Kankanady to Kaikamba: Non stop ( till the next stop)


""Someone needs humor in this incessant rain. What with ‘folding’ umbrellas turning topsy ?turvy and those ‘grandpa’ umbrellas, a dying breed.  And your priceless face when the huge bus ploughs through the potholes and sprays slush, drainage, pig-pee and other natural substances. There is no escaping this. It all comes down to the Mangalorean monsoons.

In these times, it’s hard to find humor. Going to office is a pain. Going to fishmarket finds you nothing and you can hear people mutter ‘daala kelanjila ijji’ (not even a housefly). House tiles leak (which by the way is an excellent time to harness rain water if you have the buckets ready). Power cuts drive you outside with a newspaper in hand to blow a waft of breeze. Kids curse because they have no games period at school. That energy is conserved and translated into WWF wrestling games in the hapless beds. No there is no humor here. But there is hope. If you want humor in these Mangalorean monsoons, you should turn to the joy of bus rides. Yes. Bus rides! Not in the comfort of your Toyota Corolla or Air-Conditioned Maruti. Bus rides is what it is (enter with caution).

First of all when you enter the bus you don’t know what you will encounter i.e you have no clue of what others have brought in the bus (and what you are currently contributing). You dare not look under your knees either. Too icky to stand, you are forced to sit. And here is no joy either. First those drops from the muddy tarpaulins (intermittently coming down on your head and shoulder like Chinese torture). And by the time you have composed yourself after having wiped your seat, placed your wet umbrella in the discomfort of another, rattled a fellow passenger, and about to enjoy the ride, honey you may have already missed your stop. 

And you always wonder why the buses spend so much time waiting in Bendore. Well, who’s complaining?  When you are in college, and with those hard science lessons in your head that’s what you need  ?a real good treat (I was thinking about the Bakery guys!).

And when the hoard of colors come rushing in, and if you are caught inside –God save you. Not only are you outnumbered, if you want to avoid the stampede you got to be strong and stand your ground. Never, however make the mistake of sitting. That’s not a sign of chivalry. Being a seasoned bus passenger myself, I developed the ‘sit-stand’  position. The only caveat is that I didn’t even consider getting down at Kadri (even if my house is right there). I just wave at my house for the time being. I’m sure it will be there when I get back…i.e. after I have traveled all the way to Kaikamba and taken the same bus back. That way I make sure I have the space and time to get down! 

The ordeals of getting down a crowded bus is almost universal. I remember one day when an elderly convent sister got caught into the bus, and was struggling to get down. The conductor was in his typical hurry and had called out ‘Sister, bega jeppuley (sister get down fast). The sister replied ‘Yenchina malpuni maga. Kaar thikkudundu (what can I do son, my leg is caught). The conductors answer brought a collective giggle in the bus Sister, kaar alpaney deedh jeppuley.’ (Sister please leave your leg right there and get down).

And, talking about humor, you can’t help describe the Mangalorean conductors either. Purse in one hand searching for those jingling change, ticket voucher on the other hand with that typical finger tick of approval, and you wonder how they maintain that one legged stance when the bus flies over those potholes and meander? And look out primarily for that signature whistle (as I mentioned before, they can whistle, talk, flip the ticket, and walk at the same time). These guys can multi-task better than any IT pros.  And you wonder whether the Mangalorean whistle can be patented. That’s unique.  The Bangalore bus guy uses that boring PT whistle, right inside your ears. The Madras guy pulls that clumsy bell chain. But the Mangalorean guy. The Mangalorean guy – It’s all within him, within his realm of creativity.  In fact whistling is not just an art form here.  It’s a symbol of power — a status of covert pecking order among colleagues.

Let me try and elaborate that. The shrill soft whistle comes from the soft-spoken conductor who greets you with a smile. He is the silent workhorse. You wonder how he keeps that evergreen smile through summer, rain, and rain (that’s three seasons!).  Clearly, he is not in control of the driver who stops wherever he can to find some beetlenut.

Then comes the mega-super-duper-all-in-one whistle which means beware of this guy. He is recognized by other conductors as the alpha-male. He is the  real power behind how fast a bus should go, where the bus should stop,  and where the driver should overtake other buses.

Yet, between these two there is another breed of conductors. The whistle-less types. These guys rely entirely on eye movements. In fact you wonder whether they are even  gifted with the power of telepathy. If one bus leaves at Kadri. They will know. They will be waiting for you at Kankanady. Then it’s all about combing your passengers to their bus and waiting for the next plot. 

And then when the bus reports back to the depot, and a new driver comes in the next day, the rain starts pouring in, the buckets work, the bus sprays slush, the whistle breaks in, you fold your umbrella, the sit-stand position, the whistle breaks out, you get down, the bus sprays slush and you never know how the day had passed. 

Author: Newton Dsouza- USA