Buses are extraordinary modes of transportation. It’s strange, but I think I only discovered the phenomenon after moving to India. It’s not like I didn’t know they existed. I did sit on them in Dubai a few times – extremely rarely, largely because we didn’t need to (I used my parents as chauffeurs a lot). And once I remember taking a bus with my grandfather in Bangalore – to go to the Air India office to get some tickets booked or changed. We got down from one bus at a signal and hopped onto another one – all at the same signal. Not something baby Tejas imagined doing in his wildest dreams. I think I bruised my knee somewhere in that exchange. That’s actually a very generic detail because I bruised my knee a lot as a kid. So it could just be another memory floating in the way.
Anyway. Those are all my memory of buses from childhood. As a spoilt NRI kid, I chose to believe that buses were dirty and stinky. And hence, refused to use them for a long time after coming to India. I avoided a lot of dirty/stinky things, methinks. Not sure why. The convenient excuse is that the bus stop was 3km away from home, and there wasn’t really a direct route to take me anywhere till I got to the bus stop. Which was like 70 rupees. And we had a car.
The reality is that (a) I was too much of a wimp to take a bus alone (even though I could fly alone), and (b) I really didn’t want to.
So naturally, my mom pushed me to. I was going for a warm-up game to the 2011 Cricket World Cup. She bought tickets and basically shoved me onto a 335E and told me to meet a friend outside the Leela Palace. That was my first proper “omg I’m on a bus alone” moment. It really wasn’t that scary. And it was a Volvo bus. So big whoop.
The change of my life was when I started going to coaching classes, for CLAT. The classes were in Indiranagar, and usually were on weekends. We didn’t call the driver on Sundays, and sometimes mom needed the car on Saturdays. Plus, I was a more adventurous person by this time. Which meant buses galore. It took 3 buses to get there and 3 to get back. 2 if I walked about a kilometre or 2. Which I did, several times.
That was when I was introduced to the magic of buses. I have an Uncle who had told me about his bus experiences. Reading on buses, observing people, observing their conversations. Observing fights, observing conductors and how they behave. And I was amazed at how much you could accomplish while staying seated, but moving. It actually struck me as something dumbfounding – especially because I was a smartphone addict at the time. Roamed around with a BlackBerry and everything.
That first bus ride paved the path to using buses wisely. And well. Even to sleep. It’s not like I didn’t sleep on buses while going to school. But sleeping on public buses, that’s a whole new ball game. It rocks you to sleep. Gently. Without suspension.
I’ve been shuttling from Bangalore to Mangalore on buses for the past few days. Brought in my New Year by basically taking Sleeper Buses to a part of Karnataka I’ve always wanted to visit. It’s been fabulous. And each bus journey, I’ve been astounded at how someone thought of a bus. And how someone thought of adding a double decker to a bus. And then, how someone decided to put a bed, inside a bus.
And extremely comfortable.