Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The exam hall!

Examinations! They are a necessary evil. An examination is an important tool for a teacher to identify if his classes were useful to his/her students.

Examinations are hated the most during student life. A recent WhatsApp forward attributed examinations to a gentleman Mr Henry Mishel (Henry Fischel in some forwards) - which I am sure is wrong. Some websites claim that examinations originated sometime in the 7th century in China.

We teachers love examinations (pun, obviously, intended). I find examinations the most stressful period in my profession - I've had sleepless nights wondering how my students would perform, and been more anxious (perhaps!) that my students when their results are declared. The moment I get that bundle of paper for valuation, I make it a point to pull out two papers from the stack - the best performer and the worst performer. This generally gives me an idea of how the paper had been.

Another stressful job every teacher goes through is Invigilation - I thought this was the best thing to do when I was a student - do nothing, just keep roaming around the class, staring at times at students who try to copy, eat and drink in the class while the students sweat out. I thought otherwise as soon as I reached the other side of the coin. I always find invigilation the most stressful part of the teaching profession - three hours of solitary confinement (of course, there are the students), with nothing, I repeat - nothing, to do.

But then things are all not that scary out there! You have the free entertainment in these exam halls - amusing characters who keep us entertained throughout the duration of the examination. Lets get introduced to some of these characters -

The stargrazers!
I love 'em! They keep looking at the roof, the floor, the benches, at the invigilator, everywhere! They look to the roof in anticipation that someone would project the answers on the roof!

The sleeping beauties!
They sleep! They just sleep! They sleep as if they couldn't sleep at home. They are the most harmless creatures in an exam hall!

The peeping toms!
No.. No.. don't get them wrong! They just try to sneak out answers from answer sheets around them. Peeping is no simple task you see! They need to concentrate on the movements of the invigilator, the guys around, and at the same time, find out the answer they need!

The copy cats!
These are the creatures I hate the most! I hate dishonesty! These people just copy!

The scaremongers!
I love these people too! They scare the daylights out of their classmates! They write as if its the end of world in a while. They take additional sheets and keep fighting with their pens till the bell rings, and give us the opportunity to snatch the papers from them.

The last minuters!
These are an interesting set of characters in the classroom! They relax for most of the time in the class room. As the end of time warnings are made - generally about 15-30 minutes before the examination ends, these people come out of their slumber, and begin a war with their papers. They too scare their classmates with the hurry and pressure they put up as the clock ticks!

The late comers!
They are everywhere! They turn up late for the examination - then blame traffic (which is aplenty in Bangalore) for their delay and put up a sorry face. They grin after they become successful in conning the invigilator to find their way into the exam hall. They'd turn up late the next day as well!

The bird watchers!
They appear for examinations only to watch birds! They'd been looking out of the windows most of the time - they are a bit different from Stargrazers, though.

I am sure there are more characters in exam halls. Do comment about your experiences in exam halls, and what character where you the last time :)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

iFly 528 back to Bangalore: An Onam flight from Kochi

After finding a way to reach home for Onam, the hunt was on to find the way back. I generally avoid taking buses on peak days since they end up reaching late most of the times, plus my rescheduled office timings make it difficult to get to office on time as well. I had two choices - an afternoon bus on Onam day or any flight on Onam Day. I chose the latter since they were priced similarly anyways. Evening flights were quite expensive. Finally after a bit of searching around, I opted for an afternoon departure from Kochi, and booked my return on IndiGo 528.

Monday was a happening day. A lot of things happened in Bangalore following a Supreme Court Verdict related to sharing of Cauvery water between Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Road transport came to a standstill - both the STUs and all the private operators pulled out services. Onam travel of a lot of people got cancelled. I thanked my fortune for having booked a flight, and not a bus.

September 14, 2016:
Leaving home is a very painful affair these days. I was all the more sad since I had to leave home on a festive day - not that we celebrate festivals with pomp, but its always a special feeling. I had initially planned to take a bus to the airport - but I was travelling with a lot of festival specialities and, I was really scared if the bus services would be normal on this day. My dad booked a vehicle, so that I could travel to the airport without worries. This decision turned quite appropriate since very few buses were plying on this day, and I might have got stuck if I waited for a bus.

