Travelling on a local bus in Mangalore is always a detestable adventure that demands a great deal of fortitude and endurance. It is an unpleasant nightmare, an extension of Lent, an unwanted annoyance, a scarecrow in a field, a penance for one’s sins, a quake in Japan, a Nazi gas chamber, David’s lamentation, Lucifer’s joy.
Those suffering from Arthritis, high/low BP, slip disc and spondylosis, who risk going into these buses will bitterly regret. They will eventually meet a Shakespearean tragedy. Blessed are those who suffer and are yet happy.
Each bus here in Mangalore has a fearful feature to display. Some buses even when overcrowded menacingly overtake other buses making one feel like a guinea pig hurriedly being taken to the slaughter house.
Drivers here have "the world is big" attitude. So every day it is a necessary risk that I have to take where I cannot guarantee my safe return home. Inside the bus, I repose my faith not on the driver but on the three pictures of God of three different religions hung at the front, hoping that anyone among the three would respond in time of calamity. To manage to get inside the bus is itself an accomplishment.
However, once I get in, inconvenience takes charge of my soul. I am pressed from all sides; my foot stamped upon. And when the conductor comes nearer he pushes me still ahead into the middle of the bus where I am caught in a rat trap.
Conductors here seem to be recruited once they pass the "how to be impolite test". My bus pass has always been a subject of contention.
One who has a bus pass brings bad omen to their earnings. They show distress by making rude statements in Tulu – a language fortunately I do not know. This happens almost daily. Sometimes I just cannot contain it. I feel like telling them at the top of my voice as to why can’t they arrange a separate bus for pass bearers. But I dare not say that. My feeling gets repressed – not good for my psyche.
Moreover, the whole bus is a serious agent of noise pollution; a fountainhead of all kinds of dreary noise. The engine roars like a hungry lion. The conductor keeps shouting and whistling without any purpose. The horns are honked consistently not only for the vehicles in front but also for the birds in the air.
The conductors can sometimes go to the other extreme. On one embarrassing occasion, my companion (a non-Indian) and I were made to get down from the bus while we were on our way home. "Your bus pass doesn’t have the time regulation seal", remarked the conductor. "Now what seal is that !!" I soliloquized. I told him that we had travelled on the same bus many times earlier and no one bothered us. He retorted, "So what! What will you do? You want to lodge a complaint? Go on", he said with an indifferent arrogance. My companion was watching all this tamasha with perplexed silence. And upon his nod, we both gracefully got down. The bus went ahead as that conductor tucked his head out to watch our reaction. My companion shot back at him pricking the air with his middle finger, as I burst into laughter.
From around 8 am in the morning till 9.30 am the buses are heavily crowded with some spirited youth dangling at the door. I am left with no other choice than to travel on any of these buses if I have to reach College on time. The buses here do not have an exit door or an entry door (even if there were, no one would have cared), but there is a door in front and one at the back. Ladies and gents both make use of both the doors to get into the bus. What concern, what flexibility!!
The conductors enjoy swimming past through the bus as their bodies generously rub against those standing at the sides. There is no regulation or a limit for the entry. The more the merrier in this case- they like it. This reminds me of the biblical bottomless pit mentioned by St John in the Book of Revelations.
I once managed to get a seat in the last row. Usually it can accommodate at least six persons. On seeing an elderly gentleman struggling to remain standing braving the jerky movement of the bus, I thought it courteous to lend my seat to him. The man was pleased with the gesture. At one particular point there was a speed breaker which the driver must have found a small hurdle to be ignored. The bus had a big jolt at the back. All the six persons who were on that row jumped off their seats in unison and landed back on them with a thud. I felt sorry for the old man, and his gratitude towards me went in vain.
Common people go by bus mainly because it is a reasonable, reliable and efficient means of transport. Those who run the bus have certainly got some moral responsibility to ensure the safety and dignity of the travellers. They are not machines; patience, tolerance, civic sense, sensitivity are the major tenets of a civilized society. Our bus operators could be more people-friendly than money- friendly, make the commuters feel more secure than scare them with their neglect and indifference. A little bit of sense and sensibility would be much better. After all, those who travel by bus are humans with flesh and blood. Let all these trouble-makers see the better side of life rather than leave it rust unburnished.
Clarence Fernandes is a student of Dept of Journalism; St Aloysius College, Mangalore.
Author: Clarence Fernandes- Mangalore