Travelling in a DTC can be a mixed experience. And for amateurs (read first year college students) like me, who are just learning the tricks and nuances of hanging on and surviving every ride on saddi Dilli’s state transport, every ride is a new lesson. And very much like our erstwhile school lessons, some are easy, some tough and some are learnt the hard way.
While handling leering, wannabe eve teasers and breathing in the midst of a sweating sea of humanity in an oven of a bus on a sweltering summer afternoon come in the “hard lessons” category, some are quite funny and sometimes even manage to brighten your day, even if it is just until the next bus ride.
Sample this. One routine morning, after many trials and tribulations, I managed to get a seat - a very coveted possession, considering the crowd in the bus- just in front of the conductor’s. Now the conductor, in any bus, is literally its ‘lifeline’. Not only does he have to patiently answer the numerous queries regarding the stops that the bus would make, he also has to dole out tickets to the impatient and seemingly endless number of hands holding out change. All the while, of course, asking the people to clear the doorway and shouting at them if they don’t budge (which, in most cases, they don’t).
So coming back to where I was, in the seat in front of the conductor’s, I was idly listening to conversations going on around me, including the man in question. As the bus was slowing down in front of a stop but hadn’t quite stopped, I noticed a girl running at full speed, apparently desperate to catch the bus at any cost. But it turned out that I wasn’t the only one watching her - just as the bus began to move again, the conductor shouted “zara ruk ke chaliyega, ladki bahut daud laga rahi hai (Drive slow; the girl is trying hard to make it to the bus).”
The driver complied and soon enough, the girl, breathless but with a triumphant look, got on.
I almost gave the conductor a pat on the back for his little act of kindness.
The bus soon moved on and the crowd inside kept getting larger, with people literally hanging, when suddenly, we heard a cry from a woman who had just alighted. Her daughter had apparently fallen out, or rather, been pushed out by the eager stream of people wanting to get in. As the bus started again, the conductor said, “Will you all please stop hanging out? Didn’t you see, bechaari ladki gir gayi (the poor girl fell off)?”
A little while later I learnt that our conductor had, besides kindness, a streak of humour too.
Wanting a ticket, a man said, “Ek ticket dena tau (Give a ticket, uncle).” Our man's reply, “Abhi deta hoon tau. Kitne ka tau (Just a moment, ‘dude’)?”
I could barely suppress a smile.
As the bus moved on, the conductor kept telling people to get in and not crowd the doors. He said to a guy, “Beta, there’s lots of space inside. Why don’t you go in?” The ‘beta’ said, “Uncle, bus adde (ISBT) utharna hai (I will get down at ISBT)”. ‘Uncle’ retorted, “Beta, sabko wahi utharna hai. Ye log Ganga snaan karne nahi jaa rahe (Son, all will get down there. They are not going for a holy dip in the Ganga).”
A laugh broke out among the crowd and as we had finally reached ISBT, I got out with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
Sruthi Ramakrishnan can be reached at email@example.com .
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