Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday Satire

Heres how you would write a piece on Bangalores Volvos if you were a certain Spingupta. Not sure why nobody has done it yet. Looks like I have to do it myself.

As the big red Volvo bus trundles into the bus stop, I cant help but notice a certain swagger to it. The driver and conductor are clothed in a white uniform complete with epaulettes - why, I wonder. The bus stops and the doors swing open - no creaks, no half open doors - perfectly, unlike any other thing in this diverse country. I and a whole bunch of people troop in, in an almost orderly fashion to occupy the seats. This journey from Banashankari in Old Bangalore to ITPL the Bangalore techies heaven will take a little over an hour in airconditioned comfort. After a few minutes of waiting, the bus begins its stately journey on the roads. Did I say stately? Make that swaggering.

This is Bangalores volvo - the bus service that has got a lot of uber techies to give up their bikes (mostly) and cars (few) and take the bus. The other buses, the blue and white buses used by the other half are like any other public transport in any other Indian city. Crowded and unreliable for the highbrow techies to use it.

The big red bus with its immaculate controls that lets it get closer, accelerate swifter and brake faster is a terror on the roads. The bus is like the upper caste on the roads and one can imagine lower caste vehicles giving way to the Volvo in an almost medieval replay of the caste divide. The driver treats the other vehicles like dirt, now honking furiously - almost shaking a fist, now getting extremely close to a family on a bike - I close my eyes to see if they are still alive; they are. Outside there are slums, people patiently waiting at bus stops for the "other" buses looking at the denizens inside the volvo as if they were inside a zoo; species they are not accustomed to. The people inside the bus return the state, looking literally down at the roads.

If there is an India shining, the bus epitomises it and the other half, well, the other 90% of the road epitomises the India that is not shining as brightly. Inside the airconditioned bus - the aircon works perfectly the crowd is the Bangalore the world has come to believe. Almost all of them are techies dressed in what is known here in IT parlance as "Business casual". Many of them carry laptops or mobile phones. Some of them are plugged into their ipods, some absorbed in a conversation or some staring with disdain outside the window. The women, dressed somewhat more colourfully, are otherwise similar to the men in the bus. (Looks like the blackberry types are in their cars - there was nobody in the bus with a blackberry or an iphone for that matter.) I look around - I see no indication of any caste differences in the bus. The seats are similar though there is a raised section at the back where the men sit.

Almost all the techies in the bus appreciate the new service. It is priced at a premium - almost double to triple of what the ordinary blue creaky buses cost. And it succeeds in keeping the riff raff out. The conductor scowls at any person who comes near the bus with a bus pass that is used by ordinary travellers. Even inside the bus, the passengers do not talk to strangers. They keep to themselves. There are no friendly hi's or hello's. Nobody wanted to as much as talk to me, the greatest spinner of all time.

The bus reaches its destination, ready for its return journey which must go half empty because not too many travel back so early from work. It is no coincidence that each time there is a disturbance in the city the Volvos are the first target and the BMTC takes it off the streets. The other half, for whom India does not shine, take out their anger at the Volvo for stealing business from the unscrupulous autorickshaws, the rattletrap private buses.


Soorya said...

Was a great read :)

Arby K said...

Are the Volvos WiFi equipped? LOL. Nice read. Wil watch out for them next time I am in Bangalore.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Loved it.

purple pitara said...

was laughing thru this post :D!! the only thing to add to this pride of BMTC is perhaps serving whole wheat sandwiches and tetrapack juice in this long commute!