Picture Courtesy: DWIT News
Dashain was coming near and the students, who had their hometown outside the valley, were excited to go home. However, everyone had ‘the tension of uncertainty’, uncertainty of whether they could go home safely, shrouding them. The present condition of the country and the strike of Terai was another huge obstacle on the way home.
Despite having the question: “Can I go home?” troubling my mind, I booked a ticket for my hometown Inarwa on October 12, 2015 for October 15, 2015. Due to the recent fuel crisis, our college mid-term was preponed and the students were happy thinking that they could go home early. On October 15, I was packing my bag to leave Kathmandu and suddenly the phone bell rang. The phone was from the bus owner. He said, “Your ticket could be cancelled due to fuel crisis.” I was sad and frustrated so I told him to manage a ticket of another bus or do something for me. He told me that he would inform in 30 minutes, and after 30 minutes, he called me and said that he got the fuel (but in black). Hence, the passengers had to pay extra 100 rupees. I had to go home in any condition so I told him that I would pay him extra 100 rupees. He told me to come to the bus park near Tilganga Eye Hospital, Gaushala at 1:00 PM.
Considering the fuel crisis, I thought to move out early so that I would be able to catch the bus on time. I reached the bus station at 12:30 PM. When I reached there, I was surprised to see that the front glass of all the night buses were broken by people involved in strike in Terai. Instead of front glass, bus drivers were using tapes and some kind of plastic.
I called the bus owner to inquire about the bus, and he told me that the bus would arrive soon. I waited there until 3 PM and the bus finally arrived. That day, the petrol pumps in Kathmandu Valley were giving oil to private vehicle so there was a huge line of private vehicles. The bus started to move after a few minutes of its arrival, however, due to heavy traffic, we were able to cross Thankot only at around 5:00 PM. The bus was moving finally without any traffic outside the valley.
Due to the recent strike in Terai, buses were escorted by the armed police force during the journey. Our bus reached a place called Dharke to change tyre and it took them around one hour to change three tyres. People were saying that we could catch up with escorting if we reached Lalgadh by 1:00 AM; otherwise, we had to wait in that place for 18 hours to get another escorting service. Hence, all the passengers in the bus were telling the driver to drive fast and not to stop anywhere for food or anything. However, the driver and conductor had to fill their tummies with free food and they again stopped in a hotel for one hour. As a consequence, we missed the escorting service and had to wait there for entire another day.
Next day, some people were drinking tea, brushing teeth and roaming around. All the buses stopped at the hotel where they had contact; there were nearly 200-300 buses that day. Some locals were doing their business. They were charging NRs. 3000-4000 to people in order to take them to Itahari.
During the day time, some people were playing cards, sleeping and some were roaming around. In the evening, there were more than 500 buses waiting for escorting. At around 1:00 AM, finally the escorting began and everyone there felt some relief.
When the bus started moving, the conductor told everyone to close the window and pull the window curtain tight. That was a safety guide provided to us because the conductor, through experience, knew that the people involved in strike were highly likely to throw stones.
There was a helmet near driver that he wore and drove vehicle for safety.
People were also saying that the small children were paid price to break windows. Children used cater puller to throw stones. The conductor was also saying that the strike had some price system; the more your break windows, the more was the reward.
We reached a place called Rajbira and our bus stopped. We were curious as to why our bus had stooped at that place when police was providing escorting. Unfortunately, the oil had finished. Everyone got angry at the conductor and driver for not checking the furl amount. He told that he would ask for fuel with another bus. However, the buses did not stop due to the fear of losing out on the escorting being provided. There were some people standing by side of road and we were afraid that those were people involved in strike. Luckily, after sometime, another bus, belonging to the same owner, arrived and we finally got some fuel.
Yes, we finally reached home but instead of 12 hours it took 48 hours, let alone the intensity of fear we had in our hearts.