' Mangalore-Kundapur Bus Journey - Stairway to Death

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Mangalore-Kundapur Bus Journey - Stairway to Death
By Anil D'Souza, Halealve/Dubai

April 15, 2012

When the English band “Led Zeppelin” penned the song “stairway to heaven “in 1971 , little did they know that one day after 30 to 40 years  a highway called NH 17 or the Kundapur – Mangalore highway would fit in their title description perfectly. Off late many people have lost their lives on this stairway- I don’t know to heaven or hell, but nevertheless it is a stairway to death.

During my recent visit to India, I had a close encounter with death. I would term it as a near death experience. No - I did not meet with an accident, but was shown a trailer to death.  I was repeatedly tortured to death by two morons. I was travelling from Mangalore to Kundapur on a lovely evening. Things were returning to normalcy with me. I was returning home after visiting a few relatives on a whirlwind trip : my uncle had invited me for dinner late that night. The driver was manouvering the bus fantastically well. Things began worsening at dusk and by the time we reached Suratkal, our bus had a competitor and both the drivers were in slugfest with each other. Collectively there would have been 75 passengers in these two buses with their lives loosely clinging to the thin frames of the two morons about whom I will throw some light later on.

Five years ago, the Mangalore – Kundapur highway had shot to fame for its notoriety in claiming lives of commuters. The blame was placed on the manganese laden trucks. Our roads were not strong enough to bear the weight of these heavily loaded carriers. Even though most of the deaths were caused by busses, there was a general hatred towards the monster trucks for creating potholes, and slowing the traffic. Once the entry of these trucks was restricted, frequency of accidents reduced. Local officials also had some system were timekeepers were introduced in all major stops. Busses had to maintain some time difference and this meant no two busses were kissing each other’s bumpers at any one point during the whole journey. But off late things have changed. Roads are being laid all over again and busses move as if there is no tomorrow.

I will explain precisely how things unfolded in my journey to the purgatory and back to reality. I was punished for all my sins and I believe, I will be directly given entry to heaven for having gone through the ordeal of this journey. As I said earlier, till Suratkal, my journey was calm and quiet. The roads are broad and one way. Our bus driver was fast and I thought to myself “Wow, next time I am in India, it would take only an hour and half to travel to Mangalore from Kundapur”. Just then from the corner of his eye, the bus driver, let us call him Jerk, saw the rear of the other bus which was just moving out from the Suratkal bus stand. The poor driver of the other bus did not know what was coming at him.

The bus conductor’s adrenaline was soaring as he hurriedly dumped the two passengers in the bus stand and blew his trademark whistle and shouted the two words which every local is familiar with. Yes “Right poi”. The other sober bus which was being targeted by Jerk might have been one km ahead of us and Jerk had already floored the accelerator to catch up. The roads are under construction and in most parts they were dusty and narrow. Jerk had no respect for the oncoming traffic. He was driving as if his bus was the only one on the road. Smaller vehicles like trucks and Lorries were completely ignored and even smaller vehicles like tempos, jeeps and matadors were expected to give way for the speeding juggernaut. You can imagine the plight of cars and bikes, then.

Jerk powered through all the rubble, spewing dust everywhere and inviting stares and swears from within and outside the bus. The other bus driver, let us call him Dumbbell was monitoring Jerks progress through his faded side mirrors and as Jerk was getting close, Dumbbell floored his pedal and began teasing Jerk by honking and obstructing his way to glory. These two busses were toying around with our lives and were playing a cat and mouse game on the busy highway.

This made the passengers worried. Some were praying, some were cursing the driver, some were shouting at him, some experienced people were watching others reactions, two brave people even confronted with the driver and were shown the door by him , as if he owned the damn bus. A person sitting next to me politely asked me my destination. I said Kundapur and his next sentence summed it all up for me “All the best”.
At the next stop, Mulky, Jerk played his smart card- he stopped his bus right across the other bus and asked his trusted conductor to unload the grumbling passengers, who sincerely thanked god as soon as they alighted. Now Jerk had the upper hand. He rolled out of the bus stand without burdening himself with more passengers. He had a clear goal - the next stop Padubidri. With Dumbbell right on his heels, this stretch of the journey was clearly dominated by us, with speed and precision. I remember vividly the bravery of Jerk, when he decided to overtake a truck with another bus coming head on at us. He bulldozed his way forward, knowing clearly Dumbbell would not dare to do such a deadly manouvre. The oncoming bus took a steep left turn and was almost in the field below. There was a loud angry scream by the passengers and to Jerks utter disappointment, Dumbbell had taken the bait and followed right behind us.

