March 24, 2010
Not many outside Bangalore would be familiar with the variety of buses plying in and around the city. The traffic authorities have been consistent in their efforts to woo people away from their private vehicles, in a bid to ease the traffic congestion in the ever-growing city. Daily and monthly passes available for frequent travelers, students and senior citizens, avoid the strain of purchasing ticket every time and save quite a bit of money for the commuters. Buses devoted to women only and for pass-passengers only, must be first of their kind across states, not to forget seats reserved for women, physically challenged and senior citizens too.
Most of those who have traveled vide the state owned BMTC buses will vouch for the fact that the travel is quite comfortable if not sheer bliss, with buses available to suit all tastes and wallets, beginning with those coloured soothing-to-the-eye blue going on to the premium fare red-hued Volvo comfort coaches. Even the not-so-premium buses have had wonderful makeovers to provide comfort – fans, melodious music from popular radio channels, public address system to announce destinations to mention a few - and speed at nominal rates. Recently, I saw a bus with ‘business class’ plush seats in the front half and regular good ones in the latter half for those using passes. Reminded me of a single train with multiple compartments.
Many write travelogues after they return from exotic places, describing their experiences for others to ‘feel’ the pleasure they had. Commuting in these buses has provided me with a lot of insights into human behaviour, all of which I consider precious and worth sharing with my brethren – those who have not been able to experience this first hand. This is my travelogue, based on what I have observed, liked ...or disliked.
To start with, commuting by bus offers a lot of privileges which are indeed blessings in disguise. For one, the commute time is a totally private time (read leisure time) which lends itself to several creative uses. While the majority of ladies listen to music on their mobile phones or ipods, a few eat breakfast, or make pending calls or take a power nap. A handful of tech-savvy executives work on their laptop even as the bus is meandering through traffic jams, while some are engrossed in reading a gripping novel or the latest bestseller. During a trip to Mumbai in my school days, I had watched women in local trains, busy knitting, oblivious to the chaos around them. These days, I see women in the long distance buses, especially those originating from the market, stringing the flowers they bought there. They would rather use the time on hand instead of ruing lack of free time.
The buses offer a lot even for those who wish to just ‘take in’ this free time. A new bus I took sometime back had graffiti all over the front panel around the driver. They preached - Be Positive, Friendship – and advocated action against noise pollution depicting animal pictures with a message Be Silent. As I looked around, I was amused to see a bird cage hanging from the roof of the bus – it had four lovely birds including two blue-shaded love birds. For once, I did not feel like alighting at my stop.
Another bus had money plant growing out of water in a bottle fixed to the corner besides the driver; yet another had a dove near the steering wheel. I silently admired the nature lovers, though I wish they did not subject the hapless creatures to the stress of moving amidst of traffic congestions and crowds.
Travelling in buses continues to intrigue me. Even on days when getting a seat is impossible, just being there refreshes me a lot. Makes me feel I belong to an entirely new family each time. During Sankranti festival, I partook of the ‘yellu’ that was distributed to all the commuters and the bus crew by an enthusiastic lady. I have had co-passengers fussing over me and offering their seat, when I boarded a bus with bruises soon after a small accident near the bus stop.
Like all experiences, these also can be quite hilarious. I remember reading a board near the driver saying ‘karnatakadalli aadalitha bhashe kannada’ and another one near to it saying ‘vaahana nintha mele door thegeyiri’. Jai Karnataka!
The choice of buses in ‘Namma Bengalooru’ would be the envy of even bigger cities of our country. Those who have not taken the common man’s (and woman’s) mode of transport in Bangalore, I would urge you please do. I bet, you will emerge an admirer of Bangalore’s public transport and soon become a frequent traveler with rich experiences to speak about.
Bangalore has been named Garden City, then Silicon City of India, even Air-conditioned City on a smaller scale for the wonderful cool weather we enjoyed till recently. Seems like it is all set for a brand new title - that of a Bus City.
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