Thursday, January 11, 2007

The City Bus

I like traveling by the local bus. Especially when I have plenty of time at hand and have started well before any meet-ups at not-so-far a distance in the city. A bus journey keeps you abreast with the life in the city. As colourful, as noisy and as lively as life can get: you can't miss it in a half-an-hour journey through the crowded city.

First thing you hear irrespective of the number of people in the bus is, "Get to the back side of the bus," and those words strike even before you have bought your ticket. So, when the bus is carrying a decent crowd, you have to make your own ways to reach at the back - something you'd never do in your career/academic life. But real life is not the same as your career, is it?

There you see a man sleeping with his mouth half open and eyes half closed. Then somewhere you hear a bout of laughter, after only one sentence - and there you hope to get the joke into your mailbox by e-mail some day. There is a heap of vegetable baskets, supposedly being taken to the market for selling. There is a kid asleep with his thumb in his mouth. Someone is playing with his mobile phone, announcing to the world that he has got hold of latest ring-tones. His neighbour is over his shoulders amazed by the features of this guy's mobile. Then you see an aged couple awaiting the arrival of bus conductor and inviting him by holding the fare money in their hands. You see trousers, jeans, dhoti's, sari's, salwar-kameez, suits, sweaters, jackets of various qualities and covering the entire spectrum of colours perceivable by the human eye. And then there is a a mixture of smells in the air - from vegetables to flowers, from deodorants to expensive perfumes, from grease to cement, and what-not to what.

Far far away, the bus driver, who is closest to the ladies' section of the bus, is trying hard to ignore the endless chatter and concentrate on the traffic in front of him. He has infinite amount of patience to announce the destination at each and every stop so that he can attract more commuters in his already jam-packed bus. He has his dashboard all decorated with flowers and fancy dancing lights. In some rare cases the driver would install and take care of a radio all on his own and entertain the travelers with the soothing traffic congestion announcements from the Radio Jockeys.

The bus conductor is always busy in his work, and which is to conduct the bus' journey. He has to make sure the bus stops at most of the scheduled stops, he has to make sure that no traveler goes ticket-less, and at the same time keep track of the math. In more than 90% of the cases the conductor must refuse to return the change and ask for the exact fare (which, most of the times is a prime number!) from the travelers. At the destination, this fellow must dump all the change at the transport corporation's office and start afresh all over. I would rather challenge the corporation for a change, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

With all these different characters stuffed inside it, the bus slowly moves across the city. About hundred lives are part of it from the inside- with probably each one of it having a different destination to get down at. The bus, merely a vehicle, must facilitate the journey. Even the driver and the conductor who are part of the journey, are actually moving on in their lives: what of it if they have to return back to the starting point. And the metallic bus itself: it is slowly wearing out, slowly it's getting tired of the smoke and the honks all around her. Yet, it must go on, for that's the purpose of its being. It must carry on with its duty to take the traveler to his or her destination.

And that's not only the physical shade that's called the bus-stop; but their real destinations in this chaos called Life...


Shantanu said...

I have observed yet another special practice in these buses. Since the bus is crowded to an extent where no other form of life can travel between any two passengers, the conductor carries on his job in a special way - he asks the driver to stop the bus midway between two assigned bus stops, then gets off and collects the fare from people who got into the bus at the previous assigned stop. And the characteristic cry to halt the bus is "oeld oin" or something like that... Right?

Anonymous said...

On the matter of going back, I remember of an incident, alas I will write it in Hindi, it will be more intresting to read:

Condutor ek pessanger jo ki foot-board par khada tha ko kahta hai, aap to samazhdar hai, piche jaa ke baith jaiye,
Pessanger: Hum too bavkof hai, yahi khade rahenge