Not a good day... perhaps!

Oh! Don't get mistaken - the title is not related to me... but someone else. At the end of a very interesting day at college, I was on my way back home. Instead of waiting at my normal bus stop, I was at a different stop today. I stood at the stop determined to get into the first bus towards my place - but that wasn't the realty. The first bus to arrive was TP415 of Guruvayur Garage - this was the bus I took yesterday. Yesterday, I got a seat as soon as I got in - but today, the bus was full, with passengers standing on the steps as well. I decided to skip this bus, and wait for the next.

The next to arrive was TP942 of Ernakulam. I jumped up in glee seeing this bus - since that was a Leyland! I am a die-hard fan of Leyland, and never miss opportunities to travel on KSRTC Leyland buses. I usually get into a bus if its a Leyland, irrespective of the crowd inside. Today was no different. The bus came close, and stopped right where I stood. I got into the bus, and was greeted with lots of empty seats. I chose one on the second row of the bus, diagonally behind the driver. This bus had a peculiar gear-transmission 'rod' - a very short one, which appeared to be hindering the driver's leg movement at times.

The bus seemed too tired - and overworked. There was a slight leak in the Exhaust, and this caused too much of noise to pilfer from the engine compartment. The bus was at its best, and handled in true Leyland style. I admired the comfort that the power-assisted steering gave to the driver, and he handled curves by turning the steering just slowly and slightly. I got the front seat just about 10 minutes into the journey. This seat was amazingly comfortable, and very airy. I was left admiring the driver's style, and he had good control on his bus despite the decent speed he was driving at.

Soon we reached Parur sub-depot. The bus that I had left, was just ahead of us, and hence the crew decided to wait at the depot till the other bus went sufficiently ahead. In the meantime, the conductor went to get the "crossing" time noted on the way-bill and the driver went for a leak. Just around this time, another bus (IIRC, this was RT97 of Parur depot) pulled up and parked parallel to my bus, on the right side. I couldn't read the destination board of this bus, but going by the crowd, I guess it was heading to Ernakulam. The driver came back from the restroom, and went to meet the conductor, who was now just coming out of the controllers' office.

In the spirit of talking, the driver of my bus walked straight to RT97, and almost got into the drivers' seat. He was perhaps surprised to see a TATA engine box instead, and jumped out of the bus in embarrassment - only to see an ear-to-ear smile on the conductor's face. The driver looked around, and then got into the bus as if nothing had happened. The driver sat at his seat, without turning around or looking at anyone - he was too embarrassed at that. We were back on track very soon, and this time the driver managed amazing speeds. About 15 minutes after the first embarrassment, we reached a place called Andippillykkavu. The driver was now desperate to drink some water.

He reached the water bottle with great difficulty - the bottle was on the dash, but was lying at the farthest corner. He just opened the bottle as the conductor signalled to move. Usually drivers finish drinking before they start - but our overenthusiastic driver decided to be multi-faceted. He pushed the gear rod forward (The first gear is forward) and released the clutch. But, Lo!, the bus jumped backward! The driver of a car that was just behind our bus shouted out. The driver once again looked embarrassed, looked around, and changed gears as if nothing had happened. The driver had erroneously engaged the reverse gear (which is parallel to first gear) instead of first gear. Had the car behind us been too close, the bus would've damaged it.

The driver was having a bad day, perhaps! He was completely embarrassed after this incident, and decided to not try heroics anymore. He threw the water-bottle back to the dash, pushed the gear rod forward once again, and started off. He drove with utmost caution after this, and that was perhaps once of the best I've experienced in life!

KSRTC Rocks!!! So do their drivers!!! Kerala boasts of, perhaps, the narrowest highways in India. Given the size of our highways - that also boasts of a surface that would put even moon to shame - these drivers to an amazing feat of getting these red-monsters on time to their destination. These very red-monsters are often praised as the "official population control mechanism for the state of Kerala" - for the sheer number of accidents that they were once famous for. KSRTC has undergone a sea of change, and is now more passenger oriented. Crew behave in a much more decent manner, and buses are more reliable. KSRTC has grown in a sea of terror for private bus operators, with passengers changing their loyalties to KSRTC from the scary private buses. KSRTC has just promised to unleash more terror at Private operators (Read as: KSRTC is introducing services on more Private stronghold routes). Waiting for the day when KSRTC gets back to the black, and grows into one of best transport houses in India. (Am I day dreaming???)

Comments

Santosh Nair said…
Maybe if the staff was not so highly unionised, KSRTC would easily have ranked as the best fleet in the country. One can't but help admire the drivers' skill, as you rightly pointed, in getting the buses to their destination on times. Wonder why there are not too many Volvo buses after Ganesh Kumar's exit
Zebby Chewbacka said…
Hmm..Agree to most driver's capability especially from depots near kochi.But ,I had the misfortune of picking up seat on KSRTC Buses from MLTM depot which simply crawls through NH49 the same way it does in highrange(Hill) route.

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