As I stepped into the bus, I felt as if I had already reached the eastern Bhutan. Arra smell or some cheap rum nauseated the air. Only sharchopkha-speaking people seated in the bus. “Oga jonmey?”, “Hang ancha?” or “Lekpo la”, the most courteous people of Bhutan with most polite dialect are they.
The bus driver was a middle-aged man. He chewed doma non-stop. And his Khalash, the bus conductor has to prepare doma khamtoe time after time again for him. Though very young, the khalash looked hyperactive, skilled in handling passengers and at times nuisance.
As we climbed uphill from Semtokha, the bus started moving at tortoise’s pace proving its oldness and not-maintained regularly. Each time the driver changed the gear, a horrible sound was being produced emitting stinky smoke. This has worried me and I wondered that this rokho bus (as said by the passengers in the bus) won’t reach me to my destination. An old man took out a boomer bottle from his rucksack bag and started puking in it. Yuck! Both the bus and this old man made me sick-ugh.
A few 100 meters to reach Dochula pass when the bus was flat tyre. “Spare tyre mala nee,” the khalash informed his master that he forgot to keep the spare tyre. We waited for more than three hours for the spare tyre to come from Thimphu.
And some interesting, yet horrible incidents started taking place in the bus after that. A young man seated on the third row of the bus began coaxing and fondling a young girl seating next to him. The girl screamed in protest. However, the man insisted on pushing onto her as if to him women were only to be fondled for man’s sexual gratification. Other passengers laughed; some even applauded admiring at the young man’s audacity. Girl, the victim, sobbed heartbreakingly as she has been ruthlessly abused.
Two teenage girls got into the bus after we reached Mandrelgang in Wangdue. The bus driver offered them seats on the engine box. The khalash went close to those girls. Suddenly he started smacking hard on the girls’ buttocks. Each time he hit on their buttocks, he pretended innocent.
Another drama started with a woman seated behind my seat. A man from the last seat jumped next to her. Initially, he offered her with doma which she declined. Then he offered packaged potato chips and chocolates-the easiest way to befriend a stranger, though. They started a ritual of asking and introducing to each other. In a while he could court her, they became friends. The man too “sponsored” lunch for her and some more snacks followed.
As the dusk fell, we moved downhill of Chumey, Bumthang. The man behind my seat enquired the woman, “Where are putting up tonight in Bumthang?”
The woman replied rather shyly, “I think I have to stay in a hotel.”
The man seemed excited and once more the man offered her, “Then you can stay with me. I have already booked a room at Chamkhar. I will sponsor everything for you.”
After that both of them stayed mute.
The rokho bus ranted on and on as air in the bus became colder and intolerable.
Complete dark had fallen.
It was almost midnight when we reached Chamkhar town.
“5:30 AM! We will be moving to Trashigang tomorrow,” the irritating bus conductor announced to the passengers.
All in smiles and triumphs, the man behind me took the woman to his booked lodge. The girl at the third row was still crying as she was still being tortured by that beastly man. For the last time, the conductor smashed on girls’ buttocks and he ran away.