When the bus driver took his seat, every passenger in the bus heaved a sigh. The driver switched on the pocket transistor. An old Kishore Kumar song was being broadcast. He checked the volume and turned it up. However, a special announcement soon interrupted the song.

‘The police are still on the lookout for the man who robbed 30 crore rupees from a city bank. The culprit is said to be six feet tall. He was wearing a black leather jacket and jeans. The man may possess firearms, so please approach him with caution.’

The driver wondered if any civilian had the guts to capture such an audacious culprit. Just then, the conductor blew the whistle. Sitaram switched off the radio and revved up the engine. The bus wound its way through the traffic.

Sitaram was an experienced driver. The overcrowded bus was brimming with school children who jostled for space with office-goers.

Sitaram always made it a point to check on his passengers in the rear-view mirror. However, that day, he could not help gasping at what he saw. He didn’t halt at the next stop. Having missed their stop, a passenger cried out, ‘Hey! Stop!’. Sitaram turned a deaf ear to their pleas. He summoned the conductor and said something to him in a hushed whisper. He then stepped on the accelerator. The bus shot through the crowded roads. He even began singing a popular movie song, much to the ire of the passengers.

Leaning forward, he removed a calendar hanging on a nail near the first-aid box. Sitaram was glad that he had bought some sweets before the trip. He gave the sweets and the calendar to the conductor, who wrote something on the back of each calendar sheet. He wrapped a sweet in each sheet and tossed it out of the window. A few of those paper balls landed on cyclists, while the remaining ones made their way to the pedestrians.

The bus had whirred past four stops. The passengers were beginning to fly off the handle. One of them commented, ‘The heat must have got to him.’

Another passenger remarked, ‘He’s drunk.’

A third man commented, ‘Can’t one of you call the police?’

No one had the guts to jump off a running bus. The people on the street ran helter-skelter as the bus rumbled past.

By now, the bus was almost at its final stop. A young man dressed in a black jacket walked up to the driver and yelled. ‘Stop the bus, will you? I want to get down here.’

Sitaram turned a deaf ear to this request. By then, several passengers, who were visibly upset with the impetuous driver, had started screaming. The conductor’s chocolate missile hit a kid on the footpath, near the bus stop.

Kavita was a grade three student at a local school. She picked up the paper missile and unfolded it. The letters on the sheet spurred her on to action.

Shortly after, a convoy of police vehicles blocked the bus’ path. Sitaram stopped the bus when he saw the police. The passengers were elated. They were relieved that the police were finally able to nab the bus driver. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The police entered the bus and handcuffed the man in the black jacket.

Sitaram got a lot of praise for his astuteness in helping get the culprit caught. Sitaram, however, told the bewildered crowd that all credit went to Kavita, the little girl who was now happily chatting with her friends. Hearing this, she remarked, ‘It was conductor uncle who threw a piece of paper at me near the Kalmandap bus stop. I picked it up. It said, “Dial 100 – inform police. Bank robber in bus.” I just took the paper to the police station.’

Sitaram quipped, ‘Too bad, he couldn’t outwit me with his fake mustache.’

…now that you’re here

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Pravin Kumar Ameya

As fond of writing a good story as he is of reading one, Pravin is one of the most promising writers at Ameya. He can be contacted at pravinkumar2788@gmail.com.