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‘What Do You Do While Commuting?’

Commuting to workplace is a daily chore. And unavoidable. Previously it used to be buses, now metro railway. With the change in the mode of travel has come certain changes in habits.

Travelling in buses was not a very pleasant experience. The dust, noise, heat, wind – there were so many botherations you had to put up with. But what could I do? I had to reach the workplace; and travelling by bus was certainly preferable than travelling on my own two wheeler – the only mode of travel I had at the time! Travelling on my scooter would have meant all the above plus the stress of negotiating the wild and unruly traffic of Delhi! On any given day – I would have liked to avoid that tension.

In Delhi, driving a scooter always gave me jitters – it was as if I was negotiating through a play of life and death! It always amazes me how Delhiites risk their lives driving so rashly!

It was not so back in Jhansi, where I purchased my scooter – the first vehicle that I purchased. The traffic was less – unruly but negotiable. On some roads I enjoyed riding my two-wheeler – pulling the hand accelerator all the way back – riding on an almost empty road, feeling the air on my face, hearing it fly past my helmet with a whoosh!

I had just learnt driving; my inexperience gave those drives an extra thrill – the ride became riskier than it would have been for an expert driver: the seat seemed to be too high, speed too fast, curves too tight, speed too fast!…I remember a ride that I really enjoyed, albeit mixed with stirrings of trepidation. I took my wife from Jhansi to Orchha, the temple town. I had not yet become an expert driver, we were newly married, I was not so sure about the route to the temple town, and I was concerned about the safety on that road – all these factors made me a little jittery, which was reflected in the speed with which I completed that ride — a little more than my normal-speed-on-the-highway…I was pleased to learn later on that she thoroughly enjoyed that trip, including the ride to-and-fro. I still have extremely beautiful and memorable photographs of that visit!

When I came back to Delhi after completing my tenure in Jhansi, I tried to take my scooter to my office presuming that I will get used to the roads of Delhi as I had got used to the roads of Jhansi. But it was a qualitative change: the traffic was unbelievably unruly and fast, a free for all — I just couldn’t accept the idea that every day I was risking my life to commute to my office – the ride to and back from office was horrifying! I made up my mind after a few days against commuting on the scooter and took to buses – chartered buses, as they were called, being buses exclusively run for office people under a sort of pooling system.

During the initial days, it was a novel and exciting experience. Away from the noise and hustle of the public transport buses, safely ensconced in the cozy environment consisting of similar people, who were also polite and well behaved – what was that if not the icing on the cake? Every trip exuded the flavor of a homecoming!

Some of my initial experiences in these buses made me quite emotional! For example, once when I was travelling with my wife a person started distributing prasad of Tuesday. Suddenly we felt as if we were the part of a family: it was almost as if we were well looked after and taken care of!

Another experience of those initial days makes me feel proud to this day and made my workout chores in Jhansi worth all the hard work that I put into them!

During my initial tryst with these buses, I was going to my office in a chartered Bus. I was standing, with my hand firmly holding the bar overhead. I used to be very proud of my grip, and was quite certain that nobody could disengage it; but I was not aware that it was going to be tested that day! The bus was moving with fairly high speed, not that anybody was unhappy with the fact, all of us being in a mood to reach workplace as early as possible! Suddenly the bus driver applied brakes, and a shockwave went within the bus from front to the rear. Everyone was jolted wherever he or she was standing; with many passengers falling over each other.

I, with my firm grip, was not moved much, physically I mean. But there was a plump lady standing next to me. She got hold of my free arm, yet she fell down the stairs of the bus, still holding me in her panic. However, I did not lose my grip, she got hold of herself, and by dragging herself up the stairs with the help of my arm, she again got back to her feet…and thanked me! Later on I heard her telling one of her friends that she was saved due to my grip, since she weighed more than 80 kilos in weight!

Did I feel proud!

Travelling has always been an exciting activity for me – even if it is a simple commute to my workplace! The changing scene outside the window always catches my imagination and sets my mind on fire.

An activity that gels well with travelling is reading a book. I have finished so many books while travelling – mostly while commuting to and from work.

An interesting place to observe people, and how they pass the commuting time is inside the Mumbai’s Metro trains – the old ones! The variety that I observed there is simply marvellous. Besides the most obvious activity – sleeping! – that people indulge in there is another one that seems to occupy man’s fancy- playing cards. Generally the office bag is converted into a makeshift table – no mater whether you are standing or sitting – ways can be devised to keep the bag steady – on somebody’s lap, on two arms from two participants in the game. The owners of the arms will keep on changing, to share the burden – but the game must go on!

Then you find bhajan tolis, groups of people singing religious songs – in various languages.

While commuting in Mumbai locals of yore I began wondering the kind of skills that can be woken up in you by the mere act of commuting. Some commuters have become experts in judging the names of the local stations by their smells, and others by their sounds! The sensory skills are really important for survival, and surviving the local commute in Mumbai’s locals was a skill that had to be learnt over a period of time.

But that is a separate subject…more on it some other time!

 

 

 

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