Most of my visits to Bangalore have been by train, and there have been numerous since 1983 when I first set foot in the Garden City. Bangalore may not be the Garden City it once was, but it still retains its special charms – a mixture of the old world and the new. The old is particularly visible in areas like the Cantonment, in Fraser and Cox Town, D’Costa Layout….
It was quite an interesting journey though. My travel agent had booked me on a Karnataka State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) night bus, the Airavat Volvo. I arrived at the starting point, the Koyambedu bus terminus, well before the scheduled departure at 9.30 pm. I was in for a surprise. The conductor, who spoke only in Kannada, did not let me in. Apparently, there were two seats in the bus that were usually allotted to women. Thanks to my agent, my seat number was one of them. I saw no point in arguing with him; he was as stubborn as a mule and any argument could have landed me in trouble. I tried to play soft and waited. Reluctantly, he allowed me in, but soon came inside to tell me that a woman passenger had arrived and she would occupy the next seat and, therefore, I would have to disembark and seek a refund.
I later found this hilarious – in which world did the man think he was in! I now insisted that I needed to travel and it was possibly my look because, small mercies, he put right at the back of the bus. That was where I sat throughout the journey, not uncomfortable, but denied a better seat for no fault of mine.
Ironically, past midnight, there were shrieks from a woman. The dim lights were turned on. All eyes were focused on her. She claimed that a young fellow seated before her was pawing her. The conductor did not bother to come and see what the problem was. The bus didn’t stop. Later, when it did, for a short break, the woman and the man had a heated argument. Fortunately, it did not go out of control although they threatened each other.
When the bus arrived in Bangalore and the conductor began calling out the names of the various pit stops, I looked at my watch. The time was 3.30 am, and I suddenly realised I had lost a whole night’s sleep.
When will we ever learn how to be polite and courteous? And to think that KSRTC is part of the hospitality business – without transport where’s tourism? Men like the conductor in that bus I travelled need to undergo training and must be taught the finer points of PR. But do organisations like KSRTC really care? I doubt it.