Short Summary of “The Bus” by Arun Kolatkar

11.1- 3: The tarpaulin flaps are buttoned, down: It is a rainy dawn and it is typical of Indian buses to have only tarpaulin flaps instead of glass-shutters.

11.5- 6: Slapping a corner… at your elbow: Refers to the irksome experience of having to put up with the tarpaulin flaps beating at one’s elbow or even face.

1.10- 12: your own divided face… you get to see: Imprisoned within tarpaulin screens, the pilgrim has nothing else to see than his own ‘divided face’ reflected in the spectacles of the old man sitting opposite to him.

The Bus Poem by Arun Kolatkar

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1. 13-15: you seem to move… between his eyebrows: With his eyes rivetted on the old man’s brow the pilgrim can only ‘feel’ the on­ward movement of his journey little aware of the goal or destination. He has obviously a goal and a purpose which is beyond religion of which the caste mark is a symbol. The journey seems to be an aimless, purposeless movement in a wasteland of darkness relieved now and then by streaks of sunlight shooting into the bus.

11. 22-25: The pilgrim has arrived at his destination after a bumpy ride. But he neither carries with him nor shares with the old man any of the religious sentiments associated with the temple.

The following comment made on the poem by William Walsh in his Indian Literature in English deserves to be recalled:


Travelling by bus in India through the night towards dawn af­fords an immediate experience of immensity of space. There are two observations to be made on the management of this ele­ment in the poem. First the hugeness of space is controlled and deftly directed by the poet. He translates space into distance and distance into light, diminishing and intensifying it into the little light trickling out from the bus, the image in the old man’s glasses, the sunbeam resting on his right temple.

The poem focuses great forces, turning them into visible and comprehen­sible points of light. A second and related observation is that, as in perception, our basic experience itself, in this poem the sub­jective and the objective flow in and out of one another, modifying, correcting and dissolving each other.