After this breathtaking (literally- we would all have been killed) stunt, I guess our conductor finally thought about his wife and kids at home. He went up to Jerk and gave him a piece of his mind. To our wonder and amazement, Jerk let Dumbbell go ahead of him, in spite of being the clear leader. I have no doubt that inside his heartless mind, he must be thinking “ Haarkar jeetne walon ko Bazzigar kehte hain”.This is not the end- now Dumbbell was teasing Jerk by slowing down his speed considerably and from Padubidri to Udupi our journey took almost an hour- thanks to the traffic, the dirt roads , Dumbbell and Jerk.

Without bothering the losses I had to incur as I had paid for a direct Kundapur ticket, I got down at Udupi and boarded a local bus. It would stop at a thousand places, but I was not ready to gift my precious life to some of the heartless demonic creatures called bus drivers. I do not know what makes these drivers arses tingle when they see another bus close to theirs. The driver acts as if an enemy has invaded into his territory and he has to drive it away by overtaking him. Whether he gets an incentive for coming first, whether the owner who recruited this idiot gives commission, or the driver himself has F1 ambitions and is practicing and playing with 75 lives is a debatable topic .I have heard an interesting story about recruiting in one of Kundapurs most famous bus companies. There is no permanent driver on the payroll. Whoever wants to make some money and has a driving license is caught and made the owner of 75 lives and is given the license to kill. All these morons driving recklessly should be forced to enlist in military services. They do not have any consideration for their own lives- they would make excellent soldiers.

Never was I this scared and frightened in my life, not even on the day I got my class 12 results. Finally I got home after considerable delay and numerous phone calls from mummy asking about my whereabouts. As I reached home exhausted, mom and dad were tensed about me being so late. I explained about the traffic and bad roads, but was embarrassed to say that I travelled in a local bus. Mom was quick to find out and quipped “Anil, we know you travelled in a local bus, we all do that”. I had a sigh of relief and explained to them in detail whatever I have written above.


Anil D'Souza - Archives:


Comments on this article
Verina Pinto, Mangalore/DubaiMonday, April 16, 2012
Very well written. Almost felt like I reached Kundapur from Mangalore.
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Rakesh Pinto, Shirva / MuscatMonday, April 16, 2012
100% agree with you. Its high time to raise voice against this.
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Jaimini P.B., Manipal,SharjahMonday, April 16, 2012
Bus may run without Diesel,But our drivers can't drive without having PETROL !
You want to get into Shri Ganesh Travels and accidently your hand kerchief slips..You bend down to pick it up..Now you can get into Shri Devi Travels..Before you blink your eye,buses change position in Udupi-Mangalore.
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Harish Bhandary, DubaiMonday, April 16, 2012
let us post this article to District Traffic Superintendent of udupi and Mangalore.Next time if we find a case like this we hope we will have the time and courage to complaint to the Respective Department!!!!!!!!. I believe as the number of complaints increases action will come in other-way.
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Louis, KuwaitMonday, April 16, 2012
Well wrote Anil, Kundapur to Manglore NH 66 (previous NH17) is the most busiest road in India (excluding cities) traveling buy express buses is an excitement by itself. My wife used to warn me don't go by APM. At Kundapur there is one guy who check the buses time while leaving. After get set go..... No one to watch them. Wonderful experience for Anil. He missed the fighting between the drivers, they use such words which are not in any dictionary. Last Jan 1st I had beautiful experience of the same.
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Praveen Bangera, Kaup/MumbaiMonday, April 16, 2012
Hi Anil, very well written article. As most of the readers mentioned here, almost all of us could relate this article for our travelling experience in Mangalore Kundapura Road. Not only the speed and recklessness but also the HONKING is unbearable. Every two minutes these monsters HONK their horn that will make us deaf. But these are very normal to our local citizens in mangalore. Once I have even heard a co-passenger telling the driver to drive fast by telling him in tulu " Paje padondu popina bodchi marre"
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Joseph, Doha, QatarMonday, April 16, 2012

I wish strict disciplined driving of Doha is implemented in Mangalore, life would be much more easy. Last year when returning from Jeppu to Shirva (bus was 5B) I had a hellish experience and got down at Padubidri for fear of my life. I boarded another bus to Shirva. In Bombay, BEST occupies most of the metropolitan roads. They drive gracefully and have tonnes of patience. A driving complaint is viewed very strictly by the authorities and unlike Mangalore, Bombay has a heart and humanity towards others. Mangalore isn’t even an inch and can never be.

Pathetically starved of infrastructure and largely depending on roads for transportation unlike Bombay where you have alternatives round the clock - trains, buses, taxis, autos etc., you are NEVER EVER left in a lurch. That’s the beauty. In early 1970’s where BEST drivers were driving recklessly most of the drivers were absorbed by L&T (who have the largest fleet of buses even today) since BEST salary was meagre against the facilities offered by L&T. BEST had a monopolistic union and ruthless Management and they forcibly roped in drivers to force their demands to ensure that their strikes and demands were expedited with the least benefits. The situation has now changed. I wish some moron Mangalore drivers are forcibly transferred to Bombay, and bet they will flee back 'cos they will be forcibly made to change their mental attitude. Mangalore drivers need to take a cue from BEST drivers to have some ethics. Will this ever happen?

