It was raining outside and an icy wind was blowing. Though it was almost seven in the morning, there was no sun visible and the sky was overcast. The bus, in which I was travelling with my friend, was brought to a stop in front of a roadside hotel.
“Fifteen minutes’ halt,” announced the conductor before entering the hotel with the driver. The passengers, eager for a hot cup of tea, hurried inside and occupied whatever seats were available.
The sudden onset of monsoon was the main topic of discussion. There was a river about five hundred metres from the hotel and it was said that the water level was rising fast at the low-level bridge across the river. The river used to be dry during most part of the year but frequent floods were common during the rainy season.
Our destination was just an hour away and we hoped we could be there before the situation worsened.
Passengers had started heading for the bus as we finished our tea.
“Let’s have a cigarette,” my friend suggested.
Since the driver and the conductor were still inside the hotel, we proceeded to the kiosk behind the hotel, hoping to return well in time. However, the kiosk was crowded and it took some time for our turn to come. Lighting our cigarettes, we hurried back but were shocked to find that the bus was gone.
After frantically asking around, our bus was pointed out to us - it was just gathering speed. Shouting at the top of our voice, we ran desperately after the bus, but it did not slow down, maybe because of the sound of rain and the tightly closed windows of the bus.
By now the bus had reached the bridge. A number of cars had stopped short of the bridge, reluctant to take any risk since water had already started flowing over the bridge. We hoped that our bus also would stop but the driver seemed to have decided against waiting. It was no use pursuing the bus now, and we stood a little away from the bridge, trying to get our breath back and watching the progress of the bus helplessly.
It was a long bridge and the heavy downpour made it difficult to see the bus clearly. Even as we watched, the water level rose unbelievably and the flow of the current became furiously fast. The bus was almost at the middle of the bridge now, and suddenly, like a grotesque tableau, it came to a sudden stop, and then a giant sheet of water pushed it off the bridge. It was carried further down, overturned a number of times and then disappeared under the mass of surging water.