It all started while talking to mom on phone. I had already booked tickets for a journey to my home town in the mid of August (after Independence Day). The phone conversation ended up in me searching for another ticket for the first week of August. Since I was looking for a Saturday, almost every operator had enough tickets – I had enough choices this time. I decided to take Kallada G4 this time. A quick calculation revealed that I would be getting the Yellow bus – I had travelled in their red bus earlier. Selecting a bus for the return trip was easy – just called up a contact and he got my return ticket blocked (more on that later).
I was looking at booking the outward ticket online. Only the last row seats were shown available on the website – I doubt if anybody would take the last row seat by choice. I checked some other dates, and found that only 7 seats were normally opened for online booking – that is the last row, and two other seats somewhere around the middle of the bus. This was told to some insiders at G4, and they have now opened up more seats. In the meantime, I called up Friends Travels at Madiwala, and they blocked a seat for me. However, the call got disconnected in between, and I was not sure if they blocked the seat. So I headed to their office the next morning on my way to office – the weary guy sitting at the counter was surprised to see someone coming to book a ticket at 7.30 in the morning! I had the choice of selecting my seat – took a window seat around the middle of the bus on the right side.
Days flew past. I headed to Madiwala on Friday morning to confirm that I would be getting the yellow bus itself – for some reason, I have a “red jinx” with Kallada, where I end up getting a red bus every time I book a Kallada bus (either of the Kalladas). I saw the red bus coming in on Friday morning – so the yellow was confirmed.
August 04, 2012: I took an auto from near my home at around 20:00hrs. The rate was fixed at Rs. 120 for the 7km journey to Madiwala. The driver was quite quick, and I was dropped at Friends Petrol Pump at 2020hrs. I still had an hour and 10 minutes to go for my bus. The petrol pump was now crowded with buses all around – there was the Trivandrum B9R (Via Nagercoil) of SRM, Kottarakkara B9R of Viji, a couple of SRM AC Sleepers and Shama B9R to Pathanamthitta. There was some commotion around the Shama bus – a drunken passenger created a scene there. He was made to alight and the bus departed. The pump was chock-a-block with buses coming in by the moment.
Then came the Shama to Trivandrum (via Nagercoil), followed by Viji to Trivandrum (via Nagercoil), Golden to Thrikkaripur, Viji to Pathanapuram and some SRM AC sleepers. There was a stead inflow of KPNs coming in from various places in Tamil Nadu. There was no sign of my bus even as the clock ticked past 2100hrs. I headed to the Friends office and took my boarding pass – they confirmed that the bus would come in a while. The road was now getting busier with all 13.8 metre monsters running through every moment. My bus (KA-01-AA-7723) came in at 2128hrs. The bus came in to the pump, and boarding started immediately. The bus had just a couple of passengers when it came in from Kalasipalya – I really wonder if the bus should waste fuel going to Kalasipalya to pick up one or two passengers. A pickup vehicle would be better, or better still make Madiwala the starting point.
|The bus: KA-01-AA-7723. With 2.26Lakh kms on the odo, the bus was really well kept.|
The first impression of getting into the bus – the bus was very clean inside. Shawls were kept on the seats already. Some old Hindi songs were being played. The drivers greeted their regular passengers – this simple gesture makes people loyal to the operator. That warm feeling when someone recognises you and enquires about you is a good feeling. The interiors were fresh – no foul smell. AC was running – the temperature set to ambient temperature. Curtains were all drawn and seats were in upright position. The bus got full in less than 5 minutes – there were few empty seats here and there (may be around 2-3 vacant seats). My seat was #32. My co-passenger was already there.
A guy from Friends travels came in at around 2140 and issued boarding passes to some passengers, and took a headcount of the passengers on board. They signalled the driver to start at 2145hrs. The bus got moving at 2152hrs. There were some cars parked haphazardly on the main road –that delayed our run slightly. The bus took a U-turn at St. Johns signal and we headed through Madiwala underpass. The driver took the elevated highway, and headed quickly towards Hosur. A movie was played (a recent Malayalam flick – which did not see much success at the box office) soon after the bus got running. The driver was well behaved on the road – but he honked a lot. The other driver headed backwards and he slept on the floor.
