(This article was written ten years ago. See this post for an explanation)
Weather, they say is a universal topic, meaning, you could start a conversation with a perfect stranger by commenting on how hot Chennai is (which it was pretty much all the time). In the same way, here at HVF estate, you could start a conversation by just commenting on the bus service. All you need to say is, “Oh, this 65 B. It is never on time”, and you’ll find everyone around agreeing with you and you’ll even find a new friend. Thanks to the 65B my list of friends includes a teacher (whom I befriended during her B.Ed. days), a watchman from a neighboring college hostel, a couple of college students and people from different walks of life. This conversation that builds on the bus service sort of binds people together – people completely understand your plight and there is mutual sympathy between the people involved.
It is not that there aren’t enough buses on the route. On the contrary there are many, but then they go about either in pairs or in bunches. I have sometimes seen five to six buses go one behind the other in quick succession in a direction with not a single one to ply in the other direction for a solid two hours. Naturally in the seventh bus there would hardly be one or two passengers besides the driver and the conductor. Some people after waiting for some time at the bus stop start on a long walk to Avadi Circle. I confess that I really admire such strong willed people.
I, for one, can never bring myself to walk like that. Sometimes, I plan to start walking after waiting for ten minutes. But once the ten minutes is up I fear that the bus would come any moment and wait for about half an hour. After waiting for half an hour, I say to myself that a few more minutes of waiting would do me no harm and then I end up waiting for more than one and half hours. Once I decided to give walking a try – I congratulated myself on being strong willed and started marching towards Avadi Circle registering determination in every step. Of course, every now and then I would turn around to see if the bus was coming. When I was just about to turn around a bend, I was silly enough to look back and guess what, found the bus at the bus stop. That was it for me. I never again tried to do this walking to Avadi circle thing.
If you go through all this trouble and finally do manage to board the 65B you are in for a rude shock. You must see the condition of the bus to believe it. You see an array or metal frames for seats, some seats luckily do not have the back alone - you could sit but you couldn’t lean. If you had the misfortune to sit in a seat with the back intact you will invariably find a permanent brown coating added to the back of your shirt – this is because the transport crew believes that since the bus is public property, it is for the public to wipe the seats clean.
I once was witness to this amusing incident in the 65B: two passengers were sitting on a seat and when one of them got off at his destination, the seat tilted and the other passenger just fell. The latter – with the typical tolerance that one waiting for this bus service develops – got up, dusted his pants and then carefully sat in the middle of the delicate seat! Obviously the seat required two people of equal weight to balance themselves properly on the perch. And, should one of them get off, the other is required to have enough sense to move carefully to the middle of the seat.
If one starts worrying about the frequency of the bus service it would make one’s life miserable. What’ more, one’s BP would shoot up. How then do we cope with this inconvenience? Here is my solution: all you need to do is, instead of thinking that you are waiting for the 65B, suggest to yourself that you have come out of your house to enjoy a breath of fresh air and if you sincerely believe that you are enjoying yourself you will have a good time. G. K. Chesterton, the noted essayist, once said, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.” By taking such a view, I’m sure that you will not find waiting for and commuting by 65B a frustrating experience.