The Shama Big Bus...

After ten rocking days in Bangalore - including runs on the Mercedes Benz buses, a visit to a hospital casualty, getting two IV Injections, and laying on the bed for a full day down with fever (what more can I ask for???), it was time to head back home - to God's own country. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I never considered traveled in a State bus anywhere during planning for the return journey - both the KSRTCs were kept off my consideration. This time around, Kerala SRTC stood no chance of being even considered, while Karnataka SRTC was kept my last choice. Reason why Kerala SRTC was not even considered: A horrible hard product. The only feasible option for me is the 2200 AC bus from Bangalore - while the bus is known for punctuality, the ride and comfort is horrible.

Once the STUs were thrown out of the window, the choices were simple: A tie between Kallada and Shama. Only these operators run a decent Volvo service, touching Thrissur town. Others prefer taking the bypass, especially at odd hours. The tie was simple to break - I opted for Shama. Especially since they are now operating a brand new Volvo B9R on the Bangalore-Ernakulam route. Shama has named their B9Rs as "Big Bus" - they indeed are big buses! Their online booking portal showed that only the rear row was remaining -  I chose to get a ticket from their office instead. On Sunday (October 17) evening, I got my ticket from the Shama office at Madivala. I was given seat #10. From the chart at the office, I could understand that the bus already had more than 60% bookings.

I was just about recovering from a bout of Viral fever on the day of my journey - but the journey was essential on account of some other commitments. I had some business at SP Road (the place in Bangalore to visit, if you are interested in computer peripherals!), and went there around noon. Did some busfanning during the visit, but had to return early with my ill-health not permitting me to hang around for long. Returned home, then headed out again after dinner and a hot bath. Headed out of home at 2055, and we reached Madivala at 2110. I was dropped at Madivala by my brother. Since the bus was still long off, we decided to stay put in the car. Meanwhile, the Padikkal Isuzu to Kannur arrived, and was parked near our car - the bus had the name "Pranam" on its windshield, and "Padikkal" on the sides and the rear.

I decided to head to the Shama office around 2115 to report and get my boarding pass, when I saw a Shama "Big Bus" heading towards the office. I headed off to the office and got my boarding pass - my request for a seat on the left side was turned down, we were running 100% full! I got Seat #10 as indicated on my seat. The bus came at 2120, and boarding started immediately. I got in, left my bag and came out - the engine was shut down, and it was getting too stuffy inside without the AC running. Although the AC was off, a movie was playing on the AV system. Passengers were boarding pretty quick, while the driver went about checking something in the bus. His assistant was helping passengers leave their baggage in the under-carriage. By 2135, all passengers were in. I got in at 2140, when the driver too got in. A couple of minutes later, the engine was powered, and the AC was switched on. The blowers were at full flow.

The bus, KA-01-AA-2012, slowly inched forward, exactly at 2145. We slowly inched forward, went right upto St.John's signal, and took a complete "U" turn and headed towards Silk Board. The bus stopped again, opposite the Shama office - just realised that one passenger was yet to join! We kept waiting, and the passenger came in only around 2200. The engine was left running all this while, and I must admit, one couldn't feel the engine was running, except for the AC blowing cold air! No vibrations or noise inside. We started off at 2200, ran through Silk Board flyover, and headed straight on the new BETL Road towards Electronic city. I was elated when the bus took the flyover instead of running through the traffic blocks below. The driver meant serious business as he picked pace quickly.

We were past Hosur in less than 30 minutes from Madivala. We crossed the Krishnagiri around 2320, and kept going at a great pace. The movie got over at around midnight - the pull down screen around the middle of the bus was closed, and the AV system was shut down. I pulled up the thigh support, and tried sleeping. But my health condition stopped me from sleeping - I got an uneasy feeling through out. Around 0030, I noticed that we were no running past Vinayaka Missions University, on the outskirts of Salem! We were past Salem in less than 2:30 hours!! The high-speed run kept going, and but it felt like the bus wasn't very fast! The noise levels and vibrations were well under control, and the ride was too comfortable inside.

I somehow managed some sleep, and woke up when the bus was just pulling into a fuel station - at 0250! And, we were past Coimbatore!!! We were at a fuel station near Ettimadai - thats a distance of more than 360 kms in less than 5 hours, an average of over 74kmph!! The stop at the fuel station lasted over 30 minutes - with passengers using the break to stretch themselves and also have a leak. We started off at 0325 and headed at our steady pace! We stopped at Chavadi (outgoing) checkpost briefly. We stopped again, just after Walayar. The crew went in for a round of hot tea - two other Kallada buses, one B7R and one Multi-Axle, were parked there. We started off first, despite reaching last! We stopped at Walayar Checkpost to pay up entry tax, and get the papers checked.

