“Ellam software gumbal…”, (must be all the ‘software’ people), remarked my father, who had come to drop me off at the bus station. probably so. it was about 5 o’clock, on an early monday morning. the crowd, peppered with a good number of youngsters, would most probably be those fortunate to have received good education and now enjoying the fruits of the IT boom. in short, software professionals. all returning to work to madras after having spent their weekends in pondicherry. i was one of them too, getting back to work that monday. only, i am not a software professional!
i had, thankfully, taken the trouble of going to the bus stand the previous day and got myself a reservation, so i had no problem in finding my bus and getting a place to sit. the guy next to me. i can’t make assumptions, but with the way he kept looking at his wrist watch every 30 seconds or so (no exaggeration) and the way he was dressed, my guess is that in all probability our man was another one of them. software guys, i mean.
when the bus starts off, he is grumbling, saying how they cud afford to start earlier then the scheduled time. i check my watch and think the time is quite alright and so politely ask him to check his time. then, it just had to happen. his phone starts buzzing. he starts talking and apologising to someone and i realise he is talking to his friend or someone who had missed the bus.”Its horrible da…damn crowded…sheesh…thank god u missed the bus“, he says. at that point there about 10 standees, no more. usually a rarity, and whats more, a luxury for a monday morning bus, or for that matter, any bus in our country.
and then, his phone conversation over, he continues mumbling something (“tch..tch..”) and looks around scornfully. i’m beginning to wonder if the guys is maybe brought up in some far away affluent country in the west. “why do these damn people crowd the bus?”, he asks. judging by his very south indian accent, i’m quite sure he isn’t. brought up abroad, i mean. grossly over populated, and under resourced at the same time, public transport is no way close to meeting the demands here. and thats the way it is, like it or not. wish i cud tell him all this, and also request him to stop behaving like a smut, born-with-a-silverspoon snob. this in spite of he himself having comfortably having found a seat for himself. imagine the people – men, women, children, even oldies – who have to travel standing. worse still, the people in states like rajasthan, UP, bihar who have to travel even on the roof of the bus (might sound exciting, if u r adventurous, but it is also mighty hazardous, if u hadn’t guessed by now) he seems far from being interested in listening though…busy wallowing in self pity or agony or whatever.
“mind if u close the window?”. common request. the people down south can’t take a lil cool breeze, even in the summer. i’m used to it (both leaving the window open, even if it is winter, coz i love it that way. and the my co passengers usually asking me to shut it!), so i quietly comply. in a few minutes, he sleeps. and sleeps like a log. blissfully unaware of the crowd that slowly increases as we pass by various points, picking up more passengers. in an hour or so, the bus is packed. really, really packed. so we have to start passing money to the conductor, who is at the rear end of the bus, in a collective effort to buy tickets for all passengers. so i spend the next half hour or so, passing money from passengers to the conductor, and collecting the change and ticket and passing it back to the passengers, back and forth and back and forth. my arms start hurting, and just when i decided to stop, the show stops, as it seems everybody has got their tickets.
the crowd also starts getting off at various points beginning at the outskirts of madras. a while later, our man wakes up, picks up his bags, and walks to the door while the bus halts at one particular stop. quite a few people get off here, the stop being an important one, but this guy doesn’t. and then, a few minutes later, i hear him screaming at the conductor – apparently for not stopping at the exact spot(not a stop, mind u) where his highness wanted to get off.
u get them, in all kinds, all variations, don’t u?!?
PS: i don’t like generalisations. and as a habit, i don’t generalise. so if u’re thinking this is a dig at all the IT guys, it is. for once, i sure am generalising. with due apologies, of course 🙂