The bus was dropping me, the sole Kufri-bound traveler, right in the middle of the national highway, which was steeped in darkness during that time. As I stepped onto the road, I felt a chill going down my spine.
Since there was one man of apocryphal antecedents, apparently in search of his next prey, I assumed that it would be safe to walk in any of the directions to keep him at bay. What really was keeping me on edge was the fact that not even a single soul was in sight in the vicinity while there was pitch dark everywhere around me. And yes, I was alone.
As I started walking towards my right, I realized that there was no hotel or guesthouse in my shouting range. There were, however, some dogs barking at the ‘stranger’ for foraying into their territory at an unearthly hour.
As I continued to prod, the barking became fiercer and more intense, exacerbating my fear. I walked while I grumbled about Himachal Roadways, local and central governments – for setting up random “bus stops” in the middle of road – and dropping people onto the barely-lit highways in night, making the tourists vulnerable to crime.
After walking a few more steps, I halted and started waiting as I realized that another bus was moving towards me. As it approached, I realized that it was, in fact, a truck. Another “truck” followed this one and as it approached, it turned out to be a bus.
After this, I decided to wait there for the next bus and motioned for the next vehicle to halt so that I could board it for my safety.
Sitting in a government bus along with over 50 co-passengers was certainly safer than walking alone on a national highway in the night.
The third vehicle was actually a bus. I heaved a sigh of relief as I boarded it. My anxiety and fear that continued for over half an hour (but seemed eternity) had finally come to an end.
I bought the ticket for the next stop which would arrive in five to 10 minutes. As the next stop came, it was still dark outside. So, I asked the conductor to give me a ticket for the “last” stop which would arrive in no less than three hours later.