We started off after a 5 minute halt. The roads were in sorry shape after the border, and overtakes were a painful affair now. It started raining down now - the ride was still comfortable inside. Only the major potholes were known, but the driver showed no sign of slow progress. A lady sitting at the first row kept stopping the bus often for her to vomit - the driver did stop the bus every time, but the rain outside meant she couldn't off the bus. We stopped at Palakkad bypass to drop off a passenger, then once again at Vadakkenchery to drop off another. We finally stopped at Mannuthy Bypass at 0510 - about 12 passengers got off here, all were from a group of pilgrims heading to Sabarimala. I was finally dropped off near Sakthan Thamburan Bus Station at 0520 in the morning - just 7 hours and 20 minutes since starting off from Madivala. My fastest ever, and by far my best Volvo ride as well!!

I had a long halt at the bus station, but no buses turned up to my place. Later, took a rickshaw to the KSRTC bus station, and took the second bus to my destination, at 0545 (The first bus is at 0530). RNA164 of Thrissur did the honours to dropping me back at home - interestingly, the same bus took me out to Thrissur on my outbound!!

Concluding remarks: Although the widespread word on the Internet about Shama talks of poor buses and highhanded behaviour, I was in for a pleasant experience. May be this is a one-off experience, but I would certainly dare try them again. The bus was still new - plastic covers on many seats were still on! The ride was excellent - silent and absolutely comfortable. One does not get a feeling of the sheer speed inside - but the bus was certainly rushing in at three-digit speeds throughout the night. This is supported by the fact that we managed a decent average speed of over 74 kmph from Bangalore to Coimbatore - the roads get worse after Coimbatore, and it did dent our overall speed. The B9R is an excellent product for such highway sprints, while guaranteeing passenger comfort. But what blew me off was the fact that a Kallada G4 Volvo (a 2004 model Mark-II bus) kept pace all the way from Bangalore to Thrissur along with us! I see myself using private buses for my forthcoming journeys, atleast till Kerala SRTC replaces their vibrating cold boxes on the Bangalore route!


rejoy leen said…
hi i took the'Big Bus' on the second day of its service to tvm..its super cool..comfort at its best.truly recommended for anyone who needs a change!!
Anonymous said…
Hi Binai! Heard that KSRTC has started a new Volvo service from Bangalore to Thrissur via Mysore, you could have tried it, who knows may be a new 9400 could be waiting for you !
Binai K Sankar said…
@Anonymous.. I was seriously not interested in sitting for 12 Hours in a bus this time.. given my health condition. The Thrissur bus leaves at 1715 from Majestic, and reaches Thrissur only at 0530. Yes - almost all Volvo services from Bangalore to Kerala are now run with 9400s - the Thrissur one surely gets one.
Anonymous said…
Hi Binai ,

It's nice to read your story in big bus. I've never travelled by shama till now because I'm from allepey and we have multiple choices of buses. So always preferred SRM/Sofiya - if i dont get any tickets in these 2 then others will be considered.I suggest you to choose SRM to experience the real taste of Volvo Multi-axle.
rohit said…
I guess sofiya has wound up business..they were really good though
Binai K Sankar said…
Yes. Sofiya Lines has shut shop now.
Unknown said…
Sofiyalines has stopped! unbelievable. I called up their tvm office , they said the buses are under maintenance and it will be on road soon. If its stopped then its a big blow to many passengers who prefers this. So left out with only one good operator now -SRM. I wish SRM to multiply their digits in kerala. Already they have kicked kallada and parveen from chennai routes by introducing their new multi-axle to thiruvalla starting from chennai @ 7pm with only one pickup point, now its their turn to show their dominance on banglore-tvm sector by introducing more M-axles..
Anonymous said…
Hi ,
Shama starts one more multi-axle (BIG bus) to pathanamthitta. Now there are 2 buses to pta by shama. Good going by Shama. Shama should speed up the bus else they might not be considered as the most preferred. Also heard from an agent that SRM is also evaluating this route because already they have one to thiruvalla from chennai so they might be targeting pathanamthitta soon from bangalore.
rejoy leen said…
Heard that sofiya lines is undertaken by one prominent operator...also saw in redbus that there is a new multiaxle introduced by Padikkal in blr-tvm route!!

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