How to jump off busses (and master living in India)

If you have mastered the art of disembarking from a moving bus in India, you have mastered the art of living in this country at the most basic level.

After asking other disinterested passengers whether or not your stop is coming up, a friendly, older gentleman taps you on the back and tells you that your stop is indeed coming up—you should move up as it’ll take a while squeezing your way through all of the folks packed like sardines on this bus. No one is waiting to picked up at the stop and no one seems to be signaling their exit from the bus either, so it’s going to be you alone pushing through. You try and yell at the fare-collector to request a stop to no avail. Banging on the rusty metal siding doesn’t catch the driver’s attention either.

Still, he knows that a designated bus stop is coming up. He must extend to you the kindness of slowing down at the very least.

Do not expect him to stop though, unless God (or a fellow passenger) has given you the favor of communicating to him that you are either pregnant or elderly. You might wonder: how else can someone get off the bus as it struggles to find some way to keep moving? Fortunately, everyone’s speed here is a fraction of what those from other “developed” countries are used to, what with our highways and speed limits that give us reason for expectations. There are also so many things on the road, moving (and not moving) so close to one another, that they are all always aware of one another’s presence and loose trajectory.

Similarly, you should put to use the knowledge of being on the bus to your advantage. Try and grasp the swing of its motion. Look forward to feel the direction of the road it will follow. Use your evolved calculus instincts to derive the overall speed of the bus and its change to determine when it is slowest and whether or not it will decelerate. Taking a good look at the things and people around you—perhaps signaling to them with your hands or purse or backpack—will also help. You do not want to disembark successfully only to be hit by a vehicle approaching from the side.

Once you have done your best to predict that nothing drastic will occur when the bus has reached its lowest speed, it is time to take the big leap. Step off the bus, but do not aim to just land on the road or dirt or garbage beneath. Try and run with the bus as best as you can. You must try and run with the inertia that this moving death trap has pushed you away with, rather than be pushed down by it.

There is no guarantee you will not fall while trying, but internalizing Newton’s laws of motion will take you far in this situation and India in general. Run in the same direction for some time and gradually decrease your speed—gradually introduce change into your movement. You will no doubt fall down and tumble if you try and resist.

But if you succeed, your heartbeat will soon slow down. Catch your breath and meditate on what just happened for a moment—you are alive! Most importantly, you have learned a greater lesson on how to live in India. Give a gentle push and nudge when embarking, moving, shifting, and disembarking on any step of your journey, but do not resist the flow. Move against it abruptly and you will fall flat on your face. Try and move with the motion before continuing along on your own way, and you will be rewarded.


A bus you might want to jump off the first chance you get
A bus you might want to jump off the first chance you get.

Zain's interest in his heritage and passion for the subcontinent was awakened in a course at his university almost a thousand miles away from his home and family in suburban Georgia. While studying the history and geopolitics of South Asia in that course, he recalled vivid memories of his grandparents' recounting their family history: a relatively peaceful and content existence in Lucknow‰ÛÓthe only home they ever knew‰ÛÓdisturbed by Partition. These were the seeds that grew into his senior thesis which explored Partition, the storied Indian Muslim experience, and the uniqueness of his family history‰ÛÓa history marked by migration, loss, and diasporization since 1947. With help from the Davenport Grant for study of public affairs, as well as the Tololyan Fund for study of diasporas and transnationalism, he was able to traverse the subcontinent and interview family members. The experience confirmed his love for stories and their potential to build compassion, a love that will find continued expression in the historical, archival, and educational work he will pursue during his time with AIF and the 1947 Partition Archive in India. Given his previous work in the subcontinent, Zain's match with the archive and its mission to facilitate greater understanding and cooperation through narratives is particularly serendipitous. Aside from his academics, Zain is a music enthusiast who has played guitar in a variety of punk and electronic outfits, and served as President of the Eclectic Society, a hub of artistic and musical activity at Wesleyan. In past summers, his dedication to social causes has taken him from working on reproductive rights campaigns with the ACLU to strengthening the case for workers seeking to unionize their hotels in New York City. He most recently organized a lecture by a Syrian-American college student on his year with the Free Syrian Army after meeting the student on a humanitarian trip to refugee camps in Antakya, Turkey. The work of finding stories, sharing them, and giving them new voice has come to define much of Zain's career, and now, under the auspices of AIF and the Archive, he hopes he can shine new light on a past deeply deserving of remembrance and reflection.

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