It was time for another trip to Kerala – another short vacation. This time the mood wasn’t upbeat since I had to attend the post funeral rites of my Grandmother, who passed away the previous week. My office was kind to approve my vacation. All the buses on Friday were going full, and I did not have any bookings – I decided to start on Saturday afternoon instead – because I badly wanted to sleep without the fear of an alarm.
October 18, 2014:
I had a nice leisurely sleep and woke up very late in the morning. Being a weekend before a long Diwali week, even the day bus was running full that day. Many colleges too were closing that week, and a lot of students were heading to their home towns. Of late, the airline bug has bitten me as well, and I was checking for any last minute deals – almost clinched one, but a power failure and the associated loss of internet connection made me lose the deal. I left home sometime towards noon, and headed straight to a restaurant and had a brunch. The start of a long weekend meant heavy traffic snarls, and the 15 km ride to Majestic BS took no less than 2 hours! I headed straight to the Kerala RTC booking counter there to get a ticket for my ride home. I had the option of choosing one of the three Volvos that evening – but for some reason decided to take the last one i.e., the 2000hrs Ernakulam Volvo.
The reservation system was in a mess due to an internet connectivity failure (an issue from the provider’s side) – it took about an hour to solve the issue. Later, I headed to Satellite Bus Station in a shuttle bus. I reached the bus station by around 1815 hours – and it was a Cadbury Shots moment when I saw the bus that would ferry me – really Mann mein laddoo moment (See this video to know what is a Shots moment) – it was RS784 that night. I always get its pairing bus, and was really excited to see this guy waiting there. In the meantime the Kottayam bound Multi came to the platform for departure – loads weren’t great for this bus. After spending some time at the bus station, I headed to Hotel Kadamba at the bus station for a light dinner. My bus was brought in at 1930hrs – so RS784 was all set to take me home that night.
|The bus: RS784 of Ernakulam (Photo from Archives)
The bus was very clean inside – blankets were all folded and kept on the conductor seat. The exteriors had the effect of the previous night’s rain. We had to wait for some time for a reserved passenger to turn up and this delayed our departure a bit. We started only at 2010hrs instead of the scheduled 2000hrs. The bus station had very bad traffic, and we came out of the bus station only at 2016hrs – a good 6 minutes from the platform to the exit gate – a distance of about 150 metres! An FM station was being played, which broadcasted some recent Bollywood tracks. Soon after we were on the main road, the conductor came around distributing blankets to all the passengers. Traffic was not as bad I had experienced during the day – we could reach Shantinagar bus station by 2042hrs. The pick-up point here is still not standardized – passengers stand through the length of Platform 3 (where this bus has a pick-up). This confusion, along with the fact that the conductor had to record the timings at the Kerala RTC office there, meant that we could leave from there only at 2047hrs. By now, almost all the reserved passengers had boarded. A movie was played on the TV now – it was a fairly recent Malayalam movie.
I expected some traffic blocks around Dairy Circle – but there was no blocks. A small snarl at Forum was all we had to face. We reached Madiwala at 2110 – picked up a passenger and got moving. Now we had about 25 passengers on board. The driver picked up pace quite soon – surprisingly there was absolutely no traffic at Madiwala market. We passed Bommanahalli at 2120hrs. There was a bit of traffic around Singasandra – but nothing major. We passed Electronic City at 2131hrs – there were no pick-ups here. After Electronic City, the driver picked pace and we were crusing at fairly decent speeds. Attibele toll was passed at 2148hrs – no traffic here as well. Just a few metres after the toll gate, a traffic hold-up started. It was bumper-to-bumper here onwards. A lot of fire-cracker shops mushroom around this area during Diwali – and the scene was no different this time. These stalls attract a lot of buyers from Bangalore and this causes a lot of traffic blocks – and this was what was happening. It was 2211hrs by the time we passed the Zuzuwadi incoming RTO Check-post – that is about 23 minutes to cover a km from Attibele toll gate!
There was no traffic beyond Zuzuwadi CP, and we could pass Hosur at 2216hrs. The driver maintained good pace after Hosur. We passed the normal set of hotels where other operators stop – and we finally turned off the road and got into Hotel Uthaiya (now Hotel Nandhini) – at 2251hrs. I dread being at this place – I was a bit hungry and decided to try out something from this place – the interiors of the restaurant had changed a lot and is now much cleaner. The food was served hot and it actually tasted good. I had ordered for Parotta and Green Peas Masala – the bill gave me a good jolt though – ₹120! The first thing I noticed when I came out of the restaurant was that the driver had locked the bus before he went for dinner – now that was a great move – really appreciate it! The driver came back and opened the bus – he switched on the engine and the AC. We started from the place at 2321hrs. Once back on the highway, I pushed back my backrest and prepared to sleep – the driving style changed totally now, and the speeds were stable now.
I had a nice sleep afterwards – vaguely remember the bus stopping somewhere for a tea break – not sure where it was or what time it was. I woke up only when the conductor called out “Coimbatore” – we were standing outside the Gandhipuram bus station now – and my watch read 0342hrs. A couple of passengers got in (they had a reservation!) and we started off at 0347hrs. I got back to sleep and had another round of undisturbed sleep till we stopped at Palakkad – this time, the bus went inside the bus station and stopped near the fuel station (0506hrs). The conductor went to record the timings, and we started again at 0509hrs. About a couple of minutes after we started, the conductor received a call from a passenger who was left behind at Palakkad BS! We had to wait for this passenger to turn up – since we were only at a walking distance from the bus station, there wasn’t much of a scene – the bus started again at 0517hrs – after this passenger came to the bus.
I dozed off for some more time – but the poor condition of the road did not let me sleep for long. I was awake by the time we passed Kuthiran pass. I dozed off again after Kuthiran, and woke up just as we were passing Mannuthy (0634hrs). I was finally dropped outside Sakthan Nagar Municipal Bus Station at 0641hrs – about 10 hours and 25 minutes after I set off from Bangalore.
End Notes: The bus was KL-15-A-282, RS784 from Ernakulam depot. The bus had clocked about 88000kms on the odo. There were two crew members – one driver and a conductor. The driver was carrying a thermos flask to stock enough hot beverage to last the night. Both the drivers were well behaved – they spoke to the passengers decently. I thing I did not like was missing a passenger behind – the conductor should’ve taken a headcount before signaling the driver to start. The bus was maintained well – no rattles. The driving was excellent – he maintained constant pace – no drag races or hard brakes. In fact, even on the two-laned sections in Kerala, the driving was very composed. The end-to-end running time was high – but I loved the fact that the driving was very sleep friendly. Overall a good experience.
Charging Point: Yes (On throughout)
Entertainment: Yes (A movie played)
Crew behaviour: 4/5 (-1 for missing a passenger)
Will I take this service again? Certainly, and recommended!