driver is mad. He drives off likes this and leaves me stranded too. I dont know what to do." I have to hand it over to HS. What a looney way to answer the cop. And before one thinks this to be jest guess what, the cop (Sardar that he is!) believes the reason and murmurs something about how he cant catch the bus now that it has disappeared!!! Crazy place!!! Hilarious people these Punjabis!!!

The first thought that went through my mind was that the 40 of us would be sold as slaves to the Pakistanis. Too Drastic!!! I toned the thoughts down to getting robbed at gunpoint and being left in the jungle. Verghese meanawhile was asked to hitch a ride to Jalandhar on a truck. Fortunately, the negotiations (Harshit, me and onearmy guy versus LS) worked and he finally stopped the bus in a quarry. Some phone calls later (obviously it was my phone) LS decided to head back and pick up the others who were left behind.

We pick up the others some distance before the border and again get into the bushes to avoid the police. As luck would have it the police caught us again. This time LS cooly tells the police that he bribed the police some distance down the road and he can collect his share from there!!! Talk about transperancy! After 90 minutes of nerve racking moments we were finally on the road again, towards Jalandhar.

PS: Due to the stress and anxiety of the situation we were not able to take pictures here.

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