The thing with using public transport is first to save a little money on the commute which you can spend elsewhere, like indulging in a plate of steaming momos or finally buying that cute top you saw online, and secondly to not add to the pollution or the horrendous traffic jams that have become so common throughout the city. But after a few trips and headaches, you start to debate whether that top or even the environment is really worth all the trouble.
The first thing that is impossible to understand is the competition between the buses. The drivers have no concern for the safety of the passengers when they swerve left and right like maniacs to stop other buses from overtaking. If you like the adrenaline high of riding a rollercoaster, I would say, don’t spend so much money for a ride at the theme park when you can pay just Rs 5 and feel the thrill of putting your life on the line so that the driver and conductor can (maybe) make a few extra bucks. For someone who has witnessed buses that run on schedule in other cities, I couldn’t comprehend why that’s not being done here. That way, you know exactly when the next bus will be stopping at the station which makes it that much more convenient for commuters and these drivers won’t try to murder people while trying to race each other.
Now if you are thinking that is all you should worry about when you get on the bus, you would be wrong. No, there are also people who have no idea about personal space. You know the people (men and women) who will stick to you when there is enough space for a polar bear to do hat-tricks right next to them, on the other side. The ones who stand right next to where you are sitting and then breathe on you or cough on you or sneeze on you, trying to present you with their viruses during the commute. Have people never heard of covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough, clearly not!
If this wasn’t enough, there will be a few drunks (mostly men) who reek of cheap alcohol and stare at the women like they are aliens from another planet. You must have assumed that this happens after that sun sets, well it happens in the mornings as well. Now, I could be jumping to conclusions here, maybe they stare at the women without blinking to discover some breakthrough in telepathy or maybe they are trying to play ‘who can go the longest without blinking’ game and us women are just not sporting enough.
However the worst are the young misbehaved punks who think they own the bus, they talk loudly on the phone (swearing and cussing included at no extra cost), they refuse to give up their seats for old men and women who would fall down like a pile of cards when the driver decides to brake at the very last moment (which happens quite often), they smoke biris standing at the doorway and refuse to move even an inch to let people get down or get up.
The point I am trying to make is that it is literally impossible to commute via bus in the city without getting irritated or angry. That is just the way it is. I hoped that the AC buses and women-only buses would help but most of the times, they are a no-show. Honestly, I have seen a women-only bus, only once. As for the AC buses, they are few and far in between and sometimes after you have waited for about 45 minutes for the AC bus and you spot the bus from far away, it doesn’t slow down at the stop and just keeps on going with zero passengers on board. Again, I may be jumping to conclusions, maybe the buses are helping spirits and invisible magical creatures get from one place to another like the Knight Bus in the Harry Potter books, and are not meant for muggles like myself.
The sad part is that it is not impossible for the public transport in Guwahati to change for the better. We can look at public transport systems in other countries and learn from them. It can change but will it? I don’t have high hopes, to be honest.
By Meeta Borah
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