Friday, February 19, 2010

Town Bus

I have never had a good childhood or growing up. Lemme qualify that statement better. I have never had a good childhood or growing up in those specific moments when I was forced to use public transport, which is pretty much everyday. {Parents, in-laws, wife and others who missed me by a whisker can breathe a sigh of relief here}
The particularly depressing routine of having to smell un-washed tiffin boxes of construction workers, while carrying a sack of books and small adolescent cockroaches in a buttermilk-stained school bag, makes it a journey that I dont look forward to.
Palayamkottai bus stand is more like Palayamkottai bus dont stand. As experienced matadors waiting for the raging bull, we stand outside the bus stand puliyamaram (tamarind tree), keeping a ear on the co-matadors to assess the muscle power to tackle when the bus actually comes over. The leg-eye-ear coordination is put to extreme test when you have to recognize the 14, 10D or 506 route bus when it stands in the signal about 200m away and then decide when exactly to run. There are times when the bus may decide to make a drastic 90 degree spin and get into the bus stand or decide to move straight ahead and stop exactly 10m after where a normal human's endurance will fail him.
The trick is to make totally indifferent acts of bodily movements like nondifying the ear or nose, doing a soil survey etc to signal the driver that we are not interested in him (which makes him complacent and drive into the bus stand). Then comes the part of brutal display of muscle power. For kids like me, the school bag more than made up for the muscle power we lacked. It also needed an attached detachment to not get excited about the free space inside the bus. At the same time its also important to not stay so close to the foot board that a policeman can aim at your butt.
I've never had lofty goals like window seats. I infact would stay close to the precious real estate where the steps begin. Its easy to look like a civic activist and do a jarugandi to the incoming gladiators than go inside the bus and sandwiched between a drunk wife beater and a sweaty plumber. Its also time for extreme caution as sharp objects are generally let free to find their own space relative to the surrounding body parts in motion. Its your prerogative to get vasectomy done with an unsurgical precision or save your apparatus for future productive purposes.
It was also a cardinal rule that you dont talk to a man next to you before taking a few clandestine breath tests. There is no permissible levels of alcohol for town bus travellers. Its often an acceptable level as long as they dont urinate or puke on you, both of which had happened to other co-passengers.
Superior coordination, brute power, strategic positioning, relative motion and caution - I had them all. Instead of being a high school basket ball pro in the naiiited staits, the town bus was my playground. Now read the opening line of this post.
There were also days when I had to endure extreme agony and financial uncertainties of not getting the change back for the Rs.5 or Rs.10 note I gave to the conductor. The distance of the conductor from you is always inversely proportional to the distance between the bus and your stop. In a split second, while hoping through those sharp objects, drunk men, smelling construction workers and negotiating an unconditional release of the school bag from the victim of its impact, I had to decide whether to get down the bus and ask for the change or move towards the conductor and pray that he doesnt blow the whistle as I approach him.
With hunger clutching the already dry walls of the stomach, legs that beg for a hastened retirement and shoulders that grow numb after waging a war to gain my attention in the midst of competing agonies, the journey is hardly that. It was just an excruciating passage in hell that repeated everyday.
In the life that is another town bus to another destination, the endurance travels along.

4 of my fans were here!:

Anonymous said...

well written post! :) try writing it in tamil! :) though i donno to read tamil!

Sriram on 5:29 AM said...

awesome post! lol.

this post reminded me of my travels in 21D in the great Pallavan bus with its grumpy conductor. it probly wasnt as dramatic as palayamkottai bus. but, nearly there.

Sriram on 5:31 AM said...

btw...i've blogrolled you.

Jan on 10:58 AM said...

wow! brought back memories of my PMT bus rides and the 10 min walk thru the public restroom to get to the bus stand! ah those days!


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