Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Namma BMTC (Not-so-loosely translated as ‘Our BMTC’)

Everyone who has been to Bangalore and has travelled in the BMTC buses here, please raise your hands! (The rest of you can scratch your chins :D)

The BMTC bus conductor takes pride in not returning the exact change when you buy the ticket. If you give Rs.30 for a Rs.25 ticket, he’ll get you the ticket, and with a ease that comes only with years of practice, he’ll write “5” behind the ticket. Now this means that any time before you get down, you had better “remind” him that he has to return you the change, that is, if you actually want the change! But if by any chance you forget to remind him about the fiver, don’t expect him to remember and return it to you. Mind you, it’s not because he has any intention of keeping your money, but the simple reason is that he is a very very busy man, who doesn’t have time to remember about the trivial amount. Which, in fact, he could have easily returned to you the moment you bought the ticket as is bag is always overflowing with loose change, but he doesn’t. Because he wants to improve the collective memory of the citizens of Bangalore! (So nice of him na?)

And when you do remind him about the change, and he returns it to you, he’ll tear the ticket or scratch off the “5” just in case you don’t ask him for the change again later! You see, there’s room for only one smart-ass in a BMTC bus!

So, last week, I boarded a bus, found myself a seat, took out the cash and bought a ticket. And I was lucky enough to get a “7” behind my ticket (yeah I like to think of it as some kinda lottery ticket!) I didn’t know how much the ticket would cost and therefore couldn’t provide the exact change and ended up with the 7 on my ticket.

Now 7 is a very odd number. Yeah you would think it’s not even, so it’s odd. But how on earth is it “very odd”, right? It’s very odd because it doesn’t matter much when it’s a 1, 2, 3 or for that matter 4 behind the ticket. Even if I forget to ask it and lose the money, I feel it’s a small amount. It’s actually “change”/“chillar”. But when it touches 5, it kinda becomes not-so-small. Its half-plate panipuri! It’s a Cadbury Munch! It’s not chillar anymore!

So, mindful of the fact that I do have to remind the gentleman in khaki about the Rs.7 he owes me, I sat there listening to 'Hey there Delilah!' on my cell. Around halfway into the journey, the conductor came near me. And me being a Bangalorean with a reasonably good memory, said:
Boss, saat rupaye dene hai” (“You gotta pay me 7”)

The conductor looked at me as if I had asked him to give me half of his salary! I thought the busy man had, as usual, forgotten about the money and dished out the ticket from my jeans. He gave a scowl and said something in Kannada. I normally can make out the gist of most things I hear, but this was a total bouncer.
I asked: “Kya?” (“What?”)
He: (muttering some more stuff in Kannada under his breath) “Where? Stop?”
I told him the name of the stop.
He: “You don’t ask. I give”

Saying this, he turned and walked back to the front. I was stunned. Now this was a first. They normally mutter stuff and pay. By the time I regained my composure and thought I should say something, he was standing next to the driver.

I shook my head and suddenly realized that everyone around me was looking at me.
Tish-phish-doom-shoom-BOOM!!! And there lay my ego on the floor of the bus all splattered and squashed!

I just did what a man does in situations like this. I switched the song to Nickelback’s 'Rockstar' and started playing Mini Golf on my cell! So, engrossed was I putting the ball in the hole that I didn’t realize that my stop had come. I jumped out just a quarter of a second before the doors of the bus closed and that’s when I remembered that I never got the 7!

I looked into the bus and saw the conductor looking at me from the window. I gave a scowl back and stared at him. The bus started moving slowly and I had to cross the road. He was still staring at me from the glasses at the back of the bus and even I didn’t move my gaze. Time stood still as neither of us looked away. The silent mature battle of the egos of two fully-grown men was on full display to the entire world but not a single soul apart from the two of us knew about it!

“You ain’t gonna win this one dude!” I yelled at him without saying a word.

SCREEEEEEECHHHHHHHHHH!!! A car braked right next to my legs. I had walked right to the middle of the road staring at the conductor.

“You blind *******! Can’t you ******* see and cross the road? Bloody ********”...” that’s the last thing I heard as I ran onto the other side of the road far from BMTC conductors and angry drivers!

Note: I know I haven’t posted in a long while. And writing this one also took some effort with all the rustiness creeping in. A huge thanks to all the people who at some point or the other coaxed me to update. It really feels good to see people wanting to read something I come up with. I have never been prolific with my posts: 20 posts in 18 months isn’t something to boast about. All I can say in my defence are the famous lines by Miss Kido:
Cowards blog everyday...The brave blog but, once in a while!!!