Friday, January 7, 2011

The Adventures of Ms.Commuterix

Its been 2 years since I commuted by the public bus service. Though every 4th day of the month is Bus Day in Bangalore; when everyone are encouraged to use the bus service; I shudder thinking about the experience. Bus was my in my essential check list for years; from the time I went to kindergarten to work; until two years ago. Commuting 30 km either ways was a nightmare each day; hanging around for most part of the journey; half the time sharing a foot of space with 3 other foot; hanging on the foot board with laptop bag and shoulder bag was not a pleasant experience. Jostling and pushing around; and the fashionable me would not compromise on my choice of footwear; that ranged from 1" to 6" heels such that they complimented my attire more than the comfort in a crowded bus.

Last week; I had to take the bus. All these memories flooded me and gradually ebbed away. I have quite forgotten the knack of pushing through the crowd and finding a seat or the smartness to stand farther away from the actual designated bus stop. When has the bus driver ever stopped the bus right in front of the bus stop? My sense in center of gravity seems to have deteriorated as I was finding it difficult to find balance with one foot or to jostle around and push everyone to find my way out. 

I had written about the experiences much earlier and thought let me share it once again. Enjoy :)

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 favorite 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 yeah!. but the worst offenders are the women.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.

I can make myself deaf; but how can I stop my nose from picking up the smells? A girl chewing mint gum or the man behind who smells as if he has bundled himself with 100s of cigarettes. Also found are men who are yet to get out of their hangover and paan chewing ladies or the ones who could never be caught -  who silently fart.

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. It may be a pleasure taking a bus ride in Bangalore. Here in Delhi, it is a pain for the women folk.Without expanding this,I must remind you what Gul Panag recently said in and about Delhi is that women get "felt" while travelling.
    However, after my last visit to Singapore, I was thoroughly impressed by their buses and services.

  2. oh I have had so many bad experiences of being "felt" like Mr. Chowla mentioned! I still dread it during peak hours..I know travelling by public transport will help in controlling pollution, but safety comes first for us..wish perverted never travelled!

    whatever u mentioned is experienced in mumbai too..with the kind of population explosion happens in metro cities, this is too common right?

  3. Wherever there is a large population, public transport is crowded. Tubes in London and in Paris are very busy during peak hours. China, Japan and Hong Kong are no different from India in terms of number of people traveling.

    However in all these places, safety is considered first and women are treated with respect. It is only India I see males indulge in stupid behavior - no where else in the world I have seen this behavior.

  4. this happens in India
    i agree with you
    its like adventure.

  5. That was a long but eventful bus ride!
    But something is amiss; what all the Kerala women write about bus rides - bottom pinching and the rest of the 'man-handling' - Of course they say it happens only in Kerala!

  6. Just imagine the plight of daily commuters who just get a A foot hold on the foot board, a overcrowded tilted bus reaches the destination most of the time in one piece. That is like, seeing things as, half cup full.

    There are also instances when one comes across roving hands in crowded buses,most of the ladies keep quiet as she gets NO support from fellow passengers. The attitude is , it is not my problem or silence is golden. kudos to all those who use our public transport system.

  7. Like Balachandran said...... I have experienced that in Kerala but I didn't keep quiet, my hands spoke but not even a single person questioned that fellow other than one man uttering 'shame, shame'in a bus full of people.. The man is question, my half age. So you know why I wrote silence is golden.
    May be it happens elsewhere too, do not know as my bus rides are almost nil these days.

  8. Pretty long adventure. The ones who are ubiquitous in Kerala , and their hands are always busy. They are the men who love travelling by bus and they prefer crowded buses.
    No wonder some women travel in buses with a pin needle in hand.
    Mallu men!!!

    I do not know if they have contemporaries else where

  9. too many things here. you go deep, quite deep. it has struck me many times how the so-called adventure activities pale in comparison with the risks taken by common folk in everyday life. Think of the fishermen setting out to the deep seas at first light, or construction workers hanging by a rope and painting a stadium.
    In spite of your experiences, I think we still ought to get on our public buses once in a while, for two reasons.
    One, it will help us remember where we stand as a society, something we might forget if we only see insides of AC cars and malls: an India not quite shining.
    Secondly, it is only if empowered people such as yourself, who can articulate what ought to change, and make it heard as you have through the blog, use the services, that responsible governance would happen.

  10. Nice post. I remember reading this on May 27, 2009. Only 3 people commented on it. But it was a very interesting back and forth dialogue between you and couple of your readers. Thanks for the opportunity to reminisce the good old days.