The vehicle - locally called an Auto Taxi, dropped me at the airport a little past 1400hrs. The new terminal, officially called Terminal 3 seemed to be getting ready very fast. There was a long queue to get into the domestic terminal, called the Terminal 2. The queue moved very slow for reasons unknown. There were sufficient staff at the entry - may be they too were in the festive laze. The airport was very crowded, on the whole. The airport's runway closes for an hour in the afternoon, and there is a flurry of activity as it opens later.

After the slow moving queue to enter the terminal, I walked into another queue - this time for baggage scanning. About 4 departures were scheduled for the next hour and a half - this meant all the scanning machines were active, and all the check-in counters were busy. I got my bags scanned by 1415 and joined the check-in queue. A small but beautiful floral design (Pookkalam) was prepared by the IndiGo staff at the check-in area. I requested for a fragile tag on the bag - the check-in agent, Bineesh, marked the bag for limited release and put on the tags claiming "Fragile". I got my boarding pass by 1421hrs and joined the next long queue - for security check.
IndiGo Pookkalam at Check-in counter.. 
I finished security check by 1427 and entered the security hold. The security hold was crowded -thanks to the lineup of departures. My favorite seats near Gate #3 were empty. The aircraft that would work my flight, VT-IDN, was already at the gate - this aircraft lands right before the runway is closed and remains on the ground for over an hour. The apron had a couple of international visitors - from Sri Lanka and Oman as well.

