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  • Writer's picturemayuresh moghe

For enjoyment and adventure, travel by the Pune city bus.

Occasionally I love to take the city bus in Pune, especially when I need to go to places where finding parking for your own vehicle is a huge challenge even for a fairly tiny two-wheeler. On the other hand, there are many advantages to riding the bus. For starters, you save yourself from all the stress caused by the infamously erratic, indisciplined Pune traffic. The bus driver is handling that for you and believe me they are used to it. They also have their own methods of tackling it when the situation gets out of hand, and on most occasions that provides free entertainment to the commuters. See the double advantage! Secondly the bus obviously doesn't give you a door to door pick up and drop service. It halts only at designated stops and then you have to walk either to or from the bus stop toward the intended destination, which means a boost in your daily step count, taking it closer to the 10k mark. If walking does not do the trick for you, then there are those rare instances of a short distance sprint to the bus stop, when you believe that you are reaching the bus stop before time, but when you turn round the corner you suddenly realize that the bus was off the blocks a trifle quicker and is going to beat you to the stop. I ran one of these the other day and I am proud to say that it left me quite pleased because not only did I actually manage to board the bus on the run, but more importantly, my lungs were not set on fire after that burst. The fact that I had had a sumptuous lunch just a few minutes before, allowed me to concede myself a pretty high score on the 'feel good factor' scale. When you are 45, you take solace in such self assigned fitness tests. Smartwatches are the most important gadgets for us. Anyway.

The bus is a collection of myriad characters and behaviours, all sharing a common space for a certain period of time. There are young school and college going boys and girls, office commuters, the grumpy old men with their facial muscles stuck in a perpetual smirk, the loud family in which the kids cannot decide where they should sit and each of the kids wanting the seat where the other one is sitting and so they keep switching seats at almost every stop. Then there are those who are buried in their cell phones either texting or listening to music through headphones, oblivious to the world around and there are the loud talkers on the cell phone who either knowingly or otherwise want all the people to know every detail of what is going on in their life at that very moment. Like in a theater performance, these characters enter, play their part and take an exit, only to be replaced by new characters. If you are traveling long distance, then believe me you are in for a full three-act play, which you can enjoy from your seat.

All these sounds result in a synthesized, continuous buzz that is periodically overshadowed by the conductor announcing the next stop or asking the people to scooch to the front end of the bus or asking the commuters to purchase tickets in a voice that is half a level below what can be called threatening while also ringing the 'single' and 'doube' bell signalling the driver to stop and start the bus respectively. The bus itself is not too far behind in contributing with its own sounds of screeching brakes, gears that shift very reluctantly and rattling windows and seats. Not once have I been on a bus where I was not thrown forward in a sudden jerk on more than one occasion because the driver jammed on the brakes with all his might to avoid hitting some moron of an auto driver or a cyclist who appeared right in the front from nowhere, like an apparition. The frightening screeching sound is invariably followed by expletives thrown at each other by both the parties involved. Then there is also the mother and daughter duo who suddenly gets on the bus not at a designated stop, but when it has barely halted at a traffic light only to realize late,r that they either got on the wrong bus, or the patriarch of the family could not manage to show the same agility as them and was left behind. Confusion and chaos follows, where human voices reach an extremely high volume and pitch till the concerned commuters are shown their way out of the door. The driver and condcutor then have a debate of their own on the issue where a couple passengers contribute voluntarily.

Many would say that there are other evils to contend with like overcrowded buses, delays, breakdowns and the general unpredictability of the service that has to be dealt witth. I agree to all that, but maintain that they are an integral part of the adventures associated with city bus travel. If nothing else they are a worthy trade off against the entertainment that it provides time and again. Do not believe me? Well, the next time you have to go out, leave the favored two wheeler behind and ride the city bus.

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