Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Survivor’s Guide on a Packed Bus

At my place, the only way you can commute to a city office from the suburbs is by fighting your way on a packed bus. While traveling to office this way, I have observed a lot of peculiar things, some of which have seeped into me as well. People who do this daily fight know the survival techniques to live through the experience and tell the tale. Let us consider this post as a guide to breathing on a packed bus till you get to your destination.

The first myth: if you are strong physically, you survive. The truth is quite on the contrary. Surviving on a packed bus doesn’t need strength. It needs stamina. It may be that you are hanging from the door, with only one foot on the footboard. The other leg is usually left to the mercy of the pedestrians on the sides of the road. If they even touch your leg by a whisker, you’ll be hurt badly because of the velocity you are in. If you thought you can keep an eye out for obstructions and move your feet accordingly, you are grossly mistaken. There will be several elbows trying to push your eyes back into their sockets. Your hands are of no help either. They are too busy keeping you perched on the bus. And that is not all. The conductor might ask you to pay up in this condition.

Elbows remind me of yet another survivor’s strategy. Your elbows and your palms are your weapons. But this is not open war, so you have to know how to play safe, without making your intentions too obvious. If you do not get to hold the hand-rails at a suitable angle (remember that your legs are immobile), you have to wait. Wait till the person who has grabbed that part of the hand-rail to twitch his ears or tug at his nose. That’s your chance. Grab the thing before he can get back to it. When you do that, you have taught the trick to that man. Now he’s waiting to give it back to you. So, no twitching or tugging for you over the next half an hour. If it’s summer, you can well imagine! There were times when I got down from the bus feeling I’m off a pool.

Meditation gurus will have a hard time trying to keep their cool on a packed bus, but daily commuters don’t seem to mind. In fact, there are a lot of witty comments passed when the conductor tries to push in an extra person, or when you realize someone is groping you in an effort to take out his purse. Getting on a bus is no child’s play either. As soon as you see the bus, you have to take your position. If you try to move in too early, the other passengers get cautious and try to beat you at reaching the bus. Sometimes, in their eagerness to be the first one on the bus, they go too ahead to meet the bus! The bus bypasses them and stops at the stipulated zone. Then there’s a mad scampering. Mind you, this is not for the seats. Whoever got a seat in the office hours! This is to just to get on the bus and stand like a human being.

It’s all a part of the journey and everyone seems to take in that spirit. There’s hardly any quarrel or bad blood. Everyone knows that this is their lot and the sooner they accept it, the better. I have seen some of them peer at cozy cars when the bus stops at the traffic signal. The car maybe at a distance of just a couple of yards, but to traverse that, the middle class man has to live a lifetime. Sometimes, ‘life piled on life’ would not be enough.


Anonymous said...

Hey thats rightly said...you remember our journeys and of course how i used to embarass you by talking loudly!!!

Chanchal Roychoudhury said...

@swatilekha: Of course I remember them and also that one time I dumped you and went to City Center with you-know-who! You never forgave me! Are you on Gmail or Facebook or Yahoo? Add me up, the link to my Facebook profile is on my blog page...
Thanks for reading! Readers are really hard to get!