The Worst Journey Of My Life

“Wakka wakka eh eh, This time for Africa”, I unconsciously drummed my fingers on the steering wheel as I drove my white BMW through the uninhabited suburbs of Bahawalpur, Pakistan. I slowed down the car’s AC since the car was getting chilly contrary to the scorching heat of July outside.
Suddenly, the BMW started making strange noises and to my horror and disbelief it ultimately came to a halt.
“What the hell?” I could not believe that my car had broken down in the middle of nowhere and now I stood on a deserted road seeking help. I opened the bonnet and pretended to check the wires although I knew nothing about any of the parts inside. So I dialed Dad’s number.
“Please stay calm. Lock the car and take a ride back home .I will send the driver with a mechanic to fetch the car as soon as he is back from the airport”, Dad had said.
So I stood on the roadside wishing that I should have taken Dad’s advice and let the chauffer drive me to my best friend’s wedding who lived about 80 Km away from my city. A few minutes later a teenage village boy driving a donkey cart laden with a haystack stopped by.
“Can I give you a ride Ma’am?” The lad keenly offered to help. His clothes were drenched with sweat.
“No thanks but can I get a bus or taxi here”, I inquired.
“Perhaps a wagon might go by but a Taxi? “He nodded in negative trying to conceal his amusement. “Ok then, Good luck”, he said while leaving.
After several minutes of waiting in the hot blazing sun, my prayers were answered and a mini-bus decorated with brightly colored floral painting stopped by. Luggage was piled high on its roof and secured with ropes. I ran towards it and immediately stepped in banging my head on the roof. The conductor motioned me towards one of the last three vacant seats whose dirty seat covers were ripped from the corners. The bus was occupied by underprivileged villagers clad in shalwar kameez, Pakistan’s national dress. The driver turned on loud Urdu music and the bus resumed its journey. To my horror it turned out to be a hop in, hop off bus. Soon the conductor had squeezed almost forty passengers into the twenty-five seater, many standing in the aisle swaying from side to side as the mini bus travelled on the bumpy road. The vehicle was now so cramped that door could hardly be closed and the driver had a habit of honking the annoying horn unnecessarily. I opened the glass window blurred with countless finger prints to let in the hot breeze. This was the only sane thing I could do to relieve the stuffiness inside. The big moustached short heighted man sitting behind me burped loudly every now and then and I am pretty sure that he was also responsible for the stinking rotten socks odor.
A fat woman sat next to me with her four year old son wearing jeans and shirt in her lap and a huge basket of fresh vegetables at her feet. To my disgust the woman kept wiping her child’s runny nose with her long shirt. Sweat trickled down my forehead as I inhaled the stench of sweat .I was squeezed against the window wishing badly for this torturous journey to end. The bus had stopped twice in the last fifteen minute; to let someone pee and to drop a passenger whose suitcase was buried in the stack up on roof.
I decided to spend the rest of the journey standing. It felt much better but when the driver applied sudden brakes, it took me off-guard landing me in the lap of an old man. He smiled widely as if he had hit a jack pot. Extremely embarrassed ,I jumped off his lap apologizing.
It sure was the worst day of my life. Another ten minutes passed by and all the passengers were outside waiting for the driver to change the flat tyre of the bus. “Oh Lord, could it get any worse?” I looked up in the sky to question God and a big drop of rain fell from the sky right on my forehead! Just as tears started swelling up in my eyes, I spotted my car pulling on the road side and I ran towards it like a prisoner out of jail.

Iram Moazzam

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