There was heavy traffic around Attibelle and all the way to Hosur. There was more traffic after Shoolagiri – including quite a lot of diversions due to road widening works. The bus had to stop many times since they only one lane was being allowed at some places. The slow moving traffic continued all the way to Krishnagiri. The driver broke free after Krishnagiri – he picked up pace quickly after we crossed Krishnagiri flyover. The movie continued on till around 0010hrs. Although I was very sleepy, I remained awake till the time the movie got over. The cleaner did not bother to switch off the TV after the movie got over – the blue standby display emitted more light than the night lamps, and it was a royal pain as I struggled to get some sleep. The bus stopped after a toll gate (I was half asleep - so did not check which toll gate was that) for a quick break. I took a break as well – and a small stroll outside. The break was quite short – we started off in about three minutes (0022 to 0025hrs).
When I got back to my seat, the rear LCD panel was locked by some passenger (the cleaner and the second driver were fast asleep). The driver switched off the main switch for the entertainment system. All I remember was getting back to my seat – the seat ahead of mine was unoccupied – so I had the freedom of adjusting my seating posture. I slept uninterrupted until around 0330 – when the bus shook violently as it went through a rough patch of road. I vaguely remember seeing the bus stopped at Walayar – it was raining hard outside, and we were stuck in a traffic block. The bus went inside Palakkad town, and stopped right outside Palakkad bus station (@0430hrs) – the cleaner switched on all the lights and shouted “Palakkad” – no passenger got off, but he managed to disturb all the passengers in the bus! I thought that the bus would go via Ottapalam, given the fact that the bus was inside Palakkad town. I was proven right!
The driver let the beast free as we entered one of the best State Highways in Kerala – the Palakkad-Ponnani State Highway. The road is well paved and well-marked – fairly wide as well. The driver made the most of the good road. It rained very heavily on the way – and at some places, I felt that the bus was losing grip. The road has a very slippery surface and it calls for a lot of caution during rains. The driver made very frequent halts on the route – for reasons unknown. No passengers were getting off though. I slept soon after we stabilised on the road – and vaguely remember seeing the bus crossing Wadakkanchery railway overbridge – we were now on the Shoranur-Kodungallur state highway. I slept again, till we crossed Viyyur. I woke up just as the bus approached Thrissur Vadakke (North) bus station. Just as I got off my seat, all the light in the cabin went on, and the cleaner shouted out “Thrissur” – disturbing the entire bus again! Around 6-7 passengers were readying to get off at Thrissur – the driver stopped outside General Hospital – at 0549hrs. That was a 49 minute delay from the promised dropping time – but that was understandable, considering the traffic block and the heavy rain!
Auto drivers, as usual, did not want to take me to the bus station – all they want is long trips. Their arrogance made me feel that they would not get any passengers – like a curse, all of them returned empty handed as my bus left towards Thrissur. Laughing hard myself, I got into another auto who did not hesitate taking me to the bus station. I missed my bus to Kodungallur (the driver decided to leave 5 minutes earlier than scheduled time) narrowly. I got into the next bus and settled down on the seat near the front door. Just as my bus was backing out to head towards Kodungallur (at 0610hrs) – the Kottayam bound Airavat Club Class came in – that bus leaves at 1916 from Bangalore! That bus took almost 11 hours to reach Thrissur from Bangalore!! My bus had taken 7hours and 57 minutes!
Some points: The bus (KA-01-AA-7723) had around 2.26lakh kms on the odo as we started from Madiwala. The bus was in immaculate condition – very good maintenance. There were no abnormal sounds – no irritating squeaks. The interiors were clean and well maintained. They do not waste time for refuelling while heading towards Kerala – they fill on the other way. No unwanted tea breaks – a characteristic of the other Kallada. The shawls given were too small. The spare driver sleeping on the gangway gave a very unprofessional look – it is also a major safety concern. The crew did not care switching off the tv on time. The cleaner also switched on all the lights and disturbed all the passengers just to alert one passenger! The AC was set to a very comfortable temperature – the crew get points for that!
Kallada G4 is doing a very good job with their punctuality and maintenance of their buses. The crew also gave a very personal welcome to their regular passenger – that is a great idea. But, the spare crew should be given a place to sleep and they need to change their overall approach to handling passengers – just wake up the passenger who is alighting. Why disturb the entire bus? A better reservation system, and a more personalised touch by the crew will take Kallada G4 to better heights – they are a very good option for passengers. I liked them both the times I took their bus – highly recommended if you are looking for a no-nonsense operator.
Staff Behaviour: 4/5
Will I take this service again: Why not? Getting a ticket in G4 is a big task these days! You guys are doing a great job – just don’t dilute them!