“Can you take her along with you?”, quizzed my sister on hearing my travel plans to Ernakulam. She added, “You can leave her with mom. Her school has closed for vacation.” The “her” in the conversation is my niece who turned three a couple of months back.
I panicked! My niece is way past the age of diapers. Travelling by bus is all the more difficult since there are no rest areas en route. Most of the buses have scheduled stops on the way in front of restaurants for eating or cleaning up. But I wouldn’t use one of their toilets. How could I subjugate my niece to such hell?
I panicked again! My wife is away with her parents. She is more adept at handling my niece. Last time, when my niece slept over at our place, she skillfully built up an imaginary big butterfly. My niece slept peacefully anticipating an encounter with the big butterfly in the morning and she stopped asking for her parents.
Life is all about new experiences. So, I decided to try it out. I called up the travel agent and booked one more ticket adjacent to my seat. The bus was scheduled at 9 pm on Friday. I reached my sister’s home at 7:30 pm. After having dinner, we put diapers on my niece. Much to our surprise, she did not resist. All along, my sister repeatedly advised my niece to listen to her uncle.
After boarding the bus, my niece opened a box full of chocos and munched on them. Her mom waved her goodbye from outside the bus. My niece calmly kept on munching chocos while her mom went back. I heaved a sigh of relief when she let her mom walk away without any fuzz.
When the bus started moving, the box of chocos were almost empty and she was peering out of windows. After finishing the chocos and drinking water from her bottle, she kept gazing outside. In twenty minutes, she was tired and wanted to rest closer to me. I lifted the divider between us and let her rest on my lap. She fell asleep and soon, I followed the same course.
In the morning, she woke up without any tantrums. We walked out the bus, collected our luggage and hailed an auto rickshaw. She patiently waited while I loaded the luggage. We reached mom’s place in 10 minutes and I handed over my niece to my mom.
On retrospective, the trip was uneventful. There were not restroom breaks and my niece was in the best of behavior. But, whenever you travel in India, lack of rest areas is a major concern causing panic attacks.
Earlier, when Reliance was operating their gas station, they had A1 Plaza adjacent to their gas stations. A1 Plaza provided food, clean rest areas and entertainment lounge. I have also found a rest area operated by BP or HP(very confusing for me!) on NH 47 near Salem. This one had a playing area for children too. I had to drag my daughter off the swing.
If there are good rest areas, it will be convenient for us while travelling by car. If the interstate buses stop at good rest areas, it will be convenient for the passengers and terrified uncles like me.