Having used public transport, intermittently, for around 6 years now, I have observed that there is a certain pattern, a procedure to be followed, a path, rules which been laid down.
Oh, mortals of public-dom, adhere to them or be a small bleating goat at the altar of unbearable crowds and peak hour travel.
1) The process starts from the very moment you see the bus approaching; hitch you backpack/jeans/skirts up (people might just end up pulling it off in their hurry), make sure your dupatta/stole isn’t around your neck (you run the risk of being strangled) and make very sure that your wallet/purse is in a very secure place (you KNOW why. If you don’t, go save enough to buy your own transport, buses are not for you). And more importantly, poise yourself to launch your person into the bus the moment it comes to a halt (you don’t even have to wait for it to stop completely). Seconds count, mind it.
2) ‘Reserving’ (for lack of a better word) seats is not like when you book a flight ticket where the hostess takes your boarding pass and leads you, with a smile, to your seat and asks you if you want imli candy.
Think more on the lines of members of the feline family, the big ones, ripping apart the gazelle, whose neck they broke, fighting for dinner. Here, gazelle dinner = seat. You get the point.
Any object, pens, bags, shoes, socks, handkerchiefs, underwear (of questionable sanitary standards) etc found on the seat need to be taken as a sign that the seat is taken and any attempts to sit anywhere near will be taken as an excuse to start a loud, fish-market-like brawl. Keep away if you want to keep your anonymity in the crowd. Pick another seat, preferably window, and choose to ignore the rest of the world until you arrive at your destination.
3) If, after all your efforts you fail to procure a seat, make sure you do not go anywhere near the middle portion of the bus. You are a woman? Stick to the front, preferably as close to the drivers’ seat as possible. Unless, of course, you want the local law college
men boys staring at your chest (what’s new), contemplating with each other (loudly) what school you go to (!?) and exercising their vocal chords with the sole intention of impressing you with their rendition of the latest kuthu song that goes ‘adraadranaakumooku’ (I don’t know, don’t ask). Or if they consider you pretty enough, you might just get treated to ‘Kalyanam than kettikitti odipolama’ (Google the song for the rest of the lyrics, if you care).
Remember, closest to the driver.
(He’s harmless to you for he usually has his own regular groupies to flirt with at particular stops).
4) Also, in case you have to stand, make sure you stick your elbows out and look straight out of the windshield. If you don’t, you’ll just be crushed into a grainy keema and you’ll have to call somebody to scrape you off the floor/bars of the bus.
5) Have the exact change ready; keep extra coins in Re.1, 50p, 25p, 10p etc. I can’t stress this enough for if you don’t have the EXACT amount and you get stuck in a bus that has an irate conductor (who had a brawl with his wife/mistress about his drinking/eating/social/working habits), that’s Armageddon for you in the form of tickets.
Keep your hand extended in his general direction till he chooses to acknowledge it. If you don’t, he’ll just yell at you like you were trying to cheat your way to the stop. Save yourself the embarrassment and keep it extended, wont you.
snatches takes the money from you, tell him with precision and clarity where it is that you want to go. Also, how many tickets exactly you want (doesn’t matter if there isn’t a single soul on the bus with you, you still specify ONE TICKET). In case you fail to do either of these, aforementioned chances of being embarrassed come to play.
6) If you’ve gotten onto the bus with your guy/girl, brace yourself for perpetual stares. It’ll feel like they almost expect you to start taking your clothes off and do it right there or atleast start groping. Also, be prepared for the ‘Tch, tch’ from the nosy aunties who immediately start discussing the ‘youth today’, your moral character, value system and your parentage (this is one of the points I was referring in 6 where you shouldn’t react). They will invariably end the conversation with what an angel their husband/their daughter is. Now, if you have the good fortune of knowing that the husband has been spending quality time with their bai or that the daughter is in love with the mochi and planning a getaway, you’re allowed one snort. One.
7) Consider wearing Chanel No.6, Brut, Axe and Dove all together before you even think of getting on a bus; you will need it. Trust me when I say you don’t want me to elaborate on this one. Also, practise holding your breath for long periods of time, in case you get stuck between the aunty who smells like she just finished cleaning the septic tank (which consisted of dead rats as well) herself and the uncle who has memory lapses about his last bath (which was three years ago, today). In case, you faint, keep emergency contact numbers on your person.
Also, after reaching home consider taking one bath outside the house with Dettol and one inside with cologne.
8) Ignore all kinds of contact. Most importantly eye contact. Let them stare if they want to, you have your music.
It might lead to inquisitive, inappropriately personal questions like if you’ve tried hash, if you’ve a boyfriend and if you’ve made out with him in the local park, if your parents are divorced etc.
True story, again.
9) If you don’t understand the local language, then all is well. If you do, even in bits and pieces, don’t listen to conversations around you. If you do, don’t react to them; don’t laugh, snort or get pissed. And NEVER reply. My suggestion? A good pair of earphones which cancel out all external noise and an iPod with a minimum of 25 favourite songs upwards, depending on your travel time.
10) In case (after all my warnings) you do get into a situation where you’re pitted against the fattest, ugliest, smelliest woman on board, do NOT argue back. For she’ll make you look like a spoilt, rich brat (doesn’t matter that your father is a middle class istriwala) who is disrespectful, bitchy and careless. And the rest of the bus will revel in the scene of your humiliation. Suggested course of action: pretend you don’t understand human forms of communication. Better still, pretend that you’re verbally impaired. She’ll decide that you’re not fun enough to rape verbally and move on.
One last thing, please make sure you stand near the door at least a stop before yours and crane your neck out in order to prevent having to flail your arms like a goddamn marionette doll after the driver decides to skip your stop and drop you 3 kms from where you wanted to get down in the first place.
P.S: Do note that my experience is limited to TNSTC and the occasional KSRTC.
Originally written for Spiff but posted here because
1) She gets something else.
2) I've too many aches and pains to type anything new out.
And sorry about not replying to previous comments, please bear with me until I can move my body parts normally again.