Thursday, October 04, 2007

Route No. 11

And something amazing happened today - ok, at least, something unique enough to worth mentioning. Was walking to the bus stop from the train station when a bus pulled over at a totally different stop. It was eleven forty seven, and there was still a huge line for that bus. The line compressed in anticipation of the bus, and shouts amounting to everyone "staying in line" rang out in two different languages - Marathi and Hindi. What was funny was two guys were encouraging the entire line to get in properly, and they were not even part of the line... now I happened to laugh at them, and at the spur of the moment, decided to give out a shout myself. My voice was lost amongst the many other public endearments, and a few insults, but two random guys I am never going to meet again laughed their asses off - or something like that, I really didn't care - the second it happened, I had a bus to catch of my own.
This bus happens to be on the Koknipada line. A little background history might help. One day ago - that is yesterday, things like that apparently make it easier to put things down - yeah so yesterday there were three people in line, a balding Maharashtrian uncle with a beer belly who got down pretty close to an Industrial estate and who was blaming the government for not taking good care of the transport system, and who was unsure of the bus timings. I know the bus timings simply because I am a regular on the route, and when there is a bus where the buses are so rare that they are always on time, there is really no helping it. We had both just missed the eleven twenty bus, the next one was at eleven fifty, and he was asking me if the eleven fifty bus was the last bus. I knew there was another at twelve twenty, which was usually cancelled for lack of people. Now its around eleven forty yesterday night, and we had no one but each other for ten minutes of our lives. Five minutes of that was spent in an interrogation of my background - what my parents do and what I have studied, but five minutes into this conversation, a Loan executive from ICICI bank walks in to the stop and begins the procedure all over again. The moment I tell him that I am in my final year of graduation, he got shit impressed. The guy has studied only till the tenth, and I guess his experience was sufficient to think I had studied "too much". I can now understand the respect society gives to doctors. I sat next to this newfound acquaintance in the bus, and the discussion varied between "not getting addicted to anything" (he was talking about alcohol, and suggested I drink beer for my health. I almost agreed, but not really) to how society has stopped believing in God. That is a part I did not understand, and brought the subject around to alcohol again.
Day before yesterday, it was the eleven fifty bus that I caught, and I went through it without talking to anybody, including the conductor - I just handed him the exact change, and he gave me the ticket. This is a convenient system really. The point is that it is a very small route, with very few people, and most of the times, we look out for each other. We all know where everyone else gets down, and the regular conductors exchange pleasantries with the older people. I am young and not Maharashtrian enough to be plugged into the system, but I get along when the need comes.
So, make as much sense of all of this as possible, cannot really say much more, and remember a lot less than when I started, because of the various deviations, but the point of the matter is that at eleven forty nine today, railway time, I ended up at the Koknipada bus stop, and asked the bunch of conductors there if the parked bus was the eleven fifty bus in perfect Marathi.
"Akra pannas chi ahe ka?"
(Is this the eleven fifty one?)
"Konti?"
(Which one?)
"Koknipada"
(Koknipada)
"Ho"
(Yes)
"Kute jyachya hey?"
(Where do you want to go?)
"Koknipada"
(Now this was a lie. I wanted to go to Vasant Vihar, and the more popular line for this bus stop is the Pawar Nagar line. However, the Koknipada bus stops across the road from my gate, so I prefer the route.)
He nodded at this - and I took my place in the bus stop, the entire line consisted of only me. The conductor spoke to another college, in a whole string of Marathi sentences that were difficult to understand, but the discussion was cantered around the fact that they would have to run the bus for only one person, and that the routes had to be planned better. Also, some other conductor brought out an interesting point of share rickshaw people stealing away too many bus route people, but people like us (me) were left out in the process. Whoa. I didn’t understand too much of that, but guiltily remained to be the only guy in the bus stop. If you have been keeping track of the time, I had only a minute to wait.
That is how, I ended up being the only guy on a forty minute route. It was extravagant and luxurious. I was using up a lot of public money, a hell lot of diesel, all for only seven rupees and fifty paise. No one got on in the way, so it was me all the way from the station to my home. It felt like a chauffeured car, and somehow, inexplicably, I was gaining more from the transportation system more than anybody else, and the best part about the whole thing was, that I gave the conductor exact change.