THE RED DEVILS AND GOING TO COLLEGE
Going to college is a major headache. I mean the travelling part.
Going to college means travelling in a bus at the worst time you can –
rush hour. The newspapers have a name for the red coloured buses of
the city - "the red devils". The number of accidents involving them is
responsible for their nickname. However I have a different reason to
call them that.
I usually wake up everyday at about 5:30 everyday. I leave my house at
about 8:15. Going to the bus stop I wait for the bus to arrive. Some
buses do not stop in the bus stop and when they do stop, they are damn
overcrowded. Once I manage to somehow get inside the devil it's pure
hell. The conductor gives you a dirty look when you give them the 75
paise (1 Indian rupee= 100 paise; 1 us$ = 45 rupees approx). Though
most stop there, some start grumbling about students, the student's
concession (student's concession/ticket is about 25% of original fare.
A normal ticket would have cost me Rs. 3.50) and generally make you
feel like you are a worm or something. Then the guy starts scolding
you far carrying a bag and asks you to keep it down. All in a very
impolite tone of course. Then the guy asks you to move forward and
stand in a gap which isn't there. Meanwhile you get crushed, stamped
and flattened. Yeah, even a fat guy like me.
So you get crushed, stamped etc. and finally reach kacheripady. That's
the bus stop where I catch the next bus. I wait even longer for the
bus which goes to pookkattupady. I have to board this bus and get down
at "thrikkakara temple" bus stop. Long wait over I finally catch the
bus and basically go through the same process again. Sorry, I forgot.
I pay Re.1 this time (normal fare Rs. 4.50).
Getting back home is easier. Easier, not easy. My dearest friend
complicates things for me. You see, he doesn't have the identification
card (more popularly called "concession card") which you have to
produce so you can get your concession. He was too lazy to get it when
everybody in class was applying for the card. So every time we go
together, which is often, he gives me the reduced fare and asks me to
take the ticket for him. He reasons that the bus conductors usually do
not ask for the concession card if you go in their bus regularly
because they recognise you. He says that even if they were to ask for
the card I could show my card and claim the concession. Sounds clever
except that it doesn't work. That part about the conductors not asking
for the card usually is true, but some nasty fellows are bent upon
making life difficult for me. They ask for the card. I produce mine
and they ask for my friend's card. Net result, the fellow ends up
paying the full fare.
I had different problems in the past getting the concession. In the
beginning, in the days when I was yet to get my concession card the
fellows wouldn't give me the concession and would ask me to pay the
full fare. Getting the concession card isn't very easy either. Getting
the card means getting an application from the Private Bus Operators
Association (PBOA) for which you have to produce a letter from the
Principal requesting them to give the poor kids the application form.
Then you have to fill it up, get it signed by the Principal and give
it in. Then starts the long wait. It is even more difficult than it
sounds, actually. Remember, the PBOA is least interested in giving you
the card and losing the profit that they would have otherwise have
got. So they make the issuing of the cards as bureaucratic as possible
(which means as slow as possible too).This means that you can apply
only on specific days of the week and at specific times on those days.
And guess what? Those days happen to be Monday and Friday when we have
to be in college. Thankfully, we have a 2-hour lunch break on Fridays
so the Muslim students can attend the Friday prayers. That's when we
go to get the application form and stuff. My head starts to spin when
I think about renewing the concession card next year. My God!
You have to be careful in using the concession cards too. The
"pipeline" bus stop, which is the next bus stop, is at about the same
distance from our college as the thrikkakara temple bus stop. We board
the bus sometimes from this bus stop rather than the thrikkakara
temple bus stop. But the concession card shows our boarding bus stop
as thrikkakara temple. Usually the bus conductors do not object. But
once there was this particular fellow who refused to give us the
concession because the card showed thrikkakara temple and we had
boarded from pipeline. Not all of the species are really damn mean,
but guys like this gives the fellows, who already have a very bad
reputation (deservingly), an even worse reputation.
Commuting to college is sure difficult, but hey, that's life!