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Intercity buses: India versus US!

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The United States of America has a fairly widespread and established intercity bus industry. Freeways of the US established intercity buses has a preferred mode of transport for people who cannot afford to fly. Railways, or Railroads as they call it in the US, is often an option that is not considered a first-choice for many - AMTRAK is famous for its delays, and is considered "slow". Operators in the US are licensed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) of the US government, and operate legally by providing tickets. India, on the other hand, has a fledgling highway network. Four-laning of National Highways, and development of access-controlled expressways are progressing in many areas of the country. The Golden Quadrilateral highway network moved a lot of passengers from trains to buses. A characteristic difference of the Indian railway network is that, the railway network developed much before the highway network. Although the Indian Railway network is by no means '…

The First Time: A Visa interview!

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Sometime in the end of 2010, or could be early 2011:I was busy searching my passport at home - I remember I had taken it last to a travel agency to enquire about the procedure for an address change. The cute blue booklet was missing - I was anxious. I searched everywhere it could have been to - couldn't find it anywhere! Finally, I head to the police station to find out the procedure to file for a duplicate passport. The Civil Police Officer at the police station threw me a question, that still rings in my ears - "Have you never been to 'Gelf'?" (Gelf = Gulf = the Middle east).Yes! Being a malayalee that too from the 'Gelf' belt in Thrissur district, its impossible to find someone who hasn't been to 'Gelf' (Pun, obviously, intended!) - I am one of those few who hasn't ever traveled to the 'Gelf'. My passport didn't have a single visa on it! The Police officer explained the procedure to get a duplicate passport - I did that, and…

The First Time: A long train journey!

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Train travels were always rare in my childhood. It was always easier to take the bus to travel to our hometown from Coimbatore where we were based at that time. The only time we took trains were during those rare visits to Kasaragod to visit relatives, and a journey to Chennai (Madras, those days) for some sightseeing. However, trains were always fascinating. My kindergarten school was along the railway line in Coimbatore - it was always fun watching trains rolling by. That said, I was afraid of a locomotive coming close to me - my memories of watching the noisy and smoke spewing locomotive passing by always has me closing my ears tight. I have one fond memory of traveling from Coimbatore to Kasaragod in General Class sitting compartment, by Mangala Express, which operated from Delhi to Mangalore those days (before Konkan Railway was commissioned). That journey was in a coach that was second from the engine - so I was kind of exposed to the sound of the locomotive for close to 8 hours…

The First Time: Travel in First AC of Indian Railways!

Indian railways is an emotion for every traveller in India. Your love for train travels increase as much as you want to hate it. Although buses took over to being the option of choice for the younger generation and the frequent traveller population, trains continue to be the lifeline of the country. With complete electrification and doubling happening at brisk pace, the Indian Railways is doing its best to regain the ground it lost to the roadways. 
Back in the mid 2000s, when buses hadn't completely taken over long distance travel, and trains had their own mad fan following, long journeys inevitably meant taking the train. Train tickets were always difficult to get and the railways had a very unique tatkal scheme, where you had to pay ticket fare for the entire journey, irrespective of the distance you actually travel, along with a tatkal premium.
In mid 2006, my dad and I had to travel urgently from Mumbai to Bangalore. Flights were prohibitively expensive and buses weren't an…

COVID-19: How it changes the way we travel?

The COVID-19 pandemic hit India harder than we all expected. It was towards the end of February that India saw heightened precautions against possible spread of COVID-19 in our country. By early March, governments had started implementing precautionary measures even in domestic travel. Sometime in the second week of March, the numbers began rising, and panic started to set in. Towards the end of March, we went in to a prolonged lockdown, which hasn't been completely reversed yet. It isn't time yet to reverse the lockdown, or travel! 
How would this change the way we travel?
People say wearing the mask would be the "new normal" - but would that be? Has anyone fancied wearing the mask while you go to sleep, for over 8 hours when you travel, and eating food when its break time. 
People say social distancing would be the "new normal" - Social what? Is it really feasible for a country of 1.3 Billion people to actually practice social distancing? Try to think of Mum…

The evolution of bus travels in India - Part-3

The City Bus!
Urban transportation is a hot topic across the globe. An efficient urban transportation system plays a very important route in reducing pollution and maintaining efficiency of a City! Urban Transportation has not been something that governments in India ever focused on. Urban Transportation could be handled by trains or buses - Mumbai, the financial capital of India, has a super efficient, terribly overburdened suburban railway system which plays a very important role in moving people in the city that never sleeps. 
Buses are a very important component of City transportation - they have the unique ability of being a mass transporter, and also provide "close-to-last" mile connectivity. While a metro train or a suburban train wouldn't get you as close to your doorstep as possible (unless you stay right outside the station), buses are often able to do that. In my definition, a bus stop less than 500 metres from your door-step could be considered a "close-t…

The evolution of bus travels in India - Part-2

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Buses and bus travels have come a very long way in India. From what was one predominantly a feeder mode of transportation, or a primary mode of transportation even for long distance journeys, there has been a metamorphosis in the road transport industry. Powerful luxury buses, combined with rapidly progressing highway works has just been the booster this industry needed. In the earlier part of this multi-part series on evolution of bus travels in India, I had discussed about the way the buses changed in the country. The last two decades has been very happening in the country.

Before I begin this part, I must retrace the memories of long distance buses to the period before the last two decades. My daily spotting every single day in the 1999-2000 period were those long distance buses that operated daily trips from Mumbai to Mangalore - buses of CPC, Ballal, etc. These buses took 24 hours to cover the distance from Mumbai to Mangalore - they carried huge amounts of cargo on their roof a…