Saturday, May 26, 2007

Buses, autos and cars

Let me think…
When was the last time I updated this thing? Oh,

Actually it wasn’t my fault, it was Bsnl’s (commonly known as Bansal or ‘B’ekar ‘S’a ‘N’ational ‘L’andline) fault.
Ummm… Let me clear things now.
Following public demand to move to a new house, our officer-in-charge-la-family decided that the public was right and we needed to change places. After a long series of bye-bye’s and tata’s we started packing our things up and transported them to our new house. Then one particular Saturday was scribbled off in the History book of our family.

Yup! My life has changed now. Actually the place to which we have shifted was the receiving end of most of my posts, I used to criticize it the most:
“The urban settlement number 1”
(And unfortunately my home right now).

Now I will head my eyes towards the (sniff) ex-home and find its faults. We had applied for a telephone connection a month back and till date it has not come. So I couldn’t update my blog. That was just the introduction; the real stuff is coming….

“Dargah, Dargah, Lal-Bazaar”, “Apour, Apour”—(Names of Kashmiri places as heard from a typical person leaning out of a typical bus”. Earlier this used to be my life and now it has changed to ..”Peerbagh, Bypass, Hum-Hama”.

I am writing this after having gathered all my experience regarding the transport system of Kashmir.
One thing that I have noticed is that no-one really knows how to drive except me (so gracefully).
Yet another thing that has been noticed nowadays is that all the bus drivers are now Grey-coloured (or Khaki-coloured). Well, I won’t comment on this rare progressive move and will save your time. (See, how considerate I am).

Well it is a positive move but here is something more positive:

TOI writes on May, 25..
“J&K government has ordered bus drivers and conductors in the valley to don a mix of grey and Khaki uniform instead of khaki-only dress after a militant outfit warned them against ‘wearing the uniform of security forces’”.

Ok, Ok enough of this.. I leave this political stuff to senior bloggers whom you can find in my blog-roll at the far-right of your screen. Now for Eldin-Bleze ‘original’ stuff….

A lot of things occur inside these buses. Quarrels between people and the conductor are worth mentioning.. From a dispute over re.1 to a scuffle over over-loading, they all happen. Either it is the conductor who loses or the passengers that win. (What is the difference?)

Most People in Kashmir might have seen what Mr. Bashir Mir have seen:
“I have seen that younger folk normally give their seat to ladies or elder-people.”

Now reflect upon this explanation given by the best chemistry teacher of the valley..:

“There is a very interesting thing to be noticed. Consider a college going boy who is sitting on the back seat of a bus. Suddenly a very bulky man boards the bus, finds space besides the boy and hurries over to sit there. Suddenly, compression starts to take place.
The boy’s ribs are dislocated. The passengers on the seat try to adjust but can’t. The boy wants to stand up but can’t. After all, he needs an excuse. Ooof, the boy struggles and tries to remain seated. He is out of breath. (This is an occasion when a boy remembers Allah).
Just then a very old man enters the bus. As there is no seat available he starts to support himself by holding onto a rod. The boy has a brain-wave. He stands up and politely asks the old man to take his place. The poor old fellow thanks Allah and gives the boy a big smile. The boy in return grins and nearly bursts out laughing.

So there is a lesson to be learnt from here. This example, first given by Mr. Bashir Mir, is one of those umpteenth stories that he has told us.

I wish to share some interesting observations with you regarding the transport service of Kashmir. There are two unique species that are always associated with the Kashmiri Bus.
One is the In-charge of the bus. (Locally called as Wosta, translated as Master). These are special varieties of “pretending-to-be-deaf” people who never listen to word what others say. They only respond to a “lot-sa-wosta”-(Slow-It-Master). This special breed of Kashmiris are worthy of compassion since they don’t even have the right of answering-nature’s-call when on duty. Their day starts with students and continues with students and ends with students. They are either very young lads who don’t seem to be eligible for getting a license or very old lads whose eye-sight cannot be relied upon. The rest in-between forms the passengers.

Students like me (Yeah, Like me) have adopted a small trick. As soon as the conductor asks for money, we give an official excuse of “Students concession” which entitles us to give less money than we actually are to give. Some conductors agree while others are made to agree. But now, they have become a little clever; they refuse to let students get in the bus fearing that it is once again “Concession time”. The huge bulky school bags don’t help the cause also by occupying further space and causing a financial loss to the bus account. The volume in which the conductor could have squeezed in a few more “Passengers” remains occupies by the bags. Thus we hear all sorts of bad things being spoken against the “special concession policy”. However, it is still uncertain whether there is such as a policy at all.

To manage (or mis-manage) the growing traffic in the valley, there are abundant blue-colored aliens seen in some areas. Locally called as “Traffic-Polcewoul”-(The traffic policeman); they try (unsuccessfully) to control the traffic and prevent jams from happening. Their duty is much like the traffic signal: stopping one lane while letting the other pass. Had the government spent on Traffic Lights, things would have been different. Actually, I think that traffic lights would not have worked in Srinagar (The summer capital of Kashmir). What does a horse-driven-cart’s driver (Wosta) know about the red light. If he does know, there is possibly no guarantee that the horse knows that. For it, the lights are yet another “as-if-it-were-nothing”. Thus the need for the man in blue uniform. At least he can run after the horse and charge it for “signal break by a heavy vehicle with more than one horse power”. Hats off to the Kashmiri Traffic-man. Their yet another duty is to stop every female driver who is traveling alone and start asking her for her license and passes. If available, they try for the pollution certificate. If that’s available, then they accuse her of not wearing the seat belt. And as always the poor ladies are forced to accept their crime against the incriminating evidence. But to solve matters quickly, she slips out a note of fifty into the hands of the Blue alien. Matters solved, parties agreed, compromise made, and then good-bye.

Everyday the bus-guys complete about 15 Rounds around their designated areas and I mean everyday
“Everyday is the life, and one whole life is but a Day repeated…….Dante”

If you are driving behind a bus in Kashmir you have to be really careful and alert, as the bus can stop anytime without any prior warning. And you could end up colliding with the “clean, green, stopping machine” and it would all be your fault.

Laughter is an integral part of life, one that we could ill-afford to lose. To laugh at ourselves (Yes, our own Kashmiri-selves), we have to stand outside ourselves-and that’s an immense benefit.

Grand Finale:
So enter a bus and laugh yourself out..