On the humble AC bus yet again....
The weekend vacation at home was counting down to a close. The weather was hot and unbearably humid over the day, and it was pouring during late evenings. As the hot afternoon was getting towards a close, it was time for me to pack up for my return journey. There was loads of goodies to be taken to Bangalore and that ensured that I had a very heavy baggage this time around too. The packing was over by about 1700. I remembered to pack a bedsheet too, this time. I left home at around 1755 on a tired looking autorickshaw.
Just as we reached Kodungallur Private Bus station (See it on Google earth, here), a Thrissur bound bus pulled out. I still had a long time for my bus, and I did not bother to run behind that bus. Very soon, a colourful bus pulled over to the platform for departure. The conductor-cum-cleaner was already shouting at the top of his voice, announcing the destination and the fact that it was a Limited Stop service. I got into the bus and took a seat on the last row - for the fact that I had lots of baggage to be stowed under my seat.
The bus left about 5 minutes later, only to stop outside the bus station for another 5 minutes. The conductor was personally meeting each person standing at the bus staiton and persuading them to get into the bus - which was now brightly lit up, with a lamps emitting all colours but white. After many rounds of persuation, some people got in and the bus slowly crawled towards its destination. The driver kept his cools for the first 4 kilometres (to ensure that the conductor could collect fares from all passengers). A while after that, the driver resorted to driving F1 style!
I wonder why we need people to be trained on F1 - give the seat to private bus drivers and they would surely put Schumachers to shame. These guys manoeuvre these fully laden buses through narrow roads - often just adequate for two parallel vehicles - at 70-75kmph! Each of my journey on these buses are not complete without long prayers to God, to just help me reach my destination in one piece. We made the customary halt at Irinjalakuda bus station and continued the hair-raising, nail-biting run towards Thrissur. The destination was still about 12 kilometres away. Thunders were now appearing across the horizon and there were growing signs of a downpour.
I was worried for two reasons - I was sitting at the rear door, which does not have a window and I had lots of luggage to tug to the bus station. As my levels of apprehensions grew, the sky decided to open up and it started raining - albeit at a slight pace. The driver continued his heroics on the road, as we zipped closer to Thrissur. The conductor by now started announcing at every bus stop that the bus would terminate at Vadakke Stand (Thrissur North Bus Station) and would not go to Sakthan Stand (the normal bus station). I quickly confirmed if the bus would go to my destination, and the conductor responded affirmative.
We were now closer to my destination, while the rain strengthened up. The bus stopped at Chettiyangandi (The bus stop closest to KSRTC Bus Station and the Railway station) as the rain slowed down. I pulled out my baggage, and now the conductor joked if I was carrying baggage for a year... I joked back saying yes! I first thought to wait until the rain stops - then decided to brave the rain. It was drizzling now and I had to walk briskly with all the baggage with me. The weight was too unbearable and rain was making me sick. With luggage in both hands, holding an umbrella was ruled out.
I somehow made it to the bus station and parked my baggage near the point where my bus would come. One AC bus was parked there, and that was RR212 (KL15/6410). The bus was working the 2000 schedule to Bangalore. I quickly confirmed that the bus wasn't mine. The bus station was leaking, and water was dripping down the roof at many places. Being a Sunday, the crowd was heavy and there was no space to walk around. The AC bus went, and the place was quickly taken over by a Karnataka Volvo (Airavat). The bus was scheduled to leave Thrissur at 1930 itself. The bus picked up about 25 passengers from there.
The KSRTC Super Deluxe to Bangalore too was parked nearby. The bus was almost full. The PA system was continously announcing that a particular passenger was yet to board and he was asked to get on board immediately. A while past 2035, my bus was brought in. The bus was KL15/6412 (RR214) of Thrissur Depot. I was slightly depressed on seeing this bus, since I had an earlier journey in this bus and was not very impressed by it. The driver kept the engine on during the period, but did not open the door. The conductor was yet to arrive with the charts and he waited till the conductor was around.
