Local Travel Travails!


Few recent experiences in the bus when heading back from work:

1. A young lady in the seat behind me was on phone, begging the love of her life (or so it seemed) to forgive her as she was in a ‘customer session’. Which was why she did not pick up the phone call or make it in time to meet at the place agreed. She made sure the entire bus heard her pleas. After full 10 minutes of BS, I was too tempted to turn around and ask her to shut up and it was then that I heard her tell the person on the other end that she was heading straight to her in-laws place and then home! It somehow cracked me up 🙂 Am still wondering who in the right minds and with a little self-respect would try justifying oneself like crazy, be it the boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or the boss?

2. This lady decides to travel standing as all seats were full. She put her hand bag on my lap- no request- no permission. Its her right. Not that I mind, still… She opened the bag (which was on my lap), pulled out her mobile, zipped it up. When the conductor came around issuing tickets, she again pulled the zip open, fiddled for some coins, fished out another small purse, got the ticket, and put everything back into the bag (with the bag still on my lap) and closed it again!

3. Another lady, another day. I got a seat and there was this music lover standing next to me who decided to turn on the FM on her mobile. She did not use her earphones. Apparently, she wanted the fellow-passengers also to enjoy the music. Only that the signal wasn’t too good, the music was jarring, the songs were pathetic, there was noise all around, and the mobile was more close to my ears than hers. I lived through it for 10 minutes. I shifted uneasily (to tell or not to tell?) and she was aware of it. I glared at her and she looked back. She tuned into another FM! This wasn’t going my way. So i turned and requested her to use ear phones if she was really keen on listening or switch the damned thing off! To which she asked me very casually if the music was disturbing me. “No, it is very soothing on my ears” I said! If you thought she switched it off, no, you are wrong. She continued enjoying the music and the discomfort I was going through.Ummm.. there are such good people!

4. To travel standing in a bus (in Chennai), you need to master some skills. For instance, you must be willing to take orders from random people to pass money and tickets to and from the conductor and other junta! Even before you realize, you will be caught in the larger scheme of things doing the passing, with tickets getting swapped, conductor not issuing the change, or the change tended not reaching the correct passenger. A good place to start learning multi-tasking/parallel processing!

5. There is another interesting phenomenon with Chennai buses. Not sure if the same thing happens in the rest of India. When you reach the bus terminus, you will find about 4 or 5 buses in the same route, starting at a time, or maybe a few seconds apart. People hop buses now knowing which will start first and end up getting into a bus that would not leave the terminus. There are days when you will wait for over 30 minutes and still not see your bus. Some people have eyes with an in-built zoom that picks up the bus even when it is half a KM away, and make a dash for it. While there is a mad rush at the entrance, the few smart people throw in their bags, hand kerchiefs etc onto the seats from the window and ‘reserve’ the seat!

Have you met such good people? Share them please and tell me am not alone!

Women’s Day Out at Yelagiri


Some laughed at us, few mocked at us, while some others sincerely dissuaded us. But we had made up our mind and were all set to make the trip. And what a lovely trip it was. The month of May is hot anywhere in South India and some ‘regulars’ told us that the weather at Yelagiri sucks big time during summer. The big idea was to ‘dump’ the men-folk (dads and spouses i mean) at home and have a get-away of our own. Not that anyone would have missed us. On the contrary, it must’ve been a break they were looking forward to, and we ladies were magnanimous enough to LET THEM BE:-) We were 6 ladies and 4 children in addition to a nice driver.

We had hired a Qualis and started very early on a Friday morning, carrying a light breakfast, plenty of water, some games and books for children, cameras, plenty of money, some medicines just in case..The Bangalore highway towards Vellore is like a neatly stretched-out ribbon. Our agenda had just one item, and that was to just chill out and enjoy. And that we did and after 2 full days of ‘peace’, returned home wishing that the trip had not ended!

One, the weather God pleasantly surprised us by being doubly nice and other folks back at work or home could hardly believe it was Yelagiri-in-May. Two, the resort was very homely and quiet, with very hospitable staff, and three, the food was simple and clean and they cooked based on what we ordered. This custom menu went well with the kids too and there was hardly a cranky moment. The only disappointment the children had was a strict NO-NO to their request to bathe in an artificial water-fall in a park. The water was not clean and was re-circulated. Children forget and forgive very soon and that makes them extra-sweet…

Our trip to Yelagiri
Yelagiri at its best
Here are a few pictures from our trip, clicked by the ace photographer from our group- Jyoti. She also doubled up (and still does) as the best friend of all the 4 chotus in the group! While a 2.5 yr old Harish kept asking his mom, JC, ‘amma, Jothi enge’, the then 5 yr old Vyas called to her saying “Jyoti and deepa! Why are you locked up in this room? Come lets play cricket. You will bowl and I shall bat”. Little Hemant and Diya discussed camera angles and other ‘grown-up’ stuff..

