Monday, May 07, 2007

BIKELESS IN BANGALORE




Close on the heels of the now popular Bookless in Baghdad comes a piece by aspiring but little known part-autobiographer by the name of Mr. Chang. The title of this piece has nothing in common with the best seller except for the first letters of each word of the title, Bikeless in Bangalore, the city travels and travails of a rudderless soul handicapped by the sale of his bike. This is the only chapter, and the author claims no responsibility for any torture to your senses or the waste of your time.




It now boils down to this.

Just a week left in Beloved Bangalore. A lot of work yet to be done. Dues to be cleared. Sending of the hulk size luggage package. And finally, the bike has to be sold. Once accomplished, Chang finds himself bikeless and decides to try the public transport system on his way around the city – both for the first time in four years. The first leg of the journey is easy. Buses are easily available and empty enough to park himself comfortably. He gets to the proposed area where he has someone to pick him up and take him around. The return, however, is eventful. The desired buses are not forthcoming, and an alternate route is chosen. Once at his destination, he runs helter-skelter to find his bus. All that registers is numbers blared out at him. Numbers, numbers, numbers! 19, 22, 300, 129. It goes on and on. He’s not the only one having a tough time. The locals struggle as well. The station is a picture of chaos. But he doffs his hat (!) to this system, which with all its faults can still handle the demands of India. The public transport system in Bangalore is effective. The buses are neat and clean, comfortable and connect every corner of the city. The level of efficiency is very commendable if one considers that the public transport carries more than twice to thrice its capacity at any given time of day.

Back to our protagonist, who finally boards the right bus, one of the last for the day. The conductor makes hay while the moon rises – securing more passengers than the bus can handle. The bus creaks, groans and stalls a few times. He travels, hanging on for dear life with one hand on the railing and one foot on someone else’s foot!! Half his body is in free-fall. He almost loses a shoe and the book in his hands to the bizarre situation he finds himself in and promises to work hard on his forearms to aid him in the future. The river of people is in full swell and all he can do is stand perfectly still and bide his time. And then someone casually remarks that if they are caught by cops, a fine would be forthcoming for “hanging on”. The stench of alcohol on the passengers’ breath overpowers other odors of sweat & cigarettes. Chang realizes that in the frustrating rush of everyday travel, pent up frustration and a crude sense of humor floats around freely (“You can get off at Bamboo bazaar and do seva[service] to a woman with the bamboo all night long.” “No this bus does not go to Shivajinagar. If it goes to Kashmir, will you come?”). It’s easy to get frustrated, but he appreciates the humor, however crass, as it helps the passengers drive away the monotony of daily travel.

The conductors and bus drivers in most cities use some sort of a code-system, & only they understand the true meaning of it. When the bus must stop, the driver whistles at different pitches (God knows what each one means). And when it must depart, the conductor shouts something which sounds like “Reeyah / Ray-it / Reigh” [pronunciation differing from person to person]. Chang knows it means nothing in the regional language, so he assumes it means Right!!!! Let’s go! Many a times, the dynamic bus duo of conductor & driver stop the bus for insane reasons, and to get them going the passengers imitate the conductor and shout reigh, reeyah, ray-it but to no avail. It’s as if the driver is attuned only to the voice of his partner-in-crime. Public transport truly provides an intense study of human behavior.

Finally, the bus drops him a few kms from home. He waits and waits and waits for the connecting bus. Finally, giving up, he takes an auto home, tired yet rejuvenated by the amusing experience, probably one of many to come in his stint of being Bikeless in Bangalore. He looks forward to more…….Back to our protagonist, who finally boards the right bus, one of the last for the day. The conductor makes hay while the moon rises – securing more passengers than the bus can handle. The bus creaks, groans and stalls a few times. He travels, hanging on for dear life with one hand on the railing and one foot on someone else’s foot!! Half his body is in free-fall. He almost loses a shoe and the book in his hands to the bizarre situation he finds himself in and promises to work hard on his forearms to aid him in the future. The river of people is in full swell and all he can do is stand perfectly still and bide his time. And then someone casually remarks that if they are caught by cops, a fine would be forthcoming for “hanging on”. The stench of alcohol on the passengers’ breath overpowers other odors of sweat & cigarettes. Chang realizes that in the frustrating rush of everyday travel, pent up frustration and a crude sense of humor floats around freely (“You can get off at Bamboo bazaar and do seva[service] to a woman with the bamboo all night long.” “No this bus does not go to Shivajinagar. If it goes to Kashmir, will you come?”). It’s easy to get frustrated, but he appreciates the humor, however crass, as it helps the passengers drive away the monotony of daily travel.

The conductors and bus drivers in most cities use some sort of a code-system, & only they understand the true meaning of it. When the bus must stop, the driver whistles at different pitches (God knows what each one means). And when it must depart, the conductor shouts something which sounds like “Reeyah / Ray-it / Reigh” [pronunciation differing from person to person]. Chang knows it means nothing in the regional language, so he assumes it means Right!!!! Let’s go! Many a times, the dynamic bus duo of conductor & driver stop the bus for insane reasons, and to get them going the passengers imitate the conductor and shout reigh, reeyah, ray-it but to no avail. It’s as if the driver is attuned only to the voice of his partner-in-crime. Public transport truly provides an intense study of human behavior.