Date of Journey: September 14, 2016
Flight No: 6E528 || Seat: 24F
Aircraft type: Airbus A320-232 || Regn: VT-IDN
Sector: COK-BLR
STD: 1525hrs, ATD: 1516hrs
STA: 1625hrs, ATA: 1624hrs
Boarding in progress..
The first boarding call was made at 1454hrs. In fact, a long queue had formed just as the gate agent walked in to the security hold. The queue was already as long as the hall could contain by the time the boarding call was made. As usual, I remained seated for sometime more. I joined the queue sometime around 1500, and made it past the boarding gate by 1503hrs. It was a short walk to the aircraft - which docked right opposite to the gate. Since a Vistara A320 had just landed, the tarmac was a bit busy. I got into the aircraft by around 1505hrs - through the rear entrance. The extended time on ground meant the aircraft was very clean, fresh - but a little hot, though. India Delta November was delivered to IndiGo in October 2015 - this aircraft had its first flight back in November 2004, and has since flown for China Southern and Cyprus Airways. The interiors seemed to have been thoroughly redone - all seats were the newer Recaro slimline ones. The fittings were aged though.
Boarding in progress - VT-IDN @ COK
VT-TTG was my neighbour at COK
Boarding was a little slow, and we completed boarding by 1514hrs - perhaps the first time I experienced a relaxed boarding on IndiGo. Doors were armed by 1516hrs - the flurry of announcements followed. The first round of announcement was made by the Captain - who welcomed passengers on board, gave out details of the flight and signed off with Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight. Another round of announcements followed - there was difference this time - there were no pre-recorded announcements. All the announcements were made manually, and the cabin crew incharge rushed through the announcements. In the deck were Capt Sagar Agarwal and Capt Rishab Mishra. In the cabin were Shilpa, Aishwarya,Sibani, Tabita and Greeshma (cabin crew in charge).
Lifting off from COK.. thats the new Terminal (3) under construction
The aircraft was pushed back at 1519hrs. We had to wait until a Jet Airways B738 entered the apron. Taxi commenced at 1526hrs - and it was one long ride to the holding point of Rwy27. We reached the 27 end of the runway by 1531, directly entered the active runway, and held on for a minute before the take off roll commenced. We were airborne by 1533hrs. Takeoff from Rwy27 is always a beautiful affair - we climb straight to the West, and bank hard right soon after climbing, give a beautiful view of the airport as we turn North East to set course towards Bangalore. The seatbelt sign was turned off by 1538hrs, only to be turned on again at 1539hrs, with a warning for poor weather en-route.
Turning North-East.. 
It was all cloudy as we proceeded to Bangalore..
The meal trolleys came out soon - three trolleys were used, and this effectively ensured that all passengers with prebooked meals received their meal before the seatbelt sign was back on. I opted to a Grilled Mediterranean Veg Submarine Sandwich in Multigrain Bread aka the Yellow Submarine this time as well. The options for beverage were very limited this time - I picked a Lemon juice this time. The sub tasted better than what I had on the outbound - it was softer, and the filling was wholesome. I had to hurry with my meal since the captain made a landing call as I was half way through my meal. Thankfully, the speakers in my zone weren't fully functional, and they cut off most of the barrage of announcements. The seatbelt sign was turned on at 1609hrs. We flew east, turned around and headed west to align with the ILS on Rwy27 of Bangalore.
The meal - the Yellow Submarine with the Minute Maid Nimbu Fresh.
Soon after touchdown at BLR..
We finally touched down on Rwy27 at 1619hrs. The touchdown was very smooth - smooth to the extent of not really realising when the aircraft touched down. We were welcomed to the apron by the aircrafts of Air Pegasus - who stopped operations recently due to financial issues - the three ATRs operated by them were parked right next to the taxiway. We taxi'd towards the contact stands, and docked at Stand #16, at 1624hrs. Passengers were already fighting for space on the Aisle as they hunted for their baggage - infact, the touchdown was punctuated with clank sounds of the seatbelts being unfastened. Wonder why people rush to get off the aircraft so badly. Although we were at a contact stand, IndiGo uses the rear exits also to ensure faster deplaning, and a faster turn around. I opted for the rear exit - used the stairs to get down and got into a bus, that took me to the terminal by 1636hrs. Baggage took a very long time to come - came out only by 1642hrs. I rushed out to a bus waiting to head to southern part of Bangalore - ending a very quick hop home for Onam!
Being marshalled to stand #16.. 
In the tarmac coach to the Terminal @ BLR..
Check-in: 5/5 (Did Online Check-in. Efficient Check-in crew)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (Aircraft was clean)
Punctuality: 5/5
Crew: 4.5/5 (Great crew this time. Just missed a smile though)
Catering: 4.5/5 (Good sandwich. Very limited choices, though)
Overall: 4.75/5
A good flight with IndiGo this time. I felt the service was better this time - maybe because the crew were less hurried. The food was also great. Overall, a no-nonsense flight with nothing special to talk about.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

IndiGo 413: Bengaluru to Kochi

Bangalore - Kochi was once a happening sector - and I was once a regular passenger. Over the months, my frequency of travelling home reduced, and I flew less often. I did not have any plans for Onam until that innocent message popped up on WhatsApp - IndiGo is running a sale, and a travel portal is offering big discounts! I suddenly developed the desire to travel home for Onam. A quick look at the holiday calender - Onam was on a working day, but we had a restricted holiday for it. Decided to add up a couple of leaves with a holiday that Monday. I now had to find a flight! After a bit searching around, I found an affordable flight departing on a Sunday morning, operated by IndiGo. Did not think a lot - went ahead and confirmed the booking. All this happened in mid August.

A lot of things happened after that. A lot of forced holidays happened. Holidays were juggled around. Sunday ended up being a working day. I ended up having to reschedule my leaves to make this trip happen - but I was committed to make it happen this time. I web checked in, got a seat on the right side of the aircraft and even pre-reserved a meal, since it was a morning flight.

September 11, 2016:
It was a very early start to the day - but, as usual, I ended up missing my alarm and jumping out of bed quite late. My cab driver had called me no less than 7 times, but I had left the phone on silent mode. After calling him back, and explaining him the route to reach the pick-up point, I headed down to the gate of my apartment. The cab had already arrived. He zoomed out of the building, and I spent some 45 minutes praying like never before - this F1 wannabe driver was too fast for comfort, and only added to the Airport Road Phobia that I have. I was dropped at the airport, in one piece, by 0650hrs - thats like 45 minutes to cover a little over 48 kilometres! I was happy to be there in one piece - and just walked into the terminal, still trying to overcome the idiotic show that the driver just put up.

