Now onto the Transport, the Roads, the Subway & the Garbage!
I was surprised when the first conductor issued 3 tickets. He hadn’t even asked for my daughter’s age (5 yrs). I learnt later they charge full rates for children above 3 years (even movie tickets). How strange! Here in Bangalore, its half ticket for age 6 to 12 & full ticket only from 12. But considering it is just Rs 5 for a 15km travel (Central to CMBT) the public transportation in Chennai is damn cheap. With a pass of just Rs 30, you can travel the whole day in Chennai buses – not only within the city but also 40km away to Mahabalipuram!
The Conductor's Seat(at the back door) which caught my attention
The conductors here don’t come asking for ticket or bother to check your pass. If some do, that’s the happy exception rather than the norm. Passengers pass around the money & the tickets to & fro to the conductor who sits peacefully on his seat at the back. Here in Bangalore, the conductors CHASE you. He never sits; he will squeeze himself & wade through a sea of men & women & maybe ask the same person twice for the tickets but demand the ticket he definitely will. Imagine doing the routine of “pass the money, pass the ticket” in our buses where people generally tend to avoid making eye-contact with each other! The very thought brought a smile to my face as I sat there watching the people in Chennai do it without as much as a crease on their faces.
One night, when we were returning to Vada Nemmeli & boarded a bus to Kovalam (oh yes, forgot to mention: TN has a Kovalam too. Not just Kerala, though its malayali counterpart is the more famous & haunted of the 2), the conductor sat rooted to his seat & as I stood there in the middle of the crowd & Sathya way ahead, he called out for tickets & Sathya passed it to someone, someone passed it to me, I passed it to someone (#2), he passed it to someone # 3 & it finally reached the conductor’s lazy hands. He tore out the ticket, & passed it back to someone # 3 calling out, “Kovalam, Kovalam” like how in court hearings the guy calls out for the accused. Someone # 3 promptly forgot whom the tickets belonged to & repeated the call for Kovalam. Someone # 2 was alert, picked them & passed it to me. A few seconds later, heard another call, “Change – Kovalam” & the entire procedure repeated itself. I can’t imagine this happening in Bangalore. Though we are, by & large, a peaceful race, this SOP (standard operating procedure) would definitely get on our nerves!
The conductor loves his seat & doesnt part with it easy. One late evening, we boarded a bus from Anna Salai & it was so crowded that we couldn’t even stand & Tanvi was extremely tired & sleepy, so I requested the conductor to let her be seated there or at least stand closer to his seat but the wretched guy ignored me completely & behaved like he couldn’t grasp human language & continued to sit on his raja seat. I struggled the whole time to find some foothold for her & me & even though he noticed that the little child was falling off unable to stand/sleep, he didn’t have the heart to make her sit on his lap or at least, give ½ an inch of his seat. I have never cursed anyone (ok, well I have! My maternal grandmother!) in my life as much as I have cursed him in that one hour journey.
One of the best roads: Beach Road has the beach (Bay of Bengal) on one side & beautiful government offices, police headquarters & other well-maintained structures on the other. It reminds you of the Tank Bund road in Hyderabad which runs along a beautiful lake but thankfully minus the mosquito attack!
I sorely missed having a vehicle when I saw the seemingly endless stretch of this road. The thought of a long drive on this beautiful road was killing me. And given Chennai going to bed by 9, I presume the road would be deserted with only a very thin traffic, unlike Bangalore where you really have to wait longer to go on a peaceful drive on some of its roads. Btw, where are the traffic jams & the endless waiting at signals? We didn’t feel the pain of either in Chennai.
The Subway system seems to be functioning really well in the city unlike Bangalore where some of them, believe it or not, are under lock & key! The reason: tube lights were being stolen from some of the subways, so reported a local newspaper! I once saw one subway with one side open & the other locked!! The logic? Don’t ask me.
Strangely, didn’t see too much garbage on the roads/streets/shop corners unlike Bangalore. Our BBMP garbage disposal system is bad & so is our people’s civic sense. Garbage being thrown all around has lately become a common sight in namma Bengaluru
I saw so many engineering college buses plying on the road. Think of a surname, the rarer the better, & you could see there was an engineering college in that name. How many more engineers dear Chennai? Aren’t you done with giving us enough & more engineers sufficient to meet the demands of an entire nation? It reminded me of Mangalore (coastal town in Karnataka) which has equally crazy numbers of medical & dental colleges.
And finally the Signboards
This is at CMBT (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus - supposed to be South Asia's largest where