Once upon a time, there was a king, who was fierce as a dragon, whose fighting skills were the talk of the realms beyond his kingdom, who was just and loved his people, who had the ability to create the most devious and cunning battle plans and who loved music and dance, for his court was always filled with artists from kingdoms far away.

His subjects were prosperous under his rule. His recklessness in battlefield never reached his level-headed decision-making in court. His enemies feared him and were terrorized by the prospect of facing him in war.

One day, while hunting a deer in the nearby jungle, the king did a mistake for which he paid dearly. He was aiming an arrow at the running deer as his horse chased it. He was oblivious of where his horse was going as he trusted him blindly while hunting. Their team had never failed but that day was different. The horse gave a sudden start as a sage came in front of him. The arrow left the bow and hit a tree behind the deer. The king controlled the horse and maneuvered him so that it curved away from the sage, but could not avoid the sand which stained the sparking white clothes of the learned. The king got down from the horse and asked for forgiveness with folded hands.

“You could have trampled me!” the sage said frothing at the mouth.

The king bowed his head to the ground.

“No! This will not do. You have to know the consequences of trusting a mere horse. You will drive a horse in your next seven births and you will see where it goes. Your seventh birth will be your actual test. You will have temptations. If you fail, the cycle will continue.”

The king was aghast. He pleaded for the curse to be removed but the sage was adamant. He kicked the king and walked away.

After he died in a battle a few years later, the king ended up being a horse cart driver for his next six lives. He was a good driver and never did a mistake, never crushed even a mouse under his cart. As time passed, sages went out of fashion and so did kings – replaced by people below poverty line and above it. The king was born in Delhi in his seventh life. There were no horse carts left, not even in Chandni Chowk. He contemplated moving to Agra where the profession was still in its bloom, but gave up as there was too much competition. But the curse of the sage had to be fulfilled. And hence, instead of a horse, destiny leads him to drive something which had horsepower – A bus.

I have had the privilege of travelling in the bus driven by the valiant king of past. I am sad that he gave in to temptations, but why should I blame him as he does not remember anything from his previous lives? Why should I blame him when bravery is in his blood?

He drives fearlessly. There are no speed limits for him. There never were. He was air. His horse was air. And now, the bus is air. He loves to bump his subjects to the ceiling of the bus by over-speeding over speed-breakers. His majestic aura stops us from complaining.

He slams the bus in wrong lanes as if trying to break a multi-tier defensive formation (ChakraVyuh) when a traffic signal stops working. Mostly, he is able to get out of it by performing a futuristic art equivalent to sword fights – Honking.

To add more feathers to his majesty’s crown, let me add that he swears a lot too. If not on diesel, the bus might run on the splurge of swear words dripping from his mouth. But can I blame his highness? Where else can a war cry be uttered if not in a war zone?

The king still carries his love for music in his heart. He has the largest collection of music cassettes you could ever imagine a bus driver could manage to keep in his overhead compartment. From “Achko machko Kaa karu raam” to “Sarkailo khatiya” to regional pop songs with jhankaar beats, he has it all. Sometimes, on really terrifying days, you can feel the bus dancing to the music.

The King always held the high ground in battle fields. Now imagine our king sitting on a proud stallion and running amok amidst the poor foot soldiers of the enemy forces. The pleasure he derived from flattening enemies under the foot of his beast was unmatched. In his seventh birth, the king has his hands tied. He cannot swat people but this never stops him from making them run. Oh yes! You have to see the sparkle in his eyes when he makes poor pedestrians run in front of his bus to save their lives. Add a few war cries to it, and you could almost believe that the mighty king remembers everything from the glorious battles he had fought in his past life.

He has sadly given in to temptations this time. He is human after all and he has controlled himself in the previous six births. The cycle of seven rebirths has to be repeated but it makes me anxious to think of the consequences. What if he becomes a pilot in his next birth? I have to decide whether to continue the cycle or not? Should I expose mankind to this disaster? He is not a king anymore but the blood runs strong in him.

I have to think. You must be wondering how I know the details of the mighty conquerer. Ponder and you will find the answer to the riddle. Who else could I be but the sage who cursed the king?

I am living the life of a common man now, thankfully above the poverty line.

p.s. The King is my actual bus driver and all the descriptions of his driving histrionics are true to my knowledge.