The terminal was a little too crowded for the time, especially for a Sunday morning. It looked like majority of the passengers were flying out of the country - large cartons and heavy baggage were seen everywhere. I was quite hungry, but my last experience of almost missing the flight made me hurry in, and complete the check-in formalities first. The check-in counter had a fairly long queue - the queue was worse at the baggage drop counter. The check-in agents were quite efficient, and the queue moved at a constant pace. I had some fragile stuff in my bags, and asked for the bag to be labelled fragile - which was done immediately. I got my boarding card by 0702hrs, and moved towards security. Security was again a mess - a lot of first timers, less number of frisking booths and even lesser number of scanning machines added to the chaos. A lot of people got frisked twice.
Check-in counters @ BLR..
The gate before boarding was called..
I got past security by 0719hrs. The first stop was at MTC Tiffin Express, to grab a pack of Podi Idlis for breakfast, washed down with, what was called, a Madras Coffee. The KIA App on my phone kept updating me about the status of my flight as it happened. It kept telling me where the gate was, and how long would it take to reach there. Quite a friendly app, and acts like a personal assistant. My flight was to board from Gate #14, a remote gate. The gate was located on the lower level, at the farthest end of the terminal. Quite interestingly, all the 4 gates active at that time in the area were used by IndiGo. Gate #14 was quite crowded, and I opted to wait near Gate #19 instead (this gate is right next to #14). A fairly long queue had already formed at the gate - and the aircraft was yet to arrive from Hyderabad.

Date of Journey: September 11, 2016
Flight No: 6E413 || Seat: 27F
Aircraft type: Airbus A320-232 || Regn: VT-IGK
Sector: BLR-COK
STD: 0845hrs, ATD: 0851hrs
STA: 0950hrs, ATA: 0950hrs

The incoming aircraft landed at 0817hrs - fairly behind its schedule. The aircraft working the rotation was VT-IGK - my first flight in the IG* series. I was quite excited to spot the aircraft arrive - it had deployed its reversers as I saw it. Soon after the aircraft touched down, the first boarding announcement (call) was made - 0819hrs. I remained seated till the first bus was filled. I got into the second bus by 0825hrs, and the bus got moving by 0830hrs. IndiGo generally fills their buses before sending them from the gate - and the same was the case this time as well. We reached the aircraft, which was parked at the farthest bay, by around 0833hrs. Boarding through the rear entrance was quite slow due to more number of assisted passengers.
VT-IGK touching down at BLR..
VT-IGK.. boarding in progress..
Boarding in progress.. waiting for the wheelchairs to be out..
The IndiGo Ramp in all its glory.. the IAE V2527 can be seen..
I was inside VT-IGK by 0841hrs. VT-IGK (cn: 4216) was delivered to IndiGo in February 2010. The IndiGo Ramp is a great idea, and makes life really easy for passengers instead of climbing by a stair. I got to my seat quite quickly since the aisle was free. Boarding was completed by 0843hrs and the rear door was closed immediately. Ground personnel took some time to leave the aircraft. We were done, and the doors were armed by 0650hrs. By now a round of welcome announcements were done. Flying us to Kochi were Capt Shreyas and Capt Aniruddh. In the cabin were Shreya, Ripudaman, Priyanka and Sharon. We were pushed back at 0851hrs. The safety demonstration, and the advertisement of Hello 6E followed. The safety demonstration was rushed through - in the typical IndiGo style.
My boarding pass poses with Hello 6E
We commenced Taxi at 0855. We reaching the holding point for Rwy27 by 0901hrs. We entered the active runway and held on for a minute before commencing take off roll. We were airborne at 0902hrs. We took off to the west and then turned south west. The takeoff was quite cloudy and hence turbulent. The seat belt sign was turned off at 0906hrs - and we were still climbing. The meal trolleys came out in no time, while pre-recorded announcements informed that only passengers with prebooked meals will be served and others may use the call button if they needed something. The announcements also informed that hot meals or hot beverages will not be available in this sector. The meal trolley reached my row quite soon. The FA, Sharon, addressed me by my second name and gave out the options I had - I took the Veg Submarine Sandwich and a serving of Del Monte Fruit Juice.
The Sub sandwich..
I had very little expectations about the sandwich - the last time I flew with them, I got a very stale sandwich. The experience this time was a little different - infact, I think Submarine sandwich is a new offering on IndiGo. The sandwich was big - it surely was filling. The bread was soft and the filling was made of picked bell peppers, onion, carrots in Mayonnaise sauce, topped with oregano and chilli flakes. I enjoyed a sandwich on IndiGo for the first time - the last time I enjoyed their sandwich was, probably, back in 2007 when IndiGo was still new. Like everytime, landing calls were made when I was half way through the sandwich. The FAs didn't hurry with clearing the thrash, though - we were still 20 minutes away from COK. The juice was the typical Benadryl in Water flavour - I'd surely not repeat this one.

