Medal hanging from the neck had just won an intraschool competition in memory of another brother (Khalistani, Sardar or just plain and simple Surd) who unfortunately had succumbed to a heart ailment. I had boarded the bus as an independent (no particular affiliations here)for the first time in school. It was a surreal experience having bumped into my Nana (paternal grandfather) in the same bus which gave me an opportunity to show off to somebody from the family.
You can take the Dilliwallah from Delhi but you can’t take the bus from within the Dilliwallah. The hoards getting in all at once, the constant heckling driving the daylights out of women, the unavoidable jostling for space, the unofficial abuse of official machinery i.e DP (Dilli Police) or “Staff” on being asked for a ticket or at times the hilarious arguments that occur without any warnings…A couple (Man and Wife) and the fairer one fighting for the seat next to her since she did not want him to vacate the “ladies only” seat for the ‘other woman.’ Another action sequence involved a daredevil who was hanging onto the bus and did not want to pay from his pockets for obvious reasons; sensing an opportunity to flex his muscles, the conductor hardly wasted any time in grappling with him and before you knew it ‘patak.’ This was when the conductor himself, halfway outside the window.
It’s a time honoured tradition of competition between the government-owned, debt-laden, never hoping to break even D.T.C and the private operators on the same routes. The advent of the metro has definitely put a sizeable number out of business but it wasn’t always the case. It all started with the dilapidated D.T.C and the just introduced privately owned Red Lines. Apt, given the nomenclature reflected the Congress’s socialist tendencies tapering off. The buses more than ‘lived up’ to the tag by driving over every living being in their path or structures being built by them. Before one realized, the menace had become an urban legend with anxious parents worrying about the whereabouts of their wards going astray after tuitions if they didn’t return in time and the government put a stop to it by rechristening the fleet Blue Lines. Banning the fleet altogether could not have happened considering the clout operators enjoyed with the vast majority of office goers in the quintessential ‘Chartered Buses.’ Always on the warpath but still making it to the office, mother never missed a day of work in Connaught Place courtesy the service provided even though she had a driver’s license but was too afraid to drive…
Blue Lines though still didn’t stop hacking innocents at the end of which the government had to come up with another avatar by giving them the name Green Lines which coincided with Delhi being declared the hosts for CWG 2010 and there was a windfall for long-forgotten D.T.C with low floor buses in green and maroon for non ac and ac respectively complimenting their brethren. The transport department also had the foresight to take advantage of the ailing fleet by utilizing it solely for school going children rather than selling them off as scrap. Now isn’t that ‘lovely.’
Routes starting at 7 in the morning to 10 in the night. 6-8 times on the same route every day, drivers and conductors are an overworked lot. Unwinding at the end of the day with families (govt.) or doze(Pvt.) Cleansing their livelihood, sleeping…Tomorrow is another day
PS-Is the CPI listening???