Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Adventures of Ms Commuterix


Para-sailing? Bungee jumping? Rock climbing? Trekking? Skiing? River rafting? Para-gliding?

If these are what your idea of adventure is; which of course I am sure is expensive in terms of time and money, then read along to find a sport more adventurous than any of the above. You would be jealous if I say Ms Commuterix( New term coined for a female commuter - copyright held by Insignia) gets an adrenalin rush going on an adventure each day.

So hear it from the horse's mouth. This is what Ms Commuterix has to say...

I don't have any better word than "adventure" to describe the journey on the mass transport system - metropolitan bus service. They say a country's progress is determined by how efficient the mass transit system is. As such, all major cities in India boast of a good connectivity. People are being advised to take the public transport - the metro rail and bus to commute. They are called the most efficient and convenient way to travel, yeah it is......if taken with a pinch of salt, sugar and any other favourite spice of yours to give it the sweet but salty and a tangy experience!

It begins with the basic job of finding the right bus. Its not easy as they claim - Buses available at regular intervals and all those. You have to pray that the bus has not left yet; no - its not that you are late in arriving to the bus stop. Its just that most times, the bus is either very early or too late but never on time. Poor them, what would they do? With all these traffic, newly planned one-way and no-way rules which change frequently as our government; coupled with infrastructure development - flyovers, underpass, sky bridge and subways to ease traffic congestion. Hoping that the bus has not left already, one waits at the stop amidst loud jarring honking, traffic at peak hour when the two-wheels use the footpath/side-walks as substitute to regular roads so that they can zoom without delay; without any concern for the folks using the footpaths; while you keep walking to and fro as each bus stops to see if you can take the bus. Other disturbances like people rushing helter-skelter, chaotic, to reach their destination on time.

Even if you are on time for the bus, you might miss it for many other reasons. The bus stopped behind a couple of other buses, you didn't either notice it or by the time you noticed, the bus moved away. Sometimes, the bus does not have a proper name board - the destination mentioned is not legible. Or the bus stopped 300 metres away from the designated stop and by the time you run carrying your bags and stuff; as if you are practicing for Olympics, the driver takes off. I have always observed that such drivers get a wicked pleasure in seeing people run behind the bus and rushing in while breathing hard. Or sometimes simply the driver decides in all his authority NOT to stop at this particular stop. After all, its HIS bus!!

For people who regularly commute at a particular time like office-goers would choose to travel by same bus each day. It might be pretty easy for them if they share a good rapport with driver or conductor. A friendly chat each day with them would ensure that you don't miss the bus.

Alright, after undergoing any one of the above ordeal, I manage to hop onto a bus. There are more amusing experiences waiting in there. Push your way through only to find the men folks having occupied the entire bus, with maybe some space left for ladies to stick in. You find the seats reserved for women(4 seats on each side) has been occupied by ignorant men. So you reach them by straining you way jostling and pushing around and then ask them politely to vacate the seat. Its a nightmare. This is what one can hear - "Why? I cant". "Its not a Ladies seat". You show them the signboard and they ignore. Ask the conductor to help you, he either tells them to vacate for the sake of it which is ignored or he too walks away unheard. Few people indulge in wicked things like scraping out the notice that says "Ladies". They confront women who ask them to vacate, in fact bully them in such a way that it makes the lady who is asking for her right to actually think if she has done anything wrong.

I came across an amusing incident when a guy who didn't know the local language was asked to vacate the ladies seat. The bus co-incidentally had the signboard in local language but there was a pictorial representation with it. He picked up a fight when asked to vacate and was stubborn to say it was not a Ladies seat.

Men are very inconsiderate. There are women too who are more inconsiderate than men. No pity to offer a seat if someone is sick, lame, old or pregnant. They continue to sit like a lifeless rock. So having discovered that asking to vacate wont make any difference but would create a uncomfortable scene, I generally stick to the safe-zone and remain standing.

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One can come across several interesting characters while on the bus. A passenger who stands by the foot board and dons the role of a conductor and throws instructions to people on the bus as if he is the appointed one. There's the guy who has opted to switch on the speaker of his cellphone while hearing to music. Radio-Jockey or is it Phone Jockey? Community service. So everyone has no other choice but to listen to his choice of music. And then the teenage college girls who laugh out loud to any silly jokes to grab attention. The girl in salwar who has lost track of where she is and doesn't mind whispering sweet-nothings to her boyfriend on phone while middle-aged women stare at her in horror and then continue with their gossips. Elderly gentlemen who complain how world has changed for bad and how youngsters lack discipline and respect.

With all these, the bus driver swearing at the car driver who overtook him and the conductor hastily pushes past you and way through the crowded bus to have a friendly chat with his female commuters while ignoring the constant plead of a commuter to return the remaining money that he is supposed to give back. As I witness this silently oblivious to the conversation around me, yeah with my iPod on volume loud enough to mute things around me, the driver realizes that he is approaching a speed breaker or just late enough to avoid a pothole, one finds thrown off balance.

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And lo! hands emerge from nowhere to help you stand balanced only to linger around trying to steady you for longer than required. When you want to turn around and say "Thank you, I am fine.", you realize there's no point actually trying to confront as he would have disappeared among the crowd of men. Just as you thought its going to be fine, a fight is picked up by a lady who feels a guy behind her is standing too close and the guy confronting her to "buy a car and commute by car" if she is finding it tough to commute in a crowded bus.

