Hindusthan Travels: Coimbatore to Bangalore by day service Volvo B9R

After booking the tickets for my outward journey, I had a tough time getting tickets for the return. I did not want to spend another night in the bus (I was spending every alternate night in buses that week – and wanted to enjoy that Sunday night in the cosy comforts of the bed at my home). So night buses were ruled out – the only day bus was the Kallada B9R. For some reason, that bus did not have any tickets for that day – there were tickets for Coimbatore-Bangalore in that bus though. I called up Conti, but they did not have tickets for that day. KPN was full as well. I booked on the Hindusthan weekend special day-time service. I chose the first row seats – to enjoy the road ahead and also take advantage of the huge led room.

November 18, 2012. 1045hrs:
I walked out of Gandhipuram city bus station and headed into the SETC bus station to see if there were some surprises out there. For some reason, my phone wasn’t able to hook on to the network – so did a bit of jugaad (typical scenario: remove the sim, wipe it and re-insert it), and it worked. After that, I headed to Annapoorna-Gowrisankar, for a breakfast-cum-lunch. Stuffed in some really delicious stuff, and headed to the Omni Bus station. I purposefully selected Omni BS this time so that I could take some photos there. Hindusthan’s Chennai day bus came in exactly at 1145, and went at 1200hrs. I was hoping that I’d get an i-shift this time – but the bus to turn up was KA-01-AB-2653, one from their first lot. The bus came in at 1221hrs.

I was standing outside the BS when the bus turned up, and was the first passenger to get on board. The driver went to their office and informed about the arrival of the bus. The “checker” came after that, and started verifying tickets. A few passengers were yet to turn up – the checker was busy calling them one-by-one. One passenger said he’d joined at the Nava India office while another one said he is not travelling. We started off from Omni BS with 12 passengers on board, at 1232hrs – a delay of two minutes. By the time the bus got moving, he was already getting calls from the office asking reasons for the delay! The bus went around fairly crowded roads, and reached Nava India (the Hindusthan HO) at 1245hrs. Boarding started immediately after the bus stopped.

While I was busy looking outside, someone called my name and said “hello”. I turned back, and that was my bus fan friend Dhandapani – I had met him at Madurai the previous month. I had in fact remembered about him when I was in the bus. He too was in the same bus to Bangalore. Interestingly, my co-passenger would board only at Salem – so Dhandapani took my adjacent seat. That was the first time I ran into someone I know, that too in a bus! A total of 12 passengers got in at Nava India, and the bus started off at 1254hrs. The curtains separating the driver section from the passenger section were closed immediately after the bus started off.

There were two drivers and one attendant in the bus. The attendant went around confirming the number of passengers in the bus, while the drivers were busy discussing the pick-up points with the number of passengers getting in from each point. We stopped at Hopes College for the next pick-up (1306hrs).  The bus was before time, but the guys at Hindusthan office had already alerted the agent there – he had kept the passengers ready. A family was yet to turn up – so the crew were busy calling them and the driver was upset at the fact that the bus would hold up traffic on the busy road. The family turned up quickly, and we started off at 1306hrs – 11 passengers got in here. We had 35 passengers on board now.

The second driver headed off to the berth for some sleep, while the attendant was playing around with the Entertainment system. He switched it on, put in a DVD as well – but the TV wasn’t displaying anything. He had jumbled the TV settings and also the Amplifier settings. I asked him for the TV remote – he quickly handed it over to me. I changed the channel to AV. It was a fairly new movie – the same one that I had seen in KPN last month! The two of us had a lot to talk about – and we concentrated a bit less on the movie. The bus stopped for another pick-up at Karumathampatti (1332) where two passengers joined. The next pickup was Avinashi (the bus goes inside the town to pick up passengers) – at 1353hrs, two more pax joined in.
The bus: KA-01-AB-2653. Taken when the bus stopped for break.
 The driver wasn’t very comfortable driving a day trip – he honked a lot, and was struggling to make overtakes. He wasn’t rash or did not show hurry though. After entering the 4-laned section after Chengampally, the driver calmed down, and starting using cruise control more often. My GPS kept displaying speed in the range of 88~92kmph all the time. My friend was expecting the bus to stop at Perundurai for lunch (based on his previous experience) – but the bus just went past the plaza without stopping. The movie got over before Salem – the attendant just shut down the entertainment system (also remembered to close the rear screen). We reached Salem at 1530hrs. There was some confusion regarding the boarding point – the guys at the office in Salem told passengers that the bus would pick them from the office (near the bus station), while the crew have been told by the head office to pick-up passengers from the bypass. We were waiting all the time near the first signal on Salem bypass (the one where the road to Salem Steel Plant branches off).

