BUS BHI KARO

Every morning, I wait for a big red monster to swallow me whole.

Not to worry. It costs four bucks only.

A bus journey at some point in my day is as certain as death, taxes and my missing the 8.52 CST from Andheri Station. Birthdates, anniversaries and deadlines are numbers less important to me than 238, 242, 254 and 268. Fearsome, frustrating, happening and heart-warming, I love to call them the Great Indian Bus-tards.

Queues are quixotic. As we Mumbaikars do not consider ourselves idiots, we never form them. When we do, we induct our relatives, friends, colleagues and their uncles into the already long kataar with a sheepish smile and a look that pleads for understanding.

Chivalry isn’t dead. It has been flogged back to life by sinister matrons who mumble under their breaths about the degeneracy of youth till you ashamedly vacate your seat and feel guilty about wanting to rest your legs after a hard day’s work.

Sit on the seat for the elderly and you will be informed about your lack of consideration and respect. Sit on the seat for the ladies and you will be enlightened about your roguish appearance and excuse for an upbringing. Sit on the last seat at the back and you will be made aware of the exact number of bones in your body.

Two people can comfortably stand next to each other in the aisle. This occurs in urban utopia. The gangway is usually three to four bodies thick, with chins resting on convenient shoulders and noses buried in inconvenient armpits. It’s okay to confuse your feet with someone else’s and perfectly alright to turn to your side and find yourself face-to-flab with Pammi Aunty’s heaving six-pack. A hand under your crotch is a co-passenger providing unsolicited support and a pinch on your posterior is a gentle squeeze of understanding. Only one man understands this madness – The Conductor.

He wriggles through the most crowded aisles and never steps on anyone’s foot. He can navigate past Aunty’s magnificent presence without having her scream grope. Between ejecting misguided standees, giving directions, disbursing change and roaring for room in Lilliput, he also sells tickets.

You get all kinds in a bus. Working mothers headed for office with a tiffin and a tired look. Harried blue-collars sweating under their vests on the way to their next job. A gaggle of schoolchildren chattering incessantly on the way home. Young teenage girls combing their hair and talking about young teenage guys. The young teenage guys watching the young teenage girls comb their hair. I once sat next to a twenty-something loudly breaking up with her boyfriend over the phone. She broke down. We were all surprised the bus didn’t.

I can’t do without buses nor do I wish I could do without them. They make me smile and feel a part of this city. There’s nothing I would change about their many faults either.

It’s BEST to adjust.

* * *

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7 thoughts on “BUS BHI KARO

  1. your last line sums it up well. there were some good routes in the old days which are now extinct. 1 ltd trailer bus from mahim and passing thru shivaji park; 123 double decker from tardeo to colaba via chowpatty, 253 double decker from goregaon to juhu, 231 double decker from juhu to santa cruz. they were great fun

  2. great read mrigank !!! once again reminded me of bombay. yes yes, i still prefer calling it bombay. i feel i am more of a bombaywala than a mumbaikar ;).
    for me the most memorable bus wud be the double decker 201, from goregaon to bandra, used its services to travel from irla bridge to s’cruz police station for 5 yrs of my college life. later on new services were started in that route, 34 and 422. of course did not go thru situations as in your blog.

    • Great read Mrigank! It took me six decades back when I used to travel by BEST bus. You got jostled, pushed, nudged and what not then too. Still it was great fun. Koi bhi bus nahi kar sakta bhai… Mumbai ki lifeline jo hai.

  3. Truly Mrigank… Curse them… spite them… like them.. Can’t tell you how much I miss the BEST buses too these days …… I still make it a point to travel in them even its for short distances as often as i can (Which frankly is few & far between)… Without doubt they are one of the lifelines of this city & very much part of the landscape….like you ended its BEST to adjust with them…. Enjoyed the piece…. Keep writing… Ram

  4. enjoyed the thoughts and reminded me of good old college days in Bombay…….253 packed with teens cursing profs, planning lecture bunking….. canteen visits….. also annual south mumbai visit in open buses, my idea of fun vacation with cousins to kamala nehru park, the museum, fashion street……. nice as always

  5. I love this post. You have such a fresh, interesting voice, and a unique point of view. I have a handful of friends from Mumbai, and I’ll be sure to point them to your blog–I think it will help them to feel less homesick. 🙂

    Best of luck, keep writing, and thanks for stopping by 36×37 yesterday! I very much look forward to reading more of your work.

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