  11. The post was amusing in the beginning, until the real deal came out.

    Travelling in a public bus, I haven't done it since a decade or so. But I am well aware of the problems faced by a women/girl in public transport.

    And yeah, some men are way to inconsiderate and insolent. At times it's better to keep mum and face the problems rather than open your mouth and create more problems than you already are facing for yourself!

  12. Using public transport sounds good.I would say it would be next to impossible for a woman to travel in a crowded bus,without getting pawed.There are men who takes the ride only for this purpose.And I also know some girls who carry sharp blades to deal with such men.You are too adventurous!

  13. reminds me of mumbai locals...and u r right nobody seems to care for old, lame and pregnant.

  14. Nice acounting, and anyone who has travelled by bus anytime must identify with the incidents.
    This is one part about growing old that I love, now I dont have to face that horrendous journey in a crowded bus, where I could nevr balance myself:)

  15. Chowla sir,

    No! No! never a pleasure. Its a nightmare. Its a pain here as well, I guess its pretty much the same everywhere.

    I have traveled by bus in few countries - Singapore, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Mauritius, USA to name. It was all a pleasant experience.


    I have so many of them as well. I have slapped so many guys as well. What I feel sad is those perverts dont understand it at all; after a hard days work; you end up being treated that way


    I agree. Crowds are there; but they dont misbehave everywhere. Safety as you say is given utmost importance.


    Yes, only here.


    Long journey day in and day out. Oh shit happens everywhere. Groping, bottom pinching happens in Karnataka, TN, Kerala...everywhere else. Its same everywhere.


    Yes exactly. Its someone else's problem, so why bother. there were few instances when I have slapped such rogues. Sadly one time, I slapped a wrong person. :-( But so much is the anger and helplessness, what would you do.


    Yup! Mallu men? Only? Men are men everywhere in India. Be it Tamil, Kannad. Mallu or Hindi. They speak the universal language


    Welcome to B Log.

    Yup! these day to day commute is no less than the para gliding or ski diving.
    I am weary of taking these public transport; i quit 2 years ago. But I appreciate your viewes. Now this city is going to get a metro. We need to wait and watch what all would happen.

    Thanks for visiting and for your views. Keep visiting.


    Thanks. Yes this one was a repost.


    Yup! Its a nightmare. I agree with you.


    Exactly, few men take public transport only for this. Adventorous I was. But got frustrated when I leanrt nothing can change such people.




    Yes. I have shunned the bus for these reasons

  16. that u have tasted blore bus experience..try mumbai local train 2nd class ladies..haha..if v survive mumbai trains nothing in the world will be a prob...btw, bindu ji..reg. the will be peanuts for u was around $200 for those 3, 4 hours..1 orange juice which costs 1 dhs outside was charged at dhs35 der...hmmm

  17. I used to travel by bus back in college.. and most of the time I'm the most privileged passenger to occupy the 'Toolbox' far away from prying men/women and no one had ever dared to get up back then…. Dunno how things are now.. need to give myself a bus ride.. will get come back and comment again once I do that :-)

  18. bus la apadiya travel pana mathiri it was....:)... ana yu forgot one thing... the never ending conductor yelling people to move to the middle of the bus, yet his loudness in vain to the ppl on the footboards and at the end.... in fact it was fun during the days when I use to hang in the footboard turning deaf to the oldies abt our heroism :)... neenga apadiye solitinga..!

  19. very well written... as usual. initially i thought that it is some funny post.. as i went on it disclosed the sad picture of bus commuting for women..
    i liked the new term you coined.. Ms Commuterix.. reminded me of the Asterix comics which I used to read a lot :)

  20. I am living this nightmare now.I leave for office early just to escape the crowds.I don't know about the law on smoking in public but we certainly need a law on farting in public.esp crowded buses.ugghhh.

  21. The volvo service out here is one of the most decent ones I have come across.

    Buses are one place they should start charging by sq.feet :)

  22. Ramesh,

    No way, I pass that. My public transport journey will be minimal. $200 is peanuts for me? Oh no sir! I have to work very hard to earn it :)


    Hmm...Try it but take all safety measures. Bus journey is not pleasant as it were for you :)


    Hahaha thanks. Oh the yelling of the conductor! yeah yeah I forgot. Its music :-P


    Thank you. Glad you liked it. Its not funny you see, its pathetic. After a hard day at work and studies for ladies, we suffer all this. Commuterix :) I just coined it :)


    Thanks for visiting. Wish I knew your name. Oh! that must be tough for you. All the best


    Welcome to B Log. Volvo or the Vajra services are pretty neat. I like them.
    Keep visiting.


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