Finally, the bus drops him a few kms from home. He waits and waits and waits for the connecting bus. Finally, giving up, he takes an auto home, tired yet rejuvenated by the amusing experience, probably one of many to come in his stint of being Bikeless in Bangalore. He looks forward to more…….Back to our protagonist, who finally boards the right bus, one of the last for the day. The conductor makes hay while the moon rises – securing more passengers than the bus can handle. The bus creaks, groans and stalls a few times. He travels, hanging on for dear life with one hand on the railing and one foot on someone else’s foot!! Half his body is in free-fall. He almost loses a shoe and the book in his hands to the bizarre situation he finds himself in and promises to work hard on his forearms to aid him in the future. The river of people is in full swell and all he can do is stand perfectly still and bide his time. And then someone casually remarks that if they are caught by cops, a fine would be forthcoming for “hanging on”. The stench of alcohol on the passengers’ breath overpowers other odors of sweat & cigarettes. Chang realizes that in the frustrating rush of everyday travel, pent up frustration and a crude sense of humor floats around freely (“You can get off at Bamboo bazaar and do seva[service] to a woman with the bamboo all night long.” “No this bus does not go to Shivajinagar. If it goes to Kashmir, will you come?”). It’s easy to get frustrated, but he appreciates the humor, however crass, as it helps the passengers drive away the monotony of daily travel.

The conductors and bus drivers in most cities use some sort of a code-system, & only they understand the true meaning of it. When the bus must stop, the driver whistles at different pitches (God knows what each one means). And when it must depart, the conductor shouts something which sounds like “Reeyah / Ray-it / Reigh” [pronunciation differing from person to person]. Chang knows it means nothing in the regional language, so he assumes it means Right!!!! Let’s go! Many a times, the dynamic bus duo of conductor & driver stop the bus for insane reasons, and to get them going the passengers imitate the conductor and shout reigh, reeyah, ray-it but to no avail. It’s as if the driver is attuned only to the voice of his partner-in-crime. Public transport truly provides an intense study of human behavior.

Finally, the bus drops him a few kms from home. He waits and waits and waits for the connecting bus. Finally, giving up, he takes an auto home, tired yet rejuvenated by the amusing experience, probably one of many to come in his stint of being Bikeless in Bangalore. He looks forward to more…….


[This post was drafted in March, when the author was a week away from leaving his beloved second home, Bangalore. Circumstances prevented him from posting this...until now]

15 comments:

  1. its ur first blog that i have read in full...and it so makes me feel close to home..close to india..good work..(u got it repeated halfway through though!!).
    but its still awsumm

    good on ya!!

    such a vivid description of the indian public transport systm..and from personal experience ...its exactly the same in delhi...!!!

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  2. hey...
    it starts of again after the last line 'he looks forward to more...'

    cheers
    kshitij

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  3. You write very well Chang... You can write books on simple topics and your method of writing just persuades the reader to go on and on... The real beauty here is to write on everything you see around... Very Good... Take care.. All the best

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  4. Simply superb!!!!Just amazing!Its as good as Bookless in Baghdad!!;-)..

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  5. I love the way you write about anything and yet it's nothing. I don't know if that made any sense. Anyways love reading your stuff. I wish I could meet you. You seem so sincere and humble and so talented.

    Rupal

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  6. Exam time..I'm fully tensed..Three more chapters to go and twohours left!I have to board my college bus from Sadashivnagar Police Station.I take our beloved BMTC bus from Hebbal all the way to Sadashivnagar."TICKETS!!!",he bleated invading on moments of complete surrender to a VTU approved Information Science Engineering textbook."Sadashivnagar Police station",I uttered in restless urgency of returning to the nuances of Database Management systems."Yen tapp Madideera?(What crime have you committed?)",he asked me, his teeth exposed in all their rotten glory!

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  7. Do visit karmickonnection.blogspot.com

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  8. And may i dare to add that you forgot to mention "oldaaaaaaayne"(hold on ROFL!)

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  9. Nice!Blore buses are truely a test of endurance, patience, tolerance, strength..and everything else u cud possibly think of.. :D

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  10. Mr Chang bikeless story is very ammusing.. not every one of us can put down our observations the way you did.. It made me go, ha ha ha ha ha ha...

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  11. went throught some archives.. ur a brillliant singer but an even better writer!! n lol, ur blog is probably being visited in hopes to see an update by wayy too many ppl now i think..

    hope we get to see something new up soon.. all the best with everyything!! :)

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  12. When I was in Bangalore, I didn't even try using the public transport system. The autos were cheap enough. And reading numbers in Kannada is not one of my strong points!

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  13. Hey you're back!!:)..were u forbidden to blog when u were a part of Indian Idol?

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  14. Chang!
    This piece of yours was fabulous and humorous. I laughed out loud visualizing your foot on somebody else's foot doing the balance act in the bus.
    B'lore was truly a nice place when I was a kid, but of late the traffic situation there is enough to make me forget my own name.
    Looks like you're in Bombay for good, away from your city of joy!

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  15. Anonymous4:53 AM

    I like the way you say " Reeyah / Ray-it / Reigh" ......:)))) rofl...... looks like you are a meticulous observer....... good one...:) ray it ray it.....

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