The seatbelt was back on at 0931hrs. Landing announcements followed. We were lining up already, and were turning around to align to the ILS path. We touched down on Rwy27 at 0947 - braked hard, full reversers deployed and we stopped right at the rapid exit taxiway. We stopped on the taxiway for a minute or so, before proceeding to the apron and parking at a remote stand. Engines were out by 0950 and doors opened a minute later. I was out of the aircraft by about 0955 - I stayed put till the crowd thinned out, as usual. The first coach was filling out then, and I decided to wait for the second coach, which was right behind. Since ours was the third flight to arrive in quick succession, the arrivals hall was a mess, and our coach held on for a couple of minutes before letting us get off.
Tracking of my flight from FR24..
The baggage belts were busy. It took about 10 minutes for my bag to appear. It was a full lot of fragile tagged bags that came together. I got my bad by 1008hrs - walked out of the terminal into one of the three KSRTC buses lined up, waiting to head to their destinations.

Check-in: 4.75/5 (Did Online Check-in. Efficient Check-in crew)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (Aircraft was clean)
Punctuality: 4.5/5
Crew: 3/5 (Very mechanical crew with the typical Scorn face. Sharon did a god job, though)
Catering: 4.5/5 (Good sandwich. Very limited choices, though)
Overall: 4.5/5

IndiGo, India's leading airline, does its job of taking you from place A to place B effectively. It will be really great if they could do their job with a small smile though. The FAs have a fixed expressionless face, all the time. I rarely find IndiGo FAs smiling - the FA serving my row gave a nice smile though. It was a routine, eventless flight. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Trivandrum to Bangalore by Orange Travels Scania

Monday being a holiday in Bangalore meant that almost all options for traveling from Trivandrum to Bangalore on Monday evening were, either sold out, or were selling at exhorbitant rates. State buses were sold out as well. After a bit of searching around, I narrowed down to two options - the cheaper among the two had an early departure, which I wanted to avoid. I finally opted for Orange Travels. The seats available were towards the rear end of the bus - left with not many choices, I took a decision quickly and booked a window seat on the right side.

September 05, 2016:
It was quite a busy day - personal and official woherk intertwined with each other. It was almost 1800hrs by the time I got free. Had to hurry with getting ready for the return trip - I had to have my dinner as well, since my ticket screamed out "No Dinner Break". My friends were waiting for me at the hotel lobby - we all headed out together for a quick dinner, and one of them dropped me at the pick-up point for my bus as well. I had already received the tracking information for my bus already. I found that my bus was nearby from the tracking site.
The bus - KA-01-AF-5531 @ Trivandrum
The bus arrived at the pick-up point exactly at 2028hrs - two minutes before the scheduled time. The pick-up point, Music College Jn, is a mess with narrow roads, and all these buses hogging the roads. The driver of my bus, KA-01-AF-5531, barely managed to find space to park. Boarding started immediately - and was very brisk. Tickets were verified fast, and luggage was tagged and stacked according to the place where the passenger intends to alight. Boarding was completed, and we got moving by 2043hrs - 13 minutes late. The driver was fast from the word go.

