Monday, 21 July 2014

The Journey by Bus



Journey By Bus

It had been quite long after I bought my personal car that I traveled in bus. I used to take my car wherever I traveled, so I almost forgot how it felt like to be traveling in the bus and why I brought the car despite not having enough money.

I boarded the bus from Gelephu. I was bit early there, my friend dropped me there in his car. The reporting time mentioned in the ticket was 06:30 am and the departure 30 minutes after that. But that day the bus did not start even at 7 am. It used to be always like that, the memory of me wanting to buy a car came flooding back. If one were early the bus would start late, but if one were late by even one minute the bus would have already gone; as people rightly say that BST stands for Bhutan stretchable time instead of Bhutan standard time.

Finally after 30 minutes the bus left the station. The driver put on the music of his choice, it was a good music at first but later along the way he kept on playing the same song again and again that by the time I reached Thimphu I almost knew the song by heart. That was another reason I wanted to buy my own car.

We reached Sarpang road junction. There was a police check gate, the bus stopped there and all the passengers were made to walk for some distance. They were thoroughly checked as if the travelers were terrorists. To my surprise the small cars and other vehicles were not even stopping there.

After about 50 meters the bus stopped again and that is for the breakfast whether you are hungry or not. The bus started to move after 30 minutes or so and reached another check post of the police near the bridge just after traveling for about 6 to 7 kilometers. There again passengers were made to disembark and prove their identity by showing their identity cards. The private cars and trucks were not required to stop there. How I wished that I brought my own car. There were one elderly couple talking to each other and I overheard them saying that it was the lady who did not want to take their own car for the journey. They were saying that they will never travel in bus ever again. Internally, I too pledged the same.

As we crossed that obstacle, the bus stopped again, but this time it was not for checking but it was to fill the bus with passengers, even when there was not a single seat left, unoccupied. There were passengers on the cover of the engine, there were passengers sitting on the steps of the doorway and the aisle were all filled from the end to the front. Due to overcrowding there were different stench of people oozing. On top of that the favorite music of the driver kept on playing again and again, the same song at full volume in treble, it pierced my ears; it is like a torture to listen to the same song again and again however good that song maybe. I regretted for not bringing my own car. I looked towards the couple who were not happy to be traveling in the bus, and saw that their eyes were shut, trying to sleep but obviously not being able to sleep.

When we were about to reach Tserang at around mid day, the bus stopped all the passengers were disembarking. I was also getting ready to get out but the driver told me that those who have seat can stay inside; it was for those standing passengers (sitting on the engine cover and along the aisle) only. The bus moved and reached Tserang town. We were greeted by police and man clad in orange jacket over their gho. They again checked the bus, but this time only visually. And I don’t know what they were checking? If they were looking for bus carrying extra passengers, they have been just tricked by about 20 meters, and 20 meters is not a great distance to not to see the ongoing. I felt like reporting but I really doubted the collusion, because the driver and the inspectors were chatting in a way, too friendly, to have any professionalism in their respective duties.

After lunch the bus started with authorized numbers of passengers, after all it was not that bad in bus if extra passengers were not allowed. The comfort was a short lived one, because just after crossing the town all those pedestrians of the Tserang town, freshly poured in by our bus, were there waiting to board the bus again. The driver stopped the bus obediently and they got in, to the displeasure of me and those two couple, because the rest of travelers were used to it or it seemed like – they were used to it, because they did not mind it at all and they must have been through all these ordeals time and again as and when they traveled by bus.
windows not closed even when we crossed this.
  
We reached Thimphu safely, that’s what matters in the end I think. And I was to glad to get out of the bus and never to travel by bus again, even if it is for free. And thanks to the driver that now I know one new song by heart. But I made one enemy with the man in front of me, as we were sharing a window, he preferred closing it and I preferred opening, so we had a mental fight of aggression and pulling and pushing of the sliding glass of the window of the bus, both of us came to and understanding without talking and kept the window half open till the end of the journey. Even when we were at high altitude crossing passes covered in show, when it felt too cold, I did not close the window and neither did he dared to close it. We are not going to meet anytime soon because I m not travelling by bus ever again and he seem like a bus loving guy.

Now that the tax had been increased and most of my fellow citizens who are in the lower strata of the society will not be able to buy car of their own, they may have to keep on going through the checking and rechecking, as it is apparently considered, that the people travelling in bus are from the lower income group of the society and treated in that that way.

Till the time the mentality of the people change towards people travelling by bus and till the time public transport were given preferential treatment (like in the developed country there is a separate lane for the bus thus buses never get struck in jams, people travelling busses are not looked down, they do not undergo repeated checking, etc). People will go on buying cars no matter what. That’s why I brought my car too; I almost forgot that and had to go through the same troubles again. Nothing had changed for decades but the size of the bus, it had become smaller.