Let me know if you have seen Yelagiri like this! For those who had bitter experiences with this place, all we had to say was, “everything around nice people turns out nice:-)” and derived a lot of kick out of it:-)!!

PS: Was not able to embed the ppt. View it full screen..

Learning to Share..


The best place to learn about sharing your space with fellow humans is but a Share-auto. That is, among other things like optimum use of real estate, balancing act, patience, journeying with closed eyes, and of course experiencing cattle-class first-hand even before you board a flight.

I have no special fondness for the share-autos though, but at the same time do not dread them like my folks at home do. Its yet another convenient transport system operating between different points in Chennai besides the regular, popular Chennai autos, and ideal for short distances at a fair price. I do not mind using the service once in a while. A tactful auto driver neatly packs about 7 to 9 passengers into his vehicle and if you are one of them, you’ll be lucky to catch up on the roller-coaster ride that you missed the last time you went to a theme park. On a boring day, you’ll find just 5 or 6 passengers with a lot of leg-room and more zip-zap-zoom action.

Am one of the privileged users besides the famous PTC buses, and believe me, you are missing something if you have’nt tried a ride yet. Really. But what called for this post is an interesting auto-driver whom I met sometime back. I had the choice of waiting for another bus from where I alighted, or cover the distance by foot, or take a regular auto or a share auto. I got into a share-auto as the sky looked threatening and just stopped at that without an actual show of torrential rains it portended! And the regular autos were having a field day charging 2 times the usual fare, thanks to the weather. The auto had barely moved a few meters when we were stopped by two friendly traffic police. Yes, you got me right. They were on ‘duty’ and were ‘working’. The auto-man had violated the rule (which by the way is the norm!) by sharing his seat too with a passenger (the sharing lessons are for the drivers also..).

What ensued was interesting. The driver and the police engaged in an animated conversation for a couple of minutes, where the driver was trying to convince them and was willing to ‘let-go’ a passenger. Sincere that our system is, the police would hear none of it. The driver was requested to step out and fill in some ‘forms’. Read ‘harassment dressed as duty’. Just as I was contemplating on whether to wait for the process to get over or just look out for another bus or auto, I heard a police telling the driver to pay Rs.50/- and get moving or pay a fine of Rs.100/-. The driver promptly offered to pay the fine! Those of us watching this scene from within, were zapped! This must have upset the men in uniform for they were not making the process any easier and an intentional delay was quite obvious. The driver politely requested us to alight and take another vehicle. He was not embarrassed, not upset, and seemed to have a hold on the situation. I liked it. Not to say that such violations be allowed. But, his ‘No’ to bribe was a bold stand.

Long live such auto-wallahs! I wish the other small vendors selling food, flowers, toys etc follow suit and say NO to maamools. Now start sharing to learn…

Excuse me! Ladies Seat Please!


One of the innumerable blessings Chennai has is the PTC bus service. Between, is’nt Chennai one of the best cities to have a wonderful local transport system, both by road and rail? I personally think so.

Coming to the bus transport, you are doubly blessed if you are a frequent user of this service. Am one. Besides being let into interesting conversations, you also get into interesting situations. Like the other day, which like every other day, was eventful. The seats on the left, reserved for ladies, was fully occupied and few were seen standing. Still, hopped into the bus because I’d already skipped two buses because of the crowd and was running late. The little one at home has a biological timer set and goes off as timed if he does not see his mom moving about inside the house at that hour.

The last seat was occupied by a few ‘gentlemen’. Good. I walked up to the seat and requested one of them to give me the seat. He gave me ‘that’ look and turned away. I then ‘gently’ reminded him that it was reserved for ladies. And showed him the text written in Tamil which was a little over his head (pun intended). He made a face and reluctantly got up and I caught him muttering, “vandhuruvalungalae ladies seat nnu sollikittu” (a sarcastic comment to the effect that these women come demanding as if.. I don’t know how exactly to translate this ). I simply glared at him for it was not in me to pick up an argument with him at that moment.

Just as I sat down, I heard a lady standing there sympathize with the men-folk in general, and a rant aimed at me in particular. ‘Kaalam kettupochi’, she said. Which loosely translates to ‘Its a bad world’. “Do you know that men also have a hard day at work? They are prone to sickness and sorrow. They also age like women”! Wow! I mean it was a revelation. I had a good mind to ask her if men had their bottoms pinched or their person groped as often happens (read everyday) with women, specially in a bus? I ignored her rant and call me selfish, was happy I got a place to sit. I have a feeling she was irked because she had till then not requested anyone to move and give her a seat. And as if this was not enough, the men next to me got up one by one and made way for the other ladies, the silent spectators, who for some reason thought that it was the right moment to demand the seat. And this woman, who was uttering blasphemy, was one of them to occupy a ‘vacated’ seat!