If you are lucky that day, you do manage to get a place to sit only to be vacated when a lady with a kid hops on at the next stop. Even if you retain the seat, just pray that your rest of the journey is uneventful. Probably it might turn out to be bad one if in case a guy chooses to sit beside you and has tough time to keep his hands idle!!

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It requires lots of patience to remain calm while giving a go-by to the wailing child or an old man looking for a seat - ladies seat always; thereby, whatever remaining seats that is spared after being hijacked by guys is also gone.

And after hanging on for your life and your mood, with all these ruckus; you'll find yourself jubilant and satisfied to have finished this adventure!!!

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  1. Super blog. Thoroughly enjoyed reading. However, one question. Why do office going professional women (Software Engineers, Finance Managers, etc.) still want separate seats for ladies in the bus? But they insist on equal pay at work.

  2. Thanks Mano,

    Its not about "separate" seats. Few seats are set aside for women so that they can be used by them. It doesn't mean men cant use them. It only means that if a lady hops on and if a guy has occupied a woman's seat, he must vacate. This is only to make sure that men don't occupy even those 8 seats. As you know, the % of men is always more.
    And 8*2 = 16 is very very less for women. And out of 16, few are occupied by men, old people, physically challenged people and so on...So what remains is fewer in number.
    And why this? You know better. Women are physically volatile. Men can stand long duration, but not women.

  3. And adding on, I recently read a survey about pay at office for men and women. It seems women tend to get lesser pay than man while both are at the same level and do the same job. Sick I say. Why the bias? And interestingly, its prevalent in developed countries too like the US of A. Hmmm...have you come across this?

  4. I have a suggestion. Why not allot 8 seats for women and 8 seats for men (sick, old, handicapped). The rest is for all. I also heard (I don't know if this is true or not) that there are no separate seats for women in New Delhi's public transportation.

    I have heard women getting lower pay for the same job even in USA. But, personally, I have not come across in my Company. My Company is very particular about this. So far, I have had 7 bosses. 4 of them were women. 3 were younger to me. One was a black. One was an immigrant (Green Card holder) from Lebanon.

  5. Actually my Company is accused of reverse discrimination.

  6. Hmmm...Good suggestion Mano. But I wonder if women folks would agree. They would be happy to have the % increased but never less ever :-P

    Hmm, that's interesting to know that your organization is accused of reverse discrimination. Feminists would be happy!

  7. Hey! I love this post.
    I have similiar thoughts and feelings about the commuting by public transport, but was too lazy to put them in words. I am so glad that you have...

    In Chennai women have more seats in the bus than men though the percentage of men travelling in buses are more than that of women. And I have no problem with it. Poor women. And if women sit in the men section no one complains, but if men sit in women section it is a hullaboo here. Half of the time I see women comfortably scattered across all parts of the bus. But hey, I think there is this half section of the bus which is for women and the other half for both men and women. So...

    I love to stand on the foot board, regardless of whether the bus is full or empty. :-) So no comments.

    "Or sometimes simply the driver decides in all his authority NOT to stop at this particular stop. After all, its HIS bus!!"

    Opposite to my house there is this bus stop. Only a couple of buses stop here and God only knows when. So if a bus which was supposed to stop does not stop, it pisses me off to the core. I always keep a stone when i am waiting at the bus stop. If the bus driver speeds away ignoring my sincere request to stop the bus, I first scold the conductor so bad that he feels so crappy about it and then I throw the stone at the back of the bus. I am not proud of the fact that I cracked the back wind shield once. :-p

    I always use bus for commuting in Chennai. Hey! Regarding the ladies seats occupied by men thing, I have hardly seen such a situation in Chennai.

    "A passenger who stands by the foot board and dons the role of a conductor and throws instructions to people on the bus as if he is the appointed one."
    LOL!!! I always stand on the foot board, but only for the sake of enjoying the wind and I promise you I keep my mouth shut, and mind my own business...

    These old men are sometimes such a pain in the arse. There was an incident when one such old man, sitting obviously in the ladies seat next to a small girl, was going to get punched on his face for what he was doing. He fortunately found me intimidating and found a seat elsewhere on the gents' section. Sometimes these incidents make you sick.

  8. Thanks Gautam.
    Our everyday ordeal!!

    Whatever less time I have been in Chennai and the fewer times I have commuted by Chennai Metro buses, I have noticed that men and women take the reservation rule seriously. Even though the ladies seats are empty, guys don't use them and in case they are using, if a lady comes, she doesn't have to put up a fight as it happens in Bangalore. And yes the % reserved is more compared to here.

    There are few guys who are disgusting and end up doing lewd things.

    And you are a foot board guy huh? Hmm..As long as you don't act as a driver/conductor...its fine. But foot board journey is dangerous!!

    I recall a comedy in a Tamil movie where Vivek goes further than the bus stop and waits for the bus and others say he is mad. But when the bus comes, as he predicts, the driver stops way ahead of the bus stop. Hehehehe

  9. Nice man. You have basically said what I have said. Only more elaborate. And I somehow got humour:P


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