Discovering the multiplicity of narratives the Tiruchi Central bus stand offers

This is a place where more the scene changes, more it remains the same. New fleet and facilities may have entered the Central Bus-Stand, but it appears as a village fete inspired marketplace, that inhabits an ever changing landscape.

“Ten years ago there weren’t so many hotels- just Anand, Kalpana and a few others. Now it is impossible for buses to park on the weekend”, says Babu, an autorickshaw driver. Obviously, few hotels have adequate parking space, feels his friend Ravi. “There isn’t a day when I don’t witness accidents, mainly involving two wheelers.”

But for the marginalized, the bus-stand presents the greener side, however modest the opportunities may be. Chellam, who sells combs on the pavement says, he has arrived just a week back. “I set up shop wherever I feel I can make a profit.” He moved from Lalgudi to the city, in search of better pastures. Migration seems to be widespread. Loganathan from Karur says, “I belong to a family of flower sellers, I came here eight years back”. Asked about his business, he retorts, “I work from seven in the morning till late in the night. I make enough just to make ends meet. I’m happy as long as I am able to send my son to school,” he grins.

Not all vendors are willing to chat. Most are skeptical, fearing their meagre source of subsistence may be snatched. But these denizens of the bus-stand have a social life all their own. “I have many friends, mainly waiters, who work in the hotels nearby,” says Loganathan. “We go out for movies to theatres nearby.” He is quick to add, “We have a stringent work ethic. Only after work is over, I meet them.”

Shortly, a blind singer and her troupe of instrumentalists occupy a spot. Her sweet voice filters through the noise, punctuated by the sounds of coins dropping into the aluminium plate in front of her. The bus-stand offers a sheer multiplicity of narratives- stories with elements of despair, love, commerce and subsistence. Here there are lost dreams and hidden hopes, where talents may not get what they deserve but get enough to live on. The demarcated yet open space is a confluence of lives of the region and lives up to its image as a place of meeting, separation and movement.

(Names have been changed on request)