Touting for women’s rights is not on the agenda when I demand the seat which is actually reserved for ladies. I understand that an old man deserves the seat more than I do. Am not saying that every women gets ‘feeled-up’ in a crowd, or that all men are bad. Sexual abuse is common in a crowded bus and is very very annoying. Every other person appears decent and the culprits have a knack of becoming invisible. Given a chance, I’d even sit on the right-side which is ‘common’, if all the seats in the left and the last row are occupied that is. And it is not that I don’t travel standing. I do, but avoiding a crowded bus to the extent possible seems to be the sensible thing to do.

I often sulk and curse the buses and the routes like every women does. But there is a bus every few minutes and 9 out of 10 times, you’ll have a comfortable ride home. And that is the positive, wonderful side of public transport in Chennai. A blessing even if there is a price to pay.

What say you gals and guys?

PS: Edited a typo.

Family history shared in a bus


Bus travel is an experience. But never knew that it can be so very interesting. Come to think of it, the conversations we overhear (this is not intentional mind you!) are excellent bloggable materials. And am sure this deserves a special section in the blogs and am going to add special tags.

The travel time last evening from work to home was just over 35 mins. Between, ‘time’ is a tricky thing and I have a feeling it customizes itself according to people’s mood, place, or circumstance. Otherwise how could I have learnt the family history of 3 families spanning over 3 decades in about 30 mins? Many such conversations have made it to our lunch table discussions and then forgotten. They are worthy of being recorded for posterity. Precisely why am going to jot them down here!

Claimer 1: All characters, names, incidents, events cited below are real and have not been distorted.

Claimer 2: Hey you all women reading this. Don’t you ever believe when the guys say that they do not gossip or indulge in small-talk. They do it big time. There will be few smart guys who will attribute that gossip also to the presence of a girl or two in the group!

Disclaimer: Am not sure of the authenticity of the tales spun (err.. facts discussed) by the characters though.. And I mean no offence to you guys who traveled, if you chance upon this blog. Which I doubt..

Disclaimer: There might be mix-ups of conversations of B and Mani. Read on to see who they are..

A girl and two guys, all in their 2nd yr Engineering, were occupying the last seat and D70 is the bus route (in Chennai). They got to ‘know’ each other a little recently (this is my inference from the conversation that followed). For convenience, let me call the girl G and one of the boys B (for I did not figure out their names). The other boy is Manikandan and is brilliant. He himself made that claim and B vouched for his academic brilliance.

(Starts from where I picked up)

B ( to G): What’s the model number of your mobile?

G: Not sure da. Don’t remember actually. I shelled out 7K though.

B and Mani: Too bad you don’t know! Ok, what songs do you have?

G: Eei,check the file storage. My brother only knows da. He listens to the songs as I have pain in my ears when I plug the ear-phones in.

Mani: Why?

G: Don’t know. Must visit the ENT.

Mani: I mean, why don’t you know which songs are available?

G: Oh that! (giggles..) I told you I don’t use it. My brother does.

B: You have two brothers right?

G: I have a younger brother and 3 cousin brothers who are older than me. But they are as good as my own brother and are very fond of me.

B or Mani: Do you fight?

G: Yeah, we fight and forget soon too.

B: Yeah, that’s the way to be. I and my elder brother fight too. We are still close.

G: Do you both have sisters?

B: We both have an elder brother. Do you know something. My brother’s name is Karthik and so is Mani’s (it was at this junction that I got to know that Mani is Mani). And both did IT in Jerusalem college.

G: Same class?

Mani: No, my brother is studying while his brother is [some year]-passout.

G: So nice no?!! Do your brothers take care of you (unga annanga ungale nalla pathikkuvangala?).

B: Yeah. I told you we also fight.

G: You know, my brother takes his studies too lightly. He feels that he should have been born a year later.

B or Mani: Why?

G: No exams for 10th std from next year. That is why. He is in 10th now.

B or Mani: I heard that the exam ban is in effect from this year?

G: No No. I do not think so.

G to Mani in particular: I heard that you study very well?

Mani: See, I just listen in the class. I don’t spend hours studying like how others portray. But somehow, I manage to score well. Just listening in class matters.

G: I don’t know about that. I can’t make sense of half the things taught. Who do you think teaches that well? Most of them (i guess it is the faculty) are recent pass-outs!

B & Mani: Yeah yeah, you are right….