The confusion resulted in a long wait for us on Salem bypass. The guys in the office brought the passengers to the bus in an autorickshaw. One passenger was still missing – the crew called them, and found that they were waiting for the bus at the next junction. We picked up the passenger from the junction. The people who came to send off the lone passenger (a lady with two kids) was bit furious about the “crew changing the pick-up point at the last moment” – the driver apologised profusely and mentioned that the bus normally picks up from the bypass only, and the office guys in Salem goofed up. Now, the lady passenger was throwing tantrums – she had two tickets – one for herself and the other for her boy child (looking aged around 10~12). She had another girl child along. Now she wants all of them to sit together – her booked seats were far apart.

The crew explained their inability to help her in this regard – the bus was full – 44/44 bookings (43 passengers travelling – one “no-show”). There were no seats to accommodate her request. The bus started off after all the confusion at around 1550hrs. Traffic was on the heavier side – but still not the worst. My friend, who was drop dead hungry by now, asked the crew if they’d stop for a break somewhere – they replied that the bus would stop at Thoppur, and gave a “sorry expression” when my friend told that he hadn’t taken lunch expecting the bus to stop at Perundurai. Thoppur toll gate came and went, so did the A2B. My friend was a bit confused now – A2B is gone, so where are we stopping? We pulled into the new Rajabhojanam restaurant, located at the first IOC Fuel station just past A2B (1652hrs).

I wasn’t feeling hungry (thanks to the heavy brunch I had) – so decided to take a juice instead. The food items were overpriced (like at every restaurant where buses stop) – a small 150ml serving of fresh juice cost me around Rs. 50. I picked up a packet of air and a cold drink before heading back to the bus – oh, yes! I was indeed lucky to find some potato chips in the packet of air. I walked around the bus – and found dents on the rear panel. The bus had done around 1.03lakh kms (according to the odo). We started off at 1716hrs – the second driver was at the wheels. This person too felt very uncomfortable with a day drive – Hindusthan operates day services only over weekends.

As it got darker, the guy at the wheels felt more comfortable. He planned his overtakes really well, and we kept evading traffic at every toll gate effectively. We passed Hosur at 1907hrs. Thankfully, Atibelle toll was unusually less chaotic. Our driver chose the least crowded lane, and he managed to beat the traffic here as well. We reached Electronic City at 1939hrs – after dropping a few passengers, the bus got on the BETL and we rushed towards Madiwala. The curtains were moved apart, and I could see the driver clearly now. The moment the bus stabilised on the elevated highway, the driver activated cruise control at 90kmph. I was dropped at Silk Board, at 1948hrs – bid bye to Dhandapani and got off the bus. I took a rickshaw back home. This was the first time I reached Bangalore so early after taking a day bus!

Concluding remarks: The bus, KA-01-AB-2653, had around 1.03lakh kms on the odo. The interiors had a blue theme, and it looked a bit worn out. The seats were clean. The exteriors of the bus had some marks. The rear has some damages. However, the mechanical maintenance was good – no squeaks or rattles. The crew were very polite, and were really concerned about punctuality. Hindusthan has won a lot of regular passengers of itself – a lot of people migrated from other players to this player. They’ve really emerged as a good competition for some established players in the industry. This is one operator, I am eagerly looking at. There are some news reports that they’ve acquired an operator running on the Bangalore-Kerala route – if that is true, it would mark their entry to the Kerala route.

I loved their punctuality – the left on time, and arrived on time. I had reported an issue with their website the last time I used them – they called me up on my phone and took stock of what the real issue was. And, this time, I found that they’ve fixed the issue. I did not expect an operator to follow up passenger feedback seriously and get their acts right. I wish them all the best and hope they continue the good show in the future as well.

Cleanliness: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5
Staff Behaviour: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

Will I take this service again: Surely, why not? Hindusthan is too good an operator to be avoided.