On the bus (in Kerala)

I take back what I said earlier about the bus being better in Tamil Nad. This time in India I have had the opportunity to take the bus countless times and have come to appreciate and enjoy many of its particularities. The main difference from Tamil Nad is that in Kerala all the buses display their signs in Malayalam. My speaking and comprehension have come a long way but I do not know how to read, which does not present much a problem. I have to ask to make sure the bus is going where I want to go but most people do anyhow. Only once did the conductor give me a hard time for not looking at the board and wasting his time.

Here are a few things that are unique as compared to North American public transport:

1. Your fare is based on where you got on and where you are going. It is proportional to your distance travelled rather than a flat rate for every passenger.

2. You may be on the bus for a good 10 minutes before someone asks you for money. It may take equally long to get your change.

3. Women ride in the front and men in the back of the bus.

4. During the day the bus runs constantly. There is hardly 5 minutes between buses.

5. After sundown you will not find women on the bus.

6. There is the indefinite possibility of passengers on a bus. I am no longer amazed at how many can fit in one bus!

7. Most of the buses have their front and rear doors removed  to facilitate entry and exit (often while the bus is still in motion) and to allow space for people to hang on.

What I appreciate most is the skill and memory of the bus conductor. He (usually he but sometimes she) is the fellow who takes your money and gives you a ticket. Seeing as people get on and off from both the front and rear, he has the amazing ability to keep track of who has paid and who has not. The bus is packed and they manage to go up and down the bus and do their job well. For the most part (unlike in Tamil Nad) the conductors are  quite friendly. Keralites seem generally honest as seen when the conductor asks if anyone needs a ticket passengers will voluntarily pay. I was only asked once after getting my ticket if I had paid and what’s again honest here is that you just point to your pocket (indicating a ticket) and the conductor takes you on your word.

I leave you with a little bus adventure of my own. I was taking a “super fast” bus (pretty much like “express” would be for a train) from Calicut (Kozhicode) to Trishur at night. While travelling I heard a big crash and it became very windy all of a sudden. At high speed and in the dark, the entire front windshield shattered! The driver was cool (despite having numerous cuts) and just slowed down and then stopped on the side of the road. As Indians do, everyone got out of the bus to check out the scene. The most used English word by Indians was then hurled about: “adjust”. Indians ability to adapt to changing situations is a true testament to their versatility and is something that North Americans can learn from. After only 25 minutes, in which the rest of the glass was busted out and cleared away, we were again on our way in our now very windy bus.

My pranams to the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nisha
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 22:59:32

    I LOVE it! You have perfectly described the Keralite bus experience! I have also always wondered at how the conductor is able to keep track of everyone and their change so precisely. And your personal story is classic.


  2. Judy
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 00:50:21

    Enjoyed reading this! Glad you are safe and (somewhat) sound, and look forward to more of your life experiences! xxx


  3. Anjaneya
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 12:04:57

    Brings back some great memories!
    Have a blast!



  4. Andrews SP
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 13:12:53

    Great Observations!!! Wonderful update..


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