It often happens as I drive down the road on my way to work, I see people at the side of the road. They are usually waiting for some transport to take them to their destination. Things being as they are in Goa, this is an everyday ordeal for most. Buses at peak hours in the morning are either jam-packed or non-existent. Frequency is poor and buses bound for the capital are far more in number than for other routes.
Add to this the woes of female travellers who have to face indignities in crowded buses. They can seldom raise their voices for fear of being silenced. The over-crowded Goan bus is a stock image of every cartoonist depicting Goa. But seriously, can we not offer a better public transport system in Goa rather than having a laugh and sweeping it under the carpet?
So when I drive down to work in the mornings I look out for people on my daily route that I can offer a lift to. Dad and mum always used to do so and the grateful thanks they received by the various passengers was recompense enough. I usually stop by the person if I know the person and am fairly certain the person is going my way.
What happens if you do not know the person and the person hitches a lift? Will you stop? I generally do not. There are various reasons for this. You could be set-up by the passenger if the intention is mala fide. Do you have the time? To pull over and stop you need to de-accelerate; get out of the way of the frantic traffic behind you; open the door politely – and worst of all, make small talk.
I make an exception for groups of students though. These days I see many of them in clumps outside Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) campus, Zuarinagar. They regularly hitch a ride with their upturned thumbs. These kids are down in Goa doing their internships at various places in Goa. Many of them are assigned plants in the Verna industrial area. They have come from the mother institution at BITS, Pilani, Rajasthan, but their homes are in other parts of India as well.
I ask them how they like Goa. I tell them that as a traveler-poet I visited Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Udaipur and they seem surprised. It cuts some ice on the brief ride. It’s the least I can do to repay a debt of gratitude for the many people who have given me a ride in my student days across the country.
Inspired by the U.S. movie Hitcher (2007) directed by Dave Meyers about two college students who offer a ride to a hitcher who turns out to be a psychopath. It is set in New Mexico. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday,19 July 2015. Pix courtesy ellenm(dot)travellerspoint.com