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Prakash Harischandra, MAngalore/GalvestonTXUSAMonday, April 16, 2012
Every time I travel to udupi , I am almost sitting upright , I have to think is this a overtaking or a collision. I recall ten years back , I would just snooze , once your out of the country and back things look a little bit different. But its all part called ooru. You cannot get it at other places..
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Dr Kiran Acharya, ManipalMonday, April 16, 2012
Though the accidents are a cause for concern, this article is written more with emotional element, than with scientific analysis. If one goes through the statistics from the past 5 years, accident/ death/ injury rates are on the decline. One also has to take into consideration the rising number of vehicles, while analyzing the data. Please read Vijayavani last page dated 16th April for statistics.
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M.kiran, M'loreMonday, April 16, 2012
Mr.Anil , nice article ,, this is not only ur story, every one has gone through this , who wil travel m'lore to udupi ,,
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Peter Lewis, Kalmady/k s aSunday, April 15, 2012
Most of these Illiterate Drivers of Private Buses were cleaners. How they understand the value of Human lives. Public should demand more KSRTC buses on Highways and travel by Govt Buses.
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siddapur abdul raheeman saheb, siddapur/karnataka/saudiaSunday, April 15, 2012
Dear Sir/Madam,It is not only the mistake of the driver it is the mistake of the authority who are issuing permits because the time gap between two express buses are 2 to 3 minutes only.The driver has to pickup passengers as well as time.Don't think that I belong to any bus operator,but I am just others a passenger who is experiencing the same experience whenever I travel between Udupi-Mangaluru.
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Joe D'Souza, MangaloreSunday, April 15, 2012
Mr Anil D'Souza your article is a eye opener. But one question to ask you. Did you call Police Control Number:824-222-0800. I do that everyday as well as I pull over my vehicle when I see a Traffic Police Interceptor Squad and hand over the vehicle number involved. I request all citizens to take serious thinking and do take action before your loved ones loose their life. If one innocent life is saved with your effort,a reward will be yours from the Almighty.
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Vijayr, Mangalore/QatarSunday, April 15, 2012
" All these morons driving recklessly should be forced to enlist in military services." Mr. Anil I don't agree with your view that someone doing a wrong should be sent to military as if military life is like serving a jail sentence. It is an affront to all those who have or are serving the defense forces. Rougue drivers are criminal and they need to be dealt with by criminal laws.
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Prem, M'LoreSunday, April 15, 2012
Very good article.... just remembered the lyrics of Chris Rea's “Road to HELL”

She said "Son, what are you doing here?
My fear for you has turned me in my grave"
I said "Mama, I come to the valley of the rich
Myself to sell"
She said "Son, this is the road to Hell"
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Dear Anil,

Thank you for bringing this matter to the public.It is painful to read very day so many lives lost on this roads /highway. It seems concerned authority is not concerned to put things on track systmatically.
May God bless you n Daiji team, hope things will change soon.
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Naveen Menezes, Halealve/Abu DhabiSunday, April 15, 2012
It’s Reality. Everyone from the undivided DK district would agree with the writer. Thanks Anil for making us think. What is the solution? KSRTC? Railways? It’s time for us to think and raise our voices.
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Don, Udupi/bloreSunday, April 15, 2012
why the hell there is no speed governor!! There should be speed limit and interceptors installed....
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Dinesh, PamboorSunday, April 15, 2012
Hi All, Why cant we suggest all the private bus owners to hire aged and experience drivers. So that people travelling will be safe and the buses will be maintained well.Private buses owners should think how we had Shanker Vital drivers. From Mum to Man Ghatge patil and Manjunath.
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Jacobnelson, BejaiSunday, April 15, 2012
Every Bus Owners wnats to make fast and quick Money at the cost of Innocent peoples lives.
Lord Jesus SAVE us All and have Mercy on these Bus Owners because they are one who forcing to Drivers to do this.
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praveen, mangaloreSunday, April 15, 2012
very aptly written, i am sure evrybody will relate with this experience some time in their life.
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GERALD, Modankap-BantwalSunday, April 15, 2012
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ashwin, surathkalSunday, April 15, 2012
So if anyone wants to experience this.. just take a ride in Sri ganesh express orange-red color bus. mangalore to manipal or even the kohinoor express.. superb showcase of the life at the edge.... and heart in ur hand with closed eyes... Also this wil increase the spped once the mangalore kundapur lane road is completed..
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Hey Anil,
Very well written and I could relate to every word as I used to commute Udupi-Mangalore every day in between 2004-2008 and I know exactly how it feels.Good on you.But sadly no matter what we write/say or scream or shout our lungs out,the government would do nothing about it.
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Dr Ajay, BirminghamSunday, April 15, 2012

Thanks to Anil for writing this nice article. This is sommething that has been going on since the sixties and seventees .However the growth of single bus operators in the 80's and ninetees made the problem worse. I should stress that this problem is not just limited to Mangalore and is seen almost in every state of India where private bus operators are active and more so in the South .Kerala and Tamilnadu are no better.There are so many laws in India but none of them are implemented by the law makers in this case the police. There is corruption in every walk of life .