The bus at Madiwala, after I got down....
Soon the conductor arrived and the door was opened. I requested the driver to open the luggage compartment, and he quickly responded. I left the luggage inside and then went to get a cold drink. By now most passengers had completed boarding. I joined the queue, and quickly go it. An elderly gentleman was my co-passenger and he sat all covered in a good shawl. The Airconditioner was yet to be switched on. It was still raining outside. The conductor came in and announced that we wouldn't be stopping for a considerable time, people should use the restroom before the bus started.
The AC was switched on at 2050, and the bus slowly backed out at 2100. We left the bus station at 2103. Immediately, water started leaking out of the AC unit - the blower unit located overhead. Passengers complained and the conductor quickly came around to check. He said that a leakage was reported to the depot, and they hadn't fixed it. Some commuters were infuriated and they argued with the conductor. The conductor insisted on the passengers filing a complaint and one passenger called up the KSRTC Control Room. The matter was not resolved, and the leakage stopped as soon as the rain stopped.
The bus was not very fast and the run was only average for the initial hour. I was worried if it would arrive in Bangalore on time the next morning. My worries were dispelled soon enough. The driver put up a very nice show, that saw us cross Palakkad By-pass at 2221 itself. We entered the Coimbatore by-pass road at 2300 itself. I dozed off as the good run continued. As I woke up, I noticed that the bus was now slowly pulling up the ever-familiar Hotel Plaza at Perumanallur. The time was now 0015. I got down for a leak and had some light refreshment. The crew got back at 0025 itself, and we started off at 0030! That was an impressive 15 minute break!!!
I was awake for a while, until we crossed an underconstruction toll-gate. I dozed off immediate after that. I woke up sometime at 0330, when we were around Krishnagiri. The bus was now crawling due to slow moving traffic ahead. To make matters worse, we were trailing a TNSTC bus, that was crawling literally. A long line of buses overtook us on the left, including the Trivandrum-Bangalore Kerala SRTC Volvo. My driver lost the momentum that he keeping this long, and this led to a lot of time loss.
There was pretty heavy traffic around Hosur, and this increased our delay heavily. The run was pretty painful around Hosur. The driver picked speed soon after we crossed Hosur Flyover. The run till we reached Attibelle was fine, but the road condition around Attibelle was too bad for the driver to maintain speed. Another crawl ensued. We crossed Electronic City at around 0525. The run ahead was not very fast. We made a couple of halts to allow some passenger alight. Finally, the bus crawled past Bommanahalli at around 0540. The bus stopped at Silk Board fly-over, and then continued forward. I was at the door as we approached Madiwala.
The approach was very interesting, with autoguys waving at the driver to stop near them. Finally, the driver chose one particular location - right outside the BBMP office at Madivala. The drivers crowded around the door even before it opened. I was the first 'victim' to get down and about a dozen auto-drivers crowded around me - like how flies cover a piece of sweet. They offered to take me to any corner of the world in their rusty-trusty blank-and-yellow contraption that make more sound than a train's horn, emits more smoke than a coal-fired engine and has a meter that runs faster than a supersonic aircraft. I somehow managed to dodge them and head towards the luggage compartment to unload my baggage.
I had left one carton in a soggy condition the previous night, and was scared of it would still remain in one piece at the end of the ride. The conductor opened the compartment door and I was happy to see my luggage still in intact condition. I pulled them out. One seeing baggage, another dozen rickshaw drivers were hovering around to see if I would succumb to their pressure. I politely declined, and continued waiting for my pick-up. In the meantime, a couple of KSRTC Airavat Volvos, about half a dozen KSRTC Rajahamsas, about three KPN Air-buses and a Kallada B9R went through. My brother arrived soon, and I loaded my baggage into the car and headed home. I was home by 0615, ending a quick weekend trip.
As I hit publish to this post, the tickets for my next trip has been reserved... wait for more info on that very soon :)