Friday, December 7, 2007

Who Dares Wins

A blast from the past, just to show that the whining about auto drivers below is no aberration. I haven't changed as far as whingeing is concerned - at least, not in the last 5 years. This is something I wrote while I was studying in Bangalore. But it sets things in perspective, doesn't it? I mean, moan as I may about my current commute, it's nothing compared to what I went through in college. But am I thankful? No, I just keep on complaining. Maybe there's a post on the hazards of driving in Pune coming along in a few months...

Oh, and the following is no exaggeration. It sounds like it is, but it isn't. It's a faithful account of my experiences of public transport in Bangalore, circa 2002. Maybe the bus service there has changed for the better now. I don't know.

Who dares wins

A cloudy Monday morning. You get out of bed, or, as is more likely, are thrown out of bed by one of your numerous "well-wishers," whose desire is to see you "succeed in life." They firmly believe that "early to bed and early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise." You argue that you're never early to bed, what with HBO having taken a firm hold of your late-night schedule. All the more reason, they say. By waking up early, you're at least doing half of what is required. So, you might end up healthy and wealthy, the "wise" part being probably too much to expect, anyway. Just the kind of early-morning humour to lighten your day. You sleep-walk your way to 8:00 AM, and then, groggily make your way to the bus stop, where you're jolted wide awake by the sight of similarly groggy thronging multitudes.

You think this is as bad as it gets. You wish. Suddenly, an expectant murmur rises in the crowd. A faint speck of blue in the horizon. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's (gasp) a BMTC bus. The bus crawls closer, the speck becomes larger, the murmur rises into a roar, and the wave of humanity surges forward. The bus picks up speed, the speck zooms, the surging wave hits a full stop. Wait a minute! What's happening here? The laws of physics state that if a bus is to stop, it slow down, not pick up speed. But this is no ordinary bus. It's a BMTC bus. Always keep that in mind. The bus stops about 100 metres from the bus stop. The great race begins. Forget the Olympics. Forget Tim Montgomery. This is where the action is. The first guy reaches the bus in 7.32 seconds flat. I suppose India would get a lot more Gold medals if they were to keep BMTC buses at the finishing line.

The end of the race marks the start of the WWF championships. You and another guy are engaged in a race for the last spot in the bus. The other guy gains a slender lead. You fight back and draw even. However, he puts in a final burst of speed to reach the steps ahead of you. But you don't give up so easily. You grab his shoulders. He turns back. You punch him in the stomach. He doubles over. You take the opportunity to knee him in the face. The final bell rings. It's a knockout.

You have earned your place in the bus. Maybe not much, but enough to shove in a few fingers and a toe. And that's how you stay for the rest of the trip. Of course, staying this way is no joke. It requires a lot of dedication, concentration, dancing skills (to avoid the trees and electric posts that try their best to separate your head from the rest of your body), and biting skills (to deal with those trying to pry your fingers loose). After what seems like eternity, the wait is over. From your precarious perch on the edge of the steps, you see the gates of Christ college. Your adventure is almost over. Except for one detail. That's getting to the side of the road in one piece. For some peculiar reason, best known to BMTC bus drivers, the buses seem to stop only in the middle of the road. Anyway, you watchfully step out of the bus. You dodge a speeding Maruti, nimbly step out of the way of a bullet-like Yamaha, and you're on the side of the road.

You're alive! You make a fast check of your body (to ensure that all parts are accounted for), and proceed on to the gates. There, you pause to think about the coming day of impositions and seedy jokes by classmates, capped, of course, by the BMTC-sponsored ride home. And you shudder. You dared, but did you win?