Sunday, 17 July 2016

Ship of the masses

               I  have always wondered why some people spend all their lives in the same city. I now know why: who better to show newbies-in-town their way? Especially in Chennai, where over 50% of those dependent on public transport have no clue themselves? So, every time I leave home with a fistful of change, it is at the mercy of these Good Samaritans with 'pole star'ring for a hobby.

               As someone solely dependent on public (more specifically, state - run; even more specifically, the four - wheeled ones) transport to commute, I'd beat expectant mothers to it, as regards anxiety. I squint incessantly, to make out the bus number (okay, alpha - numeric sometimes), when it is still at a distance. For the uninitiated, there are three prominent breeds: white (least expensive), orange (most expensive, but, incidentally, the most inconvenient, as the seats are located at 8848 metres above sea level. Every 40+ commuter will agree that the exaggeration is justified.) and blue/ green (priced somewhere between white and orange). But impatience prevails over thrift; I am no longer 'breed' - sensitive.
               The first tour in a particular route is the most exciting. It is my version of Baby's Day Out. I grin as the landmarks on Google Maps come live.

               I marvel at the retentive memory of the khakhi - clad, mobile calculator cum Google Maps cum equilibrist gentleman (sometimes not quite gentle, seldom not a man) sporting a Mai Ogi made of dirty currency notes.

               Given my pathetic sense of direction and an even worse understanding of landmarks (Apparently, Cafe Coffee Day, HDFC bank, Nilgiris and the house with a shoe - flower plant aren't specific enough to qualify as landmarks. I would still argue that Cafe Coffee day, HDFC, Nilgiris AND a bus stop in close vicinity can ONLY point to Foreshore Estate.), I've lost count of the number of times I missed the stop or boarded the wrong bus or both in immediate succession. But I have my excuses: 1) a place doesn't look the same twelve hours apart; 2) each sex is exposed to only one side of the road - left or right (and I'm usually squeezed to pulp when I get the chance to look at the other side of the same road - on my way back home). It was quite an 'aha' moment when I realized I had to look for terminus names and not just the bus number, before boarding.

               So much for the most affordable means to tour the city.


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