Blankets were already kept on the seat, and water bottles were kept in bottle holders. A little after the bus started, the attendant came around with the snack boxes. The leg room seemed very less - I was kinda stuck as soon as the passenger ahead of me pushed back his seat. Leg space was surely a premium here. We made quick pick-ups at Balaramapuram (2111) and Neyyattinkara (2124), finally passing Kaliykkavilai at 2144hrs. We reached Marthandam by 2157hrs - boarding was completed by 2201hrs, and we got moving. We still had about 10 seats or so to be taken. We reached Nagercoil by 2240hrs - all the seats, including the one next to me, were filled here.

We got moving from Nagercoil at 2247hrs. I was hoping for a non-stop ride from there, and tried finding out a position to sleep. I was too tired due to the heat, and fell asleep instantly. But that wasn't for too long. The bus pulled into a fuel station at Panagudi, just past Kavalkinaru, for refueling at 2311hrs. Almost all the passengers got out of the bus to use the washrooms - the fuel station had clean washrooms. I got back to my seat and got ready to sleep. We started from the fuel station at 2320hrs. I was quite shocked when the bus pulled into the hotel next compound, and the crew announce a dinner break! I was annoyed now - we were already behind schedule, and the website screamed the bus wouldn't stop for dinner, and now they waste time stopping for dinner! We stayed put till 2348hrs, and then got moving. Now, it was highly impossible to make it to Bangalore on time, unless the driver did a non-stop stellar run.

I tried sleeping, but the congested seating was making me very claustrophobic. I tried adjusting my position - but did not help. I finally pushed down the calf rest, this gave some moving space for my legs. The exhaustion got me, and I dozed off in no time. I woke up momentarily as the bus stopped at Krishnagiri toll. Slept for some more time. I woke up just as the bus pulled into a fuel station near Shoolagiri, at around 0714hrs. We were terribly late already - and there comes the second fuel break! We started from there at 0725. We came to a complete standstill as we passed Hosur. Some updates on a WhatsApp group confirmed that there was a standoff between Tamilnadu and Karnataka over the Cauvery water dispute. The driver took the service road and escaped the traffic on the mainroad for some distance. Roads were closed off near the TN RTO checkpost (Zuzuwadi), and we were forced to take a diversion.

The bus was diverted to the Inner ring road, and we had to take the road via TVS to get to Attibele. Those roads were jammed as well. I dozed off again as we made very slow progress towards Bangalore. I woke up just as the crew shouted out for Attibele passengers - we were parked on the roadside below Attibele flyover now. Quite some people got off, and we started at 0922. Traffic was slightly on the higher side, but we managed to reach Electronic City by 0935hrs. After a crawl at the BETL toll, and dropping passengers after the toll gate, we got on to the flyover by 0942hrs. The bus rushed through the flyover. I got off my seat and headed to the cabin since I needed to get off at Silkboard. The bus stopped short of Silkboard flyover by 0950hrs. Attendant verified the luggage tags before handing over the bag - really liked this professionalism.

What followed next was a classic robbery by an Auto Pirate with his rigged autometer that recorded twice the actual distance - careful guys, stick to an Ola/Uber, or at the worst a Meru, and don't fall for the Meter charge wonly saar trick of auto pirates at Silkboard. Their meters run faster than the auto itself.

Remarks: The bus, KA-01-AF-5531, had about 85K on the odo. The crew, as such, were very well behaved. They spoke very calm and politely to passengers. Driving was good as well - they did some serious speeds at night for sure. I do not appreciate two fuel breaks and an unwarranted dinner break in the middle of the night as well. We lost no less than 45 minutes all these breaks put together. The seating space is terrible - hardly any legroom, and it felt really claustrophobic being in the seat. The leg room is surely a deal-breaker for me. Another real concern I had was the plastic bags they used to pack those blankets - they used the thinnest variety of plastic bags. All those bags contribute to the garbage burden. I'd be happier if they used some better variety reusable bags to pack the blankets, or atleast paper bags. The drivers honked a lot - which is again not acceptable, especially at night.

Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: Yes
Charging Point: Available, On throughout night
Entertainment: Available, movies played.

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 2.5/5

Overall: 3.5/5

Pros: Driving, Cleanliness, Snack box
Cons: Timings, Unwanted breaks, Terrible leg room

Will I take this service again? Only if I get a first row seat, or if I have no choice. The service is great though, and will recommend people who are not bothered of the legroom. 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Bangalore to Trivandrum by Orange Travels Scania

I had been planning to go to Trivandrum since quite some time now. I had some personal and some official work there. I had made a lot of plans earlier, but none went ahead. I ended up cancelling every plan. The official work came as a blessing, since it made me plan the trip seriously. I first booked my return journey - since that was on a Monday evening, and the Monday happened to be holiday in Bangalore and had rush like how its on a Sunday. Trains and flights were not an option - it had to a bus. Bus fares seemed to compete with airlines on that day, and I had to quickly make a decision. More than that in the next post.

I was terribly confused on how to head to Trivandrum. I briefly romanced the idea of taking a sleeper bus - but all of them had only double berths. I romanced taking the state bus for sometime - then dumped the idea and booked on Orange Travels, by then Scania Metrolink HD coach - which was selling at Rs. 900! For the first time, I opted for the first row seat as well - the window on the first row left side. I had accidently used the first row seat in a Scania ride sometime back, and actually loved the seat - so this selection was obvious.

September 03, 2016:
I had a very long and busy day - started off quite early and was tiring as well. I reached home sometime past 1800hrs, and had a lot of work to finish at home, as well. I was getting delayed as time went by. I booked a cab with a 2000hrs pickup and hurried with my dinner. The cab did not turn up even at 2015hrs - calls to the driver weren't replied properly; and, at 2030hrs, the driver refuses to come. I hurried out of home and rushed to the nearest auto stand to get hold of an auto. I get one, and rush towards Madiwala. The roads were in bad shape, plus traffic was building up. I receive a call from the crew at 2050 saying they've reached the pick-up point. Since I was unlikely to reach the place before 2100hrs, which was the scheduled departure time, I request the crew to pick me from Madiwala petrol pump - to which, they agree.

I reach the petrol pump by around 2105hrs and called up the crew once again to confirm that I've reached - the bus hadn't started from Madiwala yet. The place with a bit crowded - lots of passengers waiting for their buses around. Majority of the Andhra/Telangana bound services have their Madiwala pick-up point here. My bus turned up at 2138hrs - KA-01-AF-5529 was working OTT-115 that day. The driver parked a little ahead of the petrol pump - I was not the only passenger joining the bus there. After my ticket was verified, the attendant took my bag and kept in the baggage hold, tagged it, and issued a counterfoil for the tag. We started off from Madiwala petrol pump at 2141hrs.
My bus, when we stopped at Nagercoil. The bus behind had left two hours before us. 
The bus was clean inside. Fresh blanket in a sealed plastic bag was kept on my seat. A 500ml bottle of water and a snack box was kept on the magazine rack near my seat as well. We crawled over Silk Board bridge, and stopped a little before Roopena Agrahara bus stop. We were waiting for the Pick-up van, which brings in passengers from Yeshwantpur, Anand Rao Circle, Hebbal, etc. The van came a little late. We started from there around 2155hrs. We took BETL from there and ended up in heavy traffic near the BETL Exit tollgate. We finally reached the Electronic City pick-up point, right after the toll gate, at 2229hrs, and started from there at 2231hrs. A malayalam movie was being played on the entertainment system - a recent hit. We had another pick-up at Bommasandra - the pick-up point was not clear, and the crew slowed down at every place they saw some passengers waiting. We finally picked up our passengers at 2236 and moved towards Hosur.