B: But what this guy says is true. I’ve never seen him with books at home. He is either watching TV or playing cricket or talking to me or other friends. His brother is even more brilliant. He was the District 7 (or similar rank, don’t remember) in 12th.

G: Wow! Your parents must have been very happy.

Mani: Yes, specially my dad. You know, my dad has struggled quite a lot when he was young. Very much!

B: Hey tell her about how your dad started da!

Mani: He (the dad) started working in a bakery at Red Hills when he was just 7. His dad ditched him after his (the dad’s) mom’s death and married someone else. He has struggled his way up since then.

B: His (mani’s) mom’s a great support. You know, their’s was a love marriage.

Mani: Yeah, my mom is very broad-minded. My parents still have not been accepted by my grand-parents (must be the mom’s side- my brilliant inference).

G: Sad na?! But it is nice that your dad has made it and has also managed to educate both his sons in professional colleges!

B /Mani : True, true! Really great.

G (laughs): Mani, I then don’t see any objections from your parents when the time comes…

Mani: Yes. They are very open to it.

G: I sometimes tell my mom that I’m going to find my own match. And my mom is too easy on that too. She says she’ll happily save the money to be spent on 50 sovereigns gold and dowry if i elope (laughs again)!

B: Hey what photo is this? (presumably the one in G’s mobile)

G: This is our college symposium. And this is when I went to Coimbatore for [something to do with college].

Mani: We should plan an outing with all our friends. Maybe Ooty or some place. It will be fun.

G: No way. My parents will not allow for more than a day or two at max. Maybe beach or ..

It was time for me to alight while their interesting journey must’ve continued. While the three-some discussed their families so loudly in so public a place like a local transport, what was heartening was to hear them speak highly of their family and there wasn’t a trace of vulgarity!

Life sometimes doesn’t seem complex at all. It can be run as a 30 mins slideshow…

Person next to you…


It was a ten-days trip to Kolkatta (hope I got the spelling right) and Darjeeling. We were a team of thirty, going on a holiday. All of us were visiting this part of India for the first time.

Train travel is a mega-event in itself. We had decided to make the most of our two nights and one full day travel. There were plans for music, dance, card and chess games, snacks and what not!But for two seats, the remaining were continuous seats, in a single compartment. These two seats amidst our group was occupied by a father and a son. The man was aged around 40. It appeared that they were speaking in some other language and not Tamil. From what we heard, it sounded like Bangla, or so we presumed! We decided to request this friend to exchange our two seats with his. We were not asking him to compromise or settle for anything less. He was offered a Window seat and the one next to it. It was a cosy place. We were surprised to hear an uncompromising ‘no’ (not rude though!) from him. Obviously, we not not happy with this unfriendly person! We decided to show him that we were’nt pleased and that we considered him an hindrance.

The Howrah Mail started at around 10.30 pm or so. Originally, our plan was to start off on our fun programs the following morning after a good night’s sleep. But this man changed our minds. We started right away by playing our favourite cassette in full volume. Our claps and taps compounded to the already gruff sounding tape recorder. Our man did not flinch. We expected him to excuse himself atleast after one hour and accept our exchange offer. But here he was, reading a bound book. Never stirred for a second!! Our impatience was growing by degrees.

The war which was going without any dialog between our party and him, was now getting verbal, but only from our side and only in our local language, Tamil. One from our team was looking into our faces while calling our man all names. Another joined this game and lots of things were spoken. Blessed in the knowledge that our man did not understand what was being said of him, the game continued the whole of next day. All the while, the man was busy reading his book or was engaged in an animated conversation with his son in his language. We had no clue to learn if he was playing the same game which we were playing on him, calling us names and passing funny comments!

Next morning, the train was nearing Kolkatta, perhaps another two hours to go. Our friend got up from his seat and probably went for a wash. His book, that he was religiously holding on to, had fallen down and was open. And what did we see! It was in Tamil! I took the book and was looking at it, open mouthed when our friend returned. I’m not sure if he saw that ‘Oh No!’ look on my face. He took the book from me with a mere ‘Thanks’ and kept it aside. No expression what so ever on his face. A few minutes later, he called for our attention, in Tamil (?!) and pointed to some factory through the window. He announced (in Tamil again) that it was a liquor factory belonging to the famous Hindi actor, Danny Denzongpa!!!

He spoke a couple of sentences after that. None of us actually heard what he said, but only knew that he was talking in Tamil.

The train reached Kolkatta. We got off, and so did our friend. We parted ways. It was more than thirty minutes before we realised that none of us had uttered a word after we heard the man speak!!! What was on in his mind is still a mystery which we’ve never dared to unravel!

I’m sure he’ll never forget, but has surely forgiven.