When the bus approaches, the placidity of the crowd disappears. One needn’t care to walk. Bags, hands, fists and legs sweep you onto the footboard
Anyone using the metropolitan city bus transport will have 1,000 woes. A university student who travels from Guindy to T. Nagar in Chennai everyday, I’m no exception.
To me, it all begins around 5 p.m. One can see a conglomerate of people, serenely eyeing the horizon of Sardar Patel Road, for a glimpse of an awaited bus. Luckily, being a T.Nagar-Guindy passenger, the frequency of my bus is fairly good.
Shortly, a 47D or 5B breezes in. When this happens, the placidity of the crowd suddenly disappears. There is an impromptu pandemonium with people rushing to catch the bus. One needn’t care to walk. Bags, hands, fists and legs sweep you directly onto the footboard.
As one tries to climb hastily up the steps, heavy smacks across the face from fists and knuckles must be anticipated. Courtesy — swarms of passengers trying to get down at the Gandhi Mandapam stop. Soon, you get airlifted into the bus, surrounded by constant bickering for moving slow.
Before you stretch out of the ordeal, the conductor appears suddenly, squeezing through the people in the packed bus. The ‘white board’ buses give the sweet privilege of a five-rupee travel...but wait. You extend a 10 or 20-rupee note to the beleaguered conductor and you’re in for it. A cold “no change baby” (change illa papa) greets you. And you’re forced to dig into your wallet/purse for that five-rupee coin. And one cannot simply find out if it’s a one or two-rupee coin, what with the new shapes. After some agonising twists and flips, the value is determined. The trauma of counting the coins in the crowd and extending them to the conductor follows.
If the conductor is livid with your lack of speed, he tears the fragile ticket into two. It has to be obtained with the utmost care and obligation. If you drop it on an unlucky day, the malady of bending over and searching for it follows. Ultimately, if you survive the resulting stampede and manage to find the piece of paper, your journey endures.
Co-passengers in a sardine-bus like 5B need not be very friendly. One has to survive traumatic ordeals with fat aunties, sleepy uncles, crying babies, constipated men, noisy kids, touchy women and, sometimes, pick-pockets!
If you are a woman and you get trapped between MEN (age 15+), then your peace is ruined. Whether the road is free or jammed, they always feel the impact of the “sudden brake” and collapse over your back. Thanks to Newton, they always apply the concept of inertia and motion for their actions. The college bag which braces the back is the shield and saviour.
My advice to women: wear complex satchels with numerous zips and buttons that prick on contact. It helps.
Driving is another aspect of this travel torture. If the driver is in “racing mode,” you’ll have to hold on to life strings pathetically. For standing passengers, the iron poles here and there will do their job. An unfortunate sudden brake may cause the poor forehead to meet them with a “CLANG!!!” A lump adorns the site of damage. Swollen lips and bleeding gums can also be anticipated.
When the T. Nagar stop arrives, the task of “getting down” awaits you. You’ll have to say breathlessly “Anna...move!! Akka, please move!!!” After some considerable pleading, pushing, stamping and cursing, a narrow gap gets created in the midst of which the body and a huge college bag have to be accommodated. At the moment, hearing the conductor’s impatient whistle will be a reason for panic. One must jump down at the appropriate moment to avoid a nasty fall or a bruised knee.
The polluted T. Nagar stop that welcomes you seems a paradise, as it at least offers a few oxygen molecules to relax the lungs.
I would proudly assert that we the people, who fight brave battles and survive the bus journey everyday, deserve titles as ‘super stars’ and ‘power stars’.
(The writer is a first-year student of B.Tech (Information Technology) in the College of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai.