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:: BackTrack ::

If life were painted on a canvas, it would have been coloured by memories. Bright ones for those wonderful childhood days; fresh ones for the unforgettable teen years; gray for all those difficult times; sober ones for the responsible days of adulthood… And the most beautiful shade of them all would be reserved for those memories that demonstrate ones intimate bonding with the homeland.

BackTrack is a homeward bound journey to find those beautiful colours and catch a fistful of stars shining on the Mangalore horizon. --Suzy Fontes

 

Bussing Around Town

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By Suzy Fontes, Mangalore [ Published Date: August 12, 2006 ]

RRIIIGHTT, POHYEE...

That's your signal, the verbal gunshot for the endless race. Your sign to hold on tight to whatever it is that is closest to your hand.

...Grip the steel rod at the door, reach for the overhead one or the ubiquitous handrail - the one bordering all the seats. Grasp it as if your life depends on it. And it does. Your life that is – almost. Slight miss and you could be spread-eagled thud on the tarmac or get into a domino like effect as you go whoosh on to all those who were quicker than you in grasping that overhead/seat railing.

It is all about playing a balancing act as the feet rushes to jump on to the steps and the hand reaches for railings that can help break that waiting-to-happen fall. Reminds you of trapeze artistes in circuses, who give it their all as they reach for the oscillating swing.

It is a matter of mentally overcoming the physical limits in as mundane an event as a bus ride.

As the bus shivers and shudders at every stop, the scramble to hop on to it, is mad, and that is without any exaggeration. It's a threatening stance - that dramatic jumpiness of the bus as if it can't ever stop. As if all full stops have been wiped out from the slate of the bus, cursing it with a seemingly unstoppable shudder that can vacillate between relative calmness to an emergency calling.

Bus has a way of magnifying the slightest turn or the bluntest brake and the term 'fly off the handle' can be just that.

A little imbalance in the movement between placing the foot on the step and the hand grasping the railing and you are sure to go lurching into the bus, which is safer but embarrassing, or go crashing down on to the pavement, about which lots could be said.

Boarding and alighting from the city buses and even some of those plying interiors, is an exercise that brings to fore the jungle rule 'survival of the fittest.' I know many who can ill-afford an auto fare but think nothing of it when faced with the prospect of a bus ride within the city. And these are not all old people.

If one were politically inclined, it would have seemed inevitable to presume that it is all a part of some bigger conspiracy. May be even blame America for it. That's in fashion, isn't it, blaming US for all the ills that befall us...? And conclude that drivers and conductors are in cahoots with our 'enemies'.

Why? I have no answers. Only a madcap analysis of a syndrome that has all the undertones of a comedy gone wrong. It does appear to be a syndrome and a contagious one at that. The status quo is maintained by all the buses as if it had been decided at some annual general meeting where all the bigwigs pulled the brakes to ratify the clauses of random speed, volcanic shudder at the stops and chaotic shirking of traffic on the road. Taking into account such details as the stance to be taken as they give screaming chases, maneuver potholes and roundabouts and simply frisk through even when the vehicle is screaming for passengers.

There appears to be a method to their madness. But then again, it is a random kind of method, one that defies any semblance of logic. And as an old timer, you try not to focus too much on the method and the madness or worry over the whys and the hows. You just learn to hold on tightly to the cold metallic railings overhead or the ones hemming the seats on top. Feeling helpless every time an old lady or gentleman makes a futile attempt to stand firm on the step as the bus gets into top gear.

But if you are a first timer in the city and happen to be in a smaller car, following lanes, being a good driver and all that, the bus approaching from the other end with a screaming honk can seem like a preying animal, jumping right at your throat. Then you learn. Learn to keep your cool even when they blare their horns as if the road just caved in. Learn to keep panic at bay even when the bus appears to be lunging at your throat. Learn to hold all those expletives and drive coolly to your destination even when two buses seem to get into an athletic event.

And in the bus… It takes time, but you learn. Learn that you need to get into the get-set-go pose to beat the others waiting at the stop; be the first to get in and may be find a seat, if not avert a possible lopsided swing on the step. Learn not to jump out of your skin every time the driver blasts the horn. Learn to hold yourself from giving a piece of your mind to the conductor and driver every time a senior citizen struggles and trembles on the doorstep, fear of a fall writ large on their faces. Well, there is general appeasement as the conductor who just blew his whistle with a rriight pohyee gets there to give him/her a hand. What made him jump the gun in the first place is irrelevant as it is evident that he is a slave to this habit. And you also learn that you need to stand up if you are seated or move a couple of paces towards the door if you are standing, to indicate that you need to alight at your stop. That the bus 'has' to stop is not for you to question. Your movement towards the door ensures the hurried pace of the bus.

And you kinda learn to enjoy the ride, forgiving all the shivers and shudders, the scrambles and jerks, loudmouthed passengers and the 'spirit'ed ones, the foot stamps and the 'please adjusts'…

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Diwakar Kumar, India :
After reading your "rright poyeei" I wanted to test the city bus journey myself. Time came finally when I had to leave my vehicle for servicing and to come home.

"Right poyee" was given from the front end even before my right leg was lifted to climb the backdoor. I some how got in after some "God" helped me by pulling me inside.

But the end is so terrific. You hav'nt seen them ordering "Begga..Begga..Bega jappi, Late aapundu". This "bega" starts even before the driver slows down to first gear. Before you jump, the wistle blown and the bus is gone!

You just watch the flying bus; It is your luck that you are not dead that time!
alfonso cunha, India :
Arhe Suzy:

Bale, bale poyee poyee rright. I like it. Thats Kudla. You are great.
ciao.
Amarnath Bantwal, Kuwait:
Suzy,

That took you real long to get back on track. Maybe you, like your protagonist Bus must have skidded off the road. Welcome back Suzy, been itching to read quality.

Thanks for the lovely topic, such memories they hold, the Mangalorean Buses. One could write a freaking book on them.

The foot-boarding (hanging, shoving, clinging, living, traveling, scratching, whistling, ogling, money-collecting )days.....

To the Boyz, foot-boarding like those trapeze artists in a circus was an ostentatious display of their coming of age. If there was something they stopped short of, it was thumping their chests and yodelling Oooooooo like Tarzan. I guess some even did that.. :)

It was no surprise to see small pimpled teenagers, sprouting their rudimentary moustaches, shirt buttons open in a display of male-chests that would put Salman to shame, playing lead roles in footboarding. Why they would mainly flock at the front door was anybody's guess?

Reminds me of the Grease 2 classic song...
Reproduction, let your stamen go bizzare,
Reproduction- get your pollen tube to work....
…………………..where does the Pollen go?

It was more a testosterone effect (a male hormone…for those who didn’t know ), a teenager’s stir in the groins if I may call it so.

The coordinated one handed stunts, boarding a bus after sprinting a few hundred feet, alighting in a similar manner running. This was a major adrenalin rush- an inexplicable high.

Footboarding also meant avoid paying those fifty paise (one rupee) for travel to college. You could dodge the conductor at will.... Some of the entrepreneurial kind would also collect money from passengers alighting, pocket money!
Money thus saved & earned , would promptly be handed over to the shopkeeper at Jyoti Bus stand (next to Fernandez Wines) for a Gold-flake Kings….light up, inhale and then the trek up Light House Hill from the star-board end. A thrill in itself.

Come Agnes, It was indeed a pity to see those fully made-up, nubile college going girls, (such an ordeal for some and a pleasure ride for some) elbowing their way through these young-apes-in-heat. Hormones cloud visibilty you see!

A few male elbow nudges and even an odd full palm-squeeze later they would be out of the bus.... phew! Its my lucky day, one ape would rub in his hands in glee. Jeez, if his palms were stone, they could crack a mini-fire.

This was meant to be a review, not an article in itself. Sorry Suzy! We need to see the prolific writer in action Suzy. Please don’t keep us waiting long for your next.
Shaly Pereira, Oman:
Hey Suzy….finally you woke up and gave us another one of your brilliant pieces of writing. Your ‘bussing around town’ brought back a lot of memories….some sweet (bus rides with college friends) some painful….(the shoves and the foot stamps…ouch ouch).

Now don’t go into hibernation mode again;) Here’s to more ‘backtracking’:)
Vivek Miranda, Kuwait:
Suzy, you forgot to mention the most important aspect of the journey...the exercise we get from this ride.. you get a crush massage and by the end of the journey you also get a free sauna........
Sylvia D'Souza, UAE:
Your narrative about traveling by bus in Mangalore brings back memories of our travel ( so similar in comparison) by train..… one that requires cunning, shrewdness, strategy, agility and a killer instinct. Getting into them is not simple. When rushing madly for the 8:01 train at your station, you stand metres ahead of your compartment, wait for the train approaching to slow down a bit, adrenaline builds, the heart beats faster, your eyes focused on the handle, you have that brief a moment to measure the crowds pouring in through the other door of the carriage, anticipate their movements, and optimise your choice, run and leap so that you get the seat you are gunning for or a place in the midst of your gang. A moment’s hesitation and you will find yourself still standing on the platform.
Obviously, an absolute newbie would have no knowledge of some parameters and will suffer for the rest of the journey or vow never to travel in a train in Mumbai.
Great writing Suzy, as always … look forward to your next.
Austin Prabhu, USA :
Good article Suzy!

RRRight, Poyeeeee; Ticket, Ticket!!
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