Driving tests are easy and children are not educated properly with respect to traffic rules and the importance of following them at schools. That is why we see drunken driving on our roads,drivers not stopping at pedestrian crossings ,crossing red lights ,people not giving right of way to ambulances,no lane discipline ....the list is endless.Unless we sort this out the problem will continue not just in Mangalore but in the whole of India.

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Eve, MangaloreSunday, April 15, 2012
Very well written.. Indeed these buses go at a very high speed.. its really very scary to travel in Mangalore...Gosh , so many accidents in the recent past. Better travel by a normal bus rather going for express.
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geoffrey, hat hillSunday, April 15, 2012
Daily commuters in and around Mangalore are so used to these roller coaster rides, many have accepted them as checks on population along with famine and wars as mentioned in the Malthusian theory of population. On a serious note, Rakesh Shetty’s comment seems to be the only plausible solution for this menace. But the question is will the strong private bus owners lobby allow it? They’d rather live with accidents than allow KSRTC slaughter their cash cow.
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Dr Kusuma Kumari G, Nellore/KodyadkaSunday, April 15, 2012
Most bus drivers are drunk also I have seen them getting drunk in afternoon between breaks at lunc The police must check them for alcohol regulalry
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Niranjan Rao, MangaloreSunday, April 15, 2012
Thrilling story Mr Anil.I think if anyone wants to see death very closely he should board mangalore-udupi express bus and should sit right in frontseat left side of driver.Imagine after completion of 4lane road from mangalore to Kundapur!!!!! Indias on and only fast service in private sector.
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Vincent Menezes, Halealve - KuwaitSunday, April 15, 2012
Good Article ,

Anil Keep it up, Govt should ban all private buses

Vincent Menezes
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Gration D' Souza, Kulshekar/ MuscatSunday, April 15, 2012
Well written anil, people responsible issuing licences are mum who will bell the cat..,
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Siva Avadani, Maipal/DubaiSunday, April 15, 2012
@ Rakesh, i have travelled with KSRTC Volvo bus from Mangalore to Manipal, its same. All express busses are the messengers of death, They are paid less salary more commission on tickets. Morning every 1 minute a bus leaves from Udupi,one can imagine the strech till Mangalore, 60 buses in one hour and in a strech of 60Kms road. Govt is useless in from of the bus owners mafia. The article is very true i experienced so many times, initially it was thrill, now a days its a chill under spill.
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Rakesh Dsouza, Mangalore, DubaiSunday, April 15, 2012
Well written Anil.

This is a true fact of these roadsand. Moreover, our Authorities are not at all bothered about this....
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Ashok, Udupi/DubaiSunday, April 15, 2012
No Doubt. Main reason is rapid development in last few yeras.
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avani, mlore/uaeSunday, April 15, 2012
The real scenario. Everybody in DK experiences it. The writer decided to leave express bus and take a local bus for a peaceful journey. But the fact is that in Mangalore local buses are no different when they see other local bus on the same route!!!
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Ruchir Agarwal, MangaloreSunday, April 15, 2012
Even in crowded roads of our city these buses want to drive at break neck speed[where are the RTO officials ?].The keep honking continuosly and rudely to vehicles in front of them .A common sight at near signal points.
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Sachidanand Shetty, Mundkur/DubaiSunday, April 15, 2012

A very good heartily written real story about our so called Bus Journey Dear Anil D’souza. But being born and brought up in Coastal Karnataka we face our routine life like this and sincerely as well as mercilessly we hand over our life control to so called Bus Driver on daily basis. Few may wonder why we need to travel in this kind of Bus Journey, but the bold question still unanswered that do we have other option where our Taxi or Rickshaw Brothers are sucking our blood like anything.

Today we fight for better roads throughout Coastal Karnataka but did we imagine the life after betterment of four line dual carriage way? Same time we still fail to understand the logic behind why these Bus Employees fight their way to more collection by risking their life as well as their passengers when they get their monthly fixed salary? Will they get commission on daily collection? I don’t think so!!!!

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Rakesh shetty, mangaloreSunday, April 15, 2012
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