Traffic was on the higher side at Attibele toll - the driver stuck to the extreme left lane, which helped us move a little fast, though. We had another pick-up at Hosur - we stopped just before the Hosur flyover at 2304, picked up passengers and started off again at 2308hrs. We pulled into Saravana Bhavan near Krishnagiri for dinner, at 2339hrs. Hardly any passenger got off the bus for dinner - most of those who got off, just walked around, used the wash room and returned to the bus. We finished dinner and started at 0012hrs. I was very sleepy by now - I only remember passing Krishnagiri toll. I had a nice long sleep, that went on till about 0700hrs. We were still on a four-lane road. Going by the time, I assumed we would be somewhere near Kavalkinaru by now. My mobile internet was very slow to load the map, and I couldn't find where we were. The driver had changed sometime during the night. The younger guy who started from Bangalore had given way to a older Malayali guy now.

A little later, the passenger sitting on the seat next to me asked the driver to stop a little ahead. We stopped at Sankarnagar bus stop at 0719hrs - we were still to reach Tirunelveli! We had travelled a little over 490kms in the last 7 hours - not a great average. The crew were talking of some accident on the highway, but this could not be validated by the other bus drivers on the same route. We turned off the highway and entered a small two lane road - heading towards the town. We stopped at Vannarapettai at 0730 - a two minute halt where about 10 passengers got off. We made another stop outside the new bus station in Tirunelvei (0737hrs), before we reached back on the highway. Once back on the highway, the driver let the beast loose and we stabilised at around 98kmph. We passed Kavalkinaru at 0820hrs. Four lane highway gave way to a two-lane road now - with fairly heavy traffic. Although it was Sunday, the traffic on the road was on the higher side.

We pulled into Vadassery bus station in Nagercoil at 0846hrs. A lot of passengers got off here - there were 23 passengers travelling on to Trivandrum. The driver had requested passengers to use the washroom if needed during the halt. We started from there at 0853hrs. Traffic was already dense and the driver struggled to keep pace. We managed to reach Marthandam by 0933hrs and Kaliykkavilai by 0949hrs. We had to stop at Kurumkutty checkpost of the RTO for tax paper verification (0958hrs) - the stop here lasted 8 minutes. We started from there only at 1006hrs. While stopping for verification, a staffer at the checkpost was heard informing the driver that there is heavy traffic ahead at Balaramapuram. I had a mini-heart attack on hearing this.
The bus: KA-01-AF-5529, when we stopped at Kurumkutty check-post.
He was correct. The progress reduced to a crawl soon afterwards. We reached Neyyattinkara by 1022hrs. We crawled out of Neyyattinkara towards Balaramapuram. The 6 kilometre distance to Balaramapuram took about 30 minutes to cover! We reached Balaramapuram at 1052hrs. The next 5 kms to Pravachambalam took 27 minutes to cover, and we reached there at 1119hrs. We finally reached Aristo junction by around 1135hrs - a delay of 2 hours and 35 minutes! The last 68-odd kms took 2 hours and 42 minutes to cover. The end to end ride took 13 hours and 54 minutes - quite high given the fact that we were on a four laned highway for most of the journey.

Remarks: The bus, KA-01-AF-5529, had clocked a little over 85000 kms. The MID claimed a mileage of about 3.5kmpl for the journey. The bus was well maintained - the interiors were very clean. The crew were very well behaved as well - the driver used the PA system to announce stops. The attendant helped passengers with their baggage. The baggage counterfoil was verified before baggage was handed over. The snack box helped me overcome hunger pangs in the morning. I felt the dinner break was unwarranted - they could've replaced it with washroom break instead. Overall a good journey, but terribly delayed though.

Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: Yes
Charging Point: Available, On throughout night
Entertainment: Available, movies played.

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 2.5/5

Overall: 4/5

Pros: Driving, Cleanliness, Snack box
Cons: Timings, Unwanted breaks.

Will I take this service again? I am not a regular passenger on this route. Its a nice service. Recommended.