“…was remembering us coming from Pokahara on the top of the bus and you reading PG Wodehouse to me...was good but pretty dangerous riding on the top!!!”
As I read this excerpt from my sister's letter, it brought back interesting memories-- my sister has been living in the Himalayan region for 36 years. It is always great to hear from her, but I especially enjoyed this letter because of her reference to the trip from Pokhara back down to Kathmandu. Suddenly twenty years were wiped away and I saw us with tickets in hand. We clambered on board the bus only to see goats everywhere, people squeezed three to a seat and no space for us unless we thought sitting on the floor would be an option. I looked down at my ticket and back at my sister; the situation didn’t faze her for one moment.
She said, "Follow me!”
I stumbled off the bus, following after her as she zipped around to the back of the bus. She stopped suddenly and looked up. I followed her gaze and all I could see was the luggage rack on the top of the bus. I looked at her and looked back up at the rack and then back at her again, only to see her face plastered with a big grin. Before the words came out of her mouth, I somehow knew what she was going to say.
"We are going up there!"
She was already climbing up the ladder and I followed her. We did the entire trip from Pokhara to Kathmandu on top of that bus. I was reading my P.G.Wodehouse book aloud to her as we both hung on to the railing for dear life. There were moments when the bus swung so close to the edge of the mountain that I thought we were going to be deposited down one of those deep ravines.
We made it safely down to Kathmandu and within a short time found ourselves on another trip. This time it was a train ride from Bihar to Calcutta. I’m not sure how the trains are set up in India today, but at that time there was a special compartment for women. It wasn’t very big but it had more comfort than the outer compartments. In the middle of the night, a man’s hand looped in through a small opening in the door. It appeared that some men had decided they were going to come and share the women's compartment. Shrieks of horror filled the compartment as the women attempted to keep the door shut. I’m not sure where my sister got the large pin that suddenly appeared in her hand, but she didn’t waste anytime lunging forward to keep the intruder at bay. Every time the offending hand tried to sneak through the hole in the door, it was promptly pricked with the pin. The women’s compartment resonated with cheers but I could hear some yelps coming from the men who had been pricked.
Standing with pin poised, my sister said, “Don’t worry everyone, go back to sleep, I’ll stand guard.”
I smiled, wishing I had brought another of my P.G. Wodehouse books to read to her as she stood guard.