Sunday, March 30, 2008

12-Lakh Vehicle

Back in college one joke that never got old (I hope, because I used it a lot) was "Meri 12-laakh ki gaadi aa rahi hai, with driver" (My 12-lakh Rupee chauffeur-driven vehicle is on its way). And that expensive vehicle, of course, was the good old public bus! Waiting at a swelter-shelter, hoping against hope that (a) the bus would arrive; (b) would arrive on time; and (c) would have (standing) room for us, we consoled ourselves that it was chauffeur-driven, we didn't have to worry about parking or driving in stressful conditions, and it was incredibly cheap.

Getting on a DTC bus as a student meant we had a pass, and we declared it, with not-so-subtle undercurrents of power, to the conductor when he looked towards us. "Pass hai," we'd proclaim, and that was that. He wasn't getting any money from us! Oh, the authority with which we said it! Standing at the back of crowded U-Specials, swaying this way and that with the rhythm of the bus with our feet planted firmly on the metal floor, legs a little apart to maintain balance better - these were unconscious lessons we learnt in the laws of motion as the bus trundled (or zipped) its way to College.

It was an unspoken courtesy on buses, especially our Univ Specials, that if you were so fortunate as to have a seat, you'd offer to hold the bags, books, umbrellas, etc. for the standing population. That was the least you could do. And so, we'd clamber on to the bus, regardless of heavy backpacks, and immediately look for a welcoming face on the bus - the stranger we could hand our bag to. And then, stretch out, space permitting, in the aisle, holding tight to overhead bars, bending occasionally to peer out of the windows and assess how far home was.

It's easy to forget the complete unpredictability of waiting for public transport in a place like India when you haven't depended on buses for a while. The freedom of hailing a taxi or auto at whim brings in the self-righteous feeling that our time is too precious to waste at a bus-stop. But as students, time was the one thing we had, as we chattered about teachers, books, music, movies, boys, and waited, endlessly, for when the bus would take pity on us and deliver us from the waiting. Of course, I used the bus regularly as long as I was in Delhi, and only had access to a car in the last 2-3 years.

Why am I talking about all this today? Because public transport in Dubai is terrible. At rush hour you cannot find a single taxi. I've been curious about using the local bus, and I noticed the same bus number near my house and near the office. But the local buses are not known for punctuality so I didn't know how to get one, nor could I locate the bus shelter. So last week, I just walked home from work - it took me all of 1 hour, but I did. And today, I decided that my time wasn't so precious, and when I was striding past the bus stop to walk home again, I decided to wait instead. After 15 long minutes, it came. Pakistani driver. Some polite words in Hindustani and he assured me that I'd reach home just fine. And as I stood steady in the aisle, refusing offers to share some space with seated women, I remembered all those long afternoons, when we waited for the bus, not knowing what it would be like when it came, just like the future that awaited us then.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too have happy memories || Of crowded buses' vagaries || Helpfully waiting drivers || Some conductors deprivers || And, in summer, the 'breadbox' turned bakeries!

Love and hugs:-) Aunty G.

dipali said...

Those were the days! Chasing buses, waiting for buses, getting unwarranted pokes and prods in the damn buses- so much of one's life devolved on those rattletraps!
Happiness was a bus with an available window seat:)
The buses I see in Kolkata now look most terrifying. Till just a few years ago, I was a fairly comfortable bus user on the Nehru Place- Noida routes:)

Thinking Cramps said...

Aunty G: Yes, to get a bus | Without any fuss || Is such a delight || Specially at traffic's height | And it helps me escape the desert dus'!

Dipali: I love that: "Happiness was a bus with an available window seat"! In college days "Happiness was (actually) a bus that had elbow room!" I've taken the bus the last 3 days in a row and it seems to be working well (TOUCHWOOD TOUCHWOOD TOUCHWOOD)

eve's lungs said...

Oh yes till the metro solved my commuting problems I had to queue up for a bus every day for an hour long journey and yes indeed happiness was a window seat especially in summer .
Methinks Ana dear , you must invest in a pair of trainers :P

ps - I am partial to buses ... will disclose why in a post

dipali said...

Touchwood indeed! Sounds good:)

Thinking Cramps said...

Eve's Lungs: Will wait for your post. And yes, each day I am faced with the possibility of walking home I wish I was carrying my trainers! Maybe I will start taking them in a backpack to work!

Dipali: Yes, isn't it? Saving money, saving fuel.

rishabh said...

The only grinding I experienced in Delhi was in a crowded bus from Gurgaon to Noida
-Anonymous

Bus are great fun and yes barah lakh ki gaddi with driver is the best way to put it.

Thinking Cramps said...

Rishabh: Grinding? And glad you agree with my definition of a bus! :)

A Muser said...

Hey Anamika! Where are you? Hope all's well at work and play...

eve's lungs said...

Madamji shaadi huyi ?

sbora said...

hey...where are you...we miss your wiritng!