This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Adrija Aich. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Conversation With My Young Bus Conductor In School I’ll Never Forget

Trigger warning: Suicide

I remember the first day I walked into my school, with my dad by my side, I mistook it for heaven. Or maybe, that’s how the heaven of a nine-year-old looks like.

It was in the year 2008, mid of May, that my parents were desperately looking for a new school for me. Although we were still in Kolkata, my old school seemed far away from my new home. Hence, it was in the blazing hot days of May that my parents visited four to five schools that were taking in students mid-session.

I remember visiting each of them, striking them off my list the moment, until I stepped into my school. I was awestruck by the marvellous construction in front of me, the glittering swimming pool, the huge tennis court, a lush green field extending to an invisible horizon, and the fresh air, everything allured me like a bee, high on the scent of nectar. I loved my school from the first day I walked into it.

Although that place was a dreamland, my dreams were quite shattered by the school timings. My new home was under construction, with the last finishing touches still ongoing. Thus, we had to rent a flat, but to my great dismay, it was way too far from my school — so far that my bus picked me up first, and dropped me off last. Yes, my home was at the last stop.

It was with great difficulty that my mom pushed me out of my bed at 5 o’clock every morning. My bus left at 6 o’clock and we had a ten-minute walk to the bus stop. That winter felt like a nightmare to me. The nights ended even before I put my head on the pillow. The alarm would ring at what felt like midnight.

Early risers who wake up with 5°C cold outside, let me remind you, I was a nine-year-old kid who loved sleeping. Even though my school was heaven, my one and half hour long bus journey was really painful. I felt like a zombie, high on opium, when I first got on my bus to get to school.

Representational image.

I distinctly remember meeting our bus caretaker for the first time. He was a tall boy, hardly in his late 20s. He had a french cut moustache and two immensely bright eyes. I remember he was loved by every kid on that bus. But there was something different about him. It was this difference that made him stand out. I remember he was a source of constant laughter to the seniors, but he enjoyed it with a smile. He laughed with them and never once did I see him take offence for all that was told to him.

“Arre, Dada! Tumi chul ta r bario na! Ebar binuni kora jabe (Brother, don’t grow your hair longer, you’ll be able to make braids out of your hair now)!,” a senior once told him.

SHOTTI (Really)!,” he would yell in great pleasure.

Onek boro hoeche bol! Ebar badha jabe besh(Is it long enough? Ah, now I can tie it up)!”

He would flip his imaginary long hair, like a 90s heroines, making the older boys topple with laughter.

Ghor e makeup kit rakho naki (Do you keep a make-up kit at home),?” someone would pipe in.

“Rakhtei pari! But ma dekhle khub rag korbe (I can! But mom gets really angry)!,” he used to pout.

Midst all his dreams of becoming a girl, he was strict when someone was hurt, or when a situation arose that needed attention. My zombie demeanour would be partially dissolved by hearing him shouting at kids who misbehaved during his regular discussions of ‘how to become a girl’ with the seniors. But I knew for a fact that even though the older students made fun of him, he was loved by one and all on that bus.

Meye ta jol er botol nite bhule geche (My daughter forgot to take the water bottle today)!,” a worried parent would call.

Chinta koro na Aunty! Amar kache spare bottle ache. School e gie bhore nebe (Don’t worry aunty! I have a spare bottle)!”

Chele ta ke ektu rasta ta par korie de. Aste parchi na aj (Help Aryan cross the road today. I am struck with some work),” another parent would call.

He was always ready to help. Depositing money, crossing the road, helping with a forgotten blazer or a water bottle — every time, he was the one who would rescue us. My parents felt assured when they knew he was on the bus.

It was a foggy winter morning that year when I had the chance to have a proper conversation with him. It was our annual day, and I was all dressed up for the dance drama I was participating in. I was one of the five people on that bus. For some reason, I remember the conversation exactly, as if it happened only yesterday. Maybe because it was the first and last time I exchanged proper words with him.

He came and sat by me, and told me that my hair looked pretty.

“Thank you,” I smiled.

It never once occurred to me the difficulty faced by this poor boy while growing up in a particularly homophobic society. I never realised the pain he must have went through when his parents scolded him for being what he is. Representational image.

Tora ki shundor chul bhadte parish (You can tie up your hair so beautifully),” he said.

Tumi bandho naki (Can you tie up your hair)?,” I chimed with a smile.

His voice dropped to a whisper, “Majhe majhe jokhon ma thake na, tokhon chul badhi, lipstick pori. Dekh ekhan theke bhadhle bhalo lage (At times, when my parents are not home, I tie my hair and put some lipstick on. See, this style looks good on me),” he pulled his hair up in a small ponytail and then laughed at my expression.

“Hain bhalo lage (Yes, indeed it looks good),” I grinned at him.

Ma dekhle hebbi mare, bujhli. Taai thake na jokhon, tokhon kori (If mom catches me, she beats me up. So I do it when she isn’t home),” he laughed.

Then our conversation drifted off to talking about my dress for the dance, and how to wear a saree nicely. After that year, I shifted to my new house and my bus route changed. Time passed and I grew up to be a teenager in my small heaven. I missed the old faces initially, but my new bus route was shorter. Hence, I never felt his absence anymore.

It never once occurred to me the difficulty faced by this poor boy while growing up in a particularly homophobic society. I never realised the pain he must have went through when his parents scolded him for being what he is. I never realised the weight of that heart that let a small part of its built-up emotion be shared with me, on that foggy winter morning. He laughed away his pain initially, but he was unable to throw it away when society blamed him for “not being normal”.

It was a summer afternoon after four years, when a friend of mine told me that he killed himself. “Now, his job is done by his older brother,” my friend told me. I remember looking at his brother for the first time. He had the same french cut, that same bright eyes. Only now, he was not different, and he did not know me. He was not different, hence he fit in well in society, the society where we have no place for people who think in a way strange to us.

I was too young back then to understand the grievous circumstances that led him to commit such a harsh deed. I took in the news like any other, but deep down, something struck me hard that day. Maybe that is the reason I still remember meeting him for the first time, and on that winter morning when we spoke to me for the last time. I still remember how he looked and the way he spoke. But all the bus attendants after him are blur in my memory.

Finishing my school life, I walked away from my small heaven with a bunch of memories in my bag. Some were good, some bad, and some embarrassing. But even after six years of the incident, I am saddened by this loss of life. Even today, I find myself wondering, why? Why is it that we don’t give place to the extraordinary? Why do we make them feel like they are not needed in society? Why is it so bad to be different from others?

Do we, as individuals, try to answer these questions at all? We don’t. That is why a death like this, doesn’t affect our busy lifestyle a lot. He was unique and that fact will make him immortal in my memory, and in the memory of several kids who knew him. Because, even today, I hope, that maybe, just maybe, in the coming decades, it will be good to be different. It will be good to be unique.

Disclaimer: The story is an original experience and not fictional. Some of my friends might even know the person I spoke about. I didn’t name them because I meant to highlight this as a common issue.

You must be to comment.

More from Adrija Aich

Similar Posts

By Paras Dogra

By Jeet

By Nazariya QFRG

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below