A bus journey in Chennai, India – An hour of abuse in route 27c
A jerky bus journey from T.Nagar to Koyambedu
A Crowded bus in Chennai
Having an own transport to commute comfortably within the city with a fully loaded car, would definitely distract or even stop you from using any other means of transport. Well, the situation in my case demanded me to commute by bus on the day when I witnessed the pain of traveling by bus. If you are thinking what the “SITUATION or CIRCUMSTANCES” could have been, I can only assure you that I will definitely write another blog on that.
Scorching heat and humid conditions of Chennai will dampen the spirits and morale of even the most ardent disciples of the great Tamil poet Bharathiyar who is quoted saying “Fear not even if the thunder falls on your roof. Be determined on the task you have set to achieve”.
Well, if he was alive in our era, he would have probably rephrased the quote as “Fear not even if the temperature soars to 40 degrees. Be determined on the task you have set to achieve.” Ofcourse not to blame him because, global warming is a phenomenon which was probably unheard of nearly half a decade ago. Discomfort sets in very early in the morning during summer in Chennai and remains as ORDER OF THE DAY until you switch on that wonderful invention called “Air Condition” at night. I honestly feel very guilty every day after my shower especially during summer when I wear my singlet along with the shorts. This is because, being a male I definitely feel a lot comfortable not wearing a t/shirt or a shirt because of the inevitable sweating you are about to experience. But when I think of the ladies in the house who could not do the same because of the Indian culture, most of the time I resort to wearing a t/shirt and a shorts which I consider as self penalizing or probably think that I would want to share the same uncomfortable experience as others in the house atleast in the dress code.
If you were wondering why I am describing the summer in Chennai in more detail, you would appreciate this background information when you proceed to read further. Carrying a red Samsonite backpack which some say is characteristic of me, I walked my way through the hustle and bustle of the crowded shopping hot spot called T.Nagar in Chennai. I was very anxious and ofcourse cautious about my approach towards the bus terminus because it has been so many years since I have set my foot on a passenger bus. To give you a graphical picture of how the place looks like, I could simply say that it’s a large playground where you can see literally all possible moving and stationary things and people in one place with no order.
Relishing those sweet memories, I reached the bus terminus pondering as to which bus I should board to reach my home in Koyambedu. Affirming my thoughts I had my HTC vibrate in my pocket alerting me of an incoming call. (Well, any fancy or famous ringtones would be of no use in this place where the noise pollution is formally rated and published as beyond living conditions.) I approached a booth which used to be the ENQUIRY booth many years back. Not to my surprise the guy sitting inside the booth in uniform directed me to another place to the far right to get answer for my simple question. Wading my way through the fleet of buses I managed to get the bus number which will take me home.
Since it is a bus terminus, normally most passengers hope to find a seat to make their journey a bit comfortable. Well, Lady Luck never was in my side in the past and was never on that day as well. I boarded the bus from the back entrance and gently removed my backpack and held it in my left hand and stood near a pole/bar to hold myself tightly during the journey. The bus was well crowded to my standards and therefore I was not the odd man standing. Walking through the streets was more than enough to call the sweat glands into action and impartially these glands volunteers for every one during the Chennai summer. I was slowly getting drenched in my sweat and therefore pulled out my handkerchief to freshen myself. In the background I could hear people around me calling and shouting for the bus driver to start the bus immediately. Little does the middle class know about the free SAUNA experience you can have in a bus.
Bringing relief to our despair, the bus jerked vigorously and everyone knew it was the starting phase of the bus. Our bus started to move slowly and the conductor of the bus asked the people standing to move gently to the front of the bus so that he could squeeze in a few more people boarding the bus. Even before the bus could reach the exit of the terminus, I easily moved to the front because all it takes is a push from people inside the bus and you move like being in a travelator. Reaching the front, I observed three ladies (two middle-aged, and one young girl in pink color chudidhar) standing in the Gents side of the bus 3 feet away from me. The bus hardly travelled at 5km/ph approaching the exit of the terminus, when a young girl in a beautiful green color Salwar rushed and boarded the bus. She managed to climb the steps hurriedly which were full of young and old guys. She then safely stood near the ladies section of the front side of the bus. Obviously she seems to be returning from work and was all stressed up by the looks of it. Bus slowly started picking speed……and the journey began.
