Punya remembers working as a bus driver in Rajneeshpuram.
My first three weeks as a bus driver (on one of the yellow school buses and not on a silver coach) were spent driving up and down from the Mall to Magdalena Cafeteria and back until our dispatcher, Narendra, realised that he had forgotten to change my weekly schedule. He apologized profusely for his mistake but I explained to him that to drive the same small route for weeks on end had not been a problem at all. I had seen the mornings grow brighter after each round until I finally saw the first rays of sun shine into the valley, the hills turning from black to grey and then to brown. It was a spectacle in itself. Brown hills, a brown dusty road – but still it was paradise if one could see the magic and if one wanted to be there. I think that paradise is where one wants to be, whatever it looks like. With sunshine came warmth and the flow of people getting on and off the bus – from their homes to Magdalena for breakfast and from Magdalena to their temples.
The training to become a bus driver was given to me by my favourite hairdresser, a gay lad from Australia with beautiful long curly hair. His instructions were as simple and competent as his cuts and his soft manner made me forget all my fear when I was asked to reverse with the help of side mirrors alone. As I had learnt to drive on a Fiat 500 the necessary double-declutching was no problem, but the leeway of the pedals and the strength needed to change gears – designed for a heavy man – were a bit of a challenge at the start. But soon my invisible body became as big as the bus and I managed to judge well how much space I needed on the bends and how close I could drive to the passengers waiting in line.
When ‘Proper’ Sagar became totally involved with crystals, I inherited his automatic bus No. 235 and tried to keep up his standard of cleanliness. There was a special place where we could wash the buses, a flat area with a water pipe beneath a big juniper tree, but it was so remote that hardly anyone ever used it. But that was the spot where you could find me during my breaks. I loved to move my body after the many hours of sitting in the driver’s seat. It was a joy to splash with water under the relentless desert sun, in total aloneness away from everybody and everything. It was voluntary work as nobody ever checked on the cleanliness of the buses – but I preferred washing the bus to spending my break sitting in my room reading a book.
After rinsing down the bus inside and out and polishing what seemed like 100 windows I was ready for a rest. I had learnt to take a fifteen-minute nap in the grass before my dinner at Hassid Cafeteria in order to be fresh to start the second part of my shift.
Although I enjoyed a steady routine I also enjoyed being the ‘jolly bus’, i.e. being on call for special trips. This service was totally in the hands of the dispatcher, Narendra, who was on the motorola, receiving requests from all over the Ranch. His place of work was the central bus stop downtown and he was easily spotted in the crowd because of his orange Tibetan hat. Narendra timed the buses with a whistle and entertained bus drivers and passengers alike with his antics. He had apparently been an actor in Hollywood and fitted well into our multi-national mix of characters. If one evening there was an event at the Multiversity it was up to the ‘jolly bus’ to take everybody home. If it was quiet he let me go and have a five-minute dance at the disco nearby. He knew how much I loved dancing and how restless I could become sitting in the bus for too long.
After a few months as a bus driver I knew where everybody lived and who was dating whom. With working days of twelve hours or more, the passengers used to fall asleep as soon as they dropped onto their seats. It was therefore up to me to deliver them to the right place, to their own home or that of their girlfriend. At the correct stop for each passenger I used to shout out their names (if I knew them) or that of the locations. What a service!