Right in front of me and at the back of that young girl in green was a gentleman of average height with a very pious look and he certainly boasted it with an explicit bright sandalwood paste on his forehead. Bus was still within the shopping territory and hence the driver was unable to engage the top gear. The crowd on the road was so chaotic and the fellow drivers so erratic, our bus driver was stamping on the brake pads so often which jolted and jerked everyone inside the bus. Fitness certainly demands it place when you want to commute by a bus in Chennai.
The young girl, who came with her two other relatives, murmured something to them which spontaneously sparked a fellow male passenger. Curiously looking at why this guy was provoked, I saw a guy in a full khaki uniform standing behind that young girl who said to that girl “If you do not want to be even accidentally rubbed or touched, you should choose other means of transport. Blame it on the bus and the bus driver.” Her relatives now became wary of the girl’s concern and discomfort and tried to protect her from any further abuse. But in a crowded bus like this and in such a humid condition, they were seemingly helpless excepting to start a bit of gossip to give her some company. But I could see that the girl was not paying even an iota of attention to any of the gossips because she was being constantly abused by the man in khaki under the excuse of the bus journey.
Meantime, the girl in the green dress was turning her head sideways (both sides) to see who was disturbing her from the back side. Well, I guess she was not shocked to see a male standing behind her. I was shocked to realize that this pious man was rubbing her from the back under the same excuse of the bus journey. Having a slight height advantage, I was watching both the abusing incidents unfolding in front of my eyes. This pious man was literally not bothered about the disgusting facial expressions given by the girl in green dress but on the contrary was constantly moving back and forth making the best use of opportunity. Abuse of the girl in pink dress and the girl in green was increasing right through the journey and both seemed victimized. Every attempt for the girls to move away from the situation was in vain because of the crowd. Well, the reality is that if not for the khaki and the pious guy, someone else would continue the abuse as a relay.
The girl in pink dress uttered a sentence loudly enough for the majority of us to hear. In her verbatim, she said “I did not know that such filthy things happen in a bus ride in Chennai. Does the conductor have any control of the situation or no?” This indirectly revealed that she was a stranger to the Chennai city and she of course fervently promised that never ever she would get on a bus in Chennai again. I also heard her saying that never in her district of Coimbatore this kind of abuse would be permitted or even tolerated by anyone. She thoroughly regretted not using an auto rickshaw to travel to her destination. Panning my eyes in the front, the girl in green was turning red all over but surprisingly remained silent because any agitation from her side might tarnish her image and call for a unhealthy exchange of words which most of the girls or ladies abstain from indulging in.
As if I was running short of these experiences, I could see another young girl sitting with red tops diagonal to the left of me showing signs of discomfort. This was a situation in contrary because the girl was comfortably seated on the window side definitely few feet away from the male. Glancing a few times towards that side, I could infer that she was not comfortable sitting with the baggy type tops she was wearing because she was becoming conscious about the prying males standing on the sides. This particular incident captured all the pathos of the situation faced by these ladies and young girls who are travelling by bus day in and day out. It certainly instigated me to write this blog with the sole intention to express my empathy for these girls who have to endure this abuse unwillingly. Society in general is so lip tight about these kinds of incidences firstly because it is very common and secondly people including me feels much unsecured.
Reaching my destination in Koyambedu, finally gave relief to the girl in the pink dress who got off with me, and a place to sit for the girl in green because majority of the passengers disembarked. Fate of the girl in the red tops and other ladies presumably continued till their destination and will continue forever until they own a vehicle which has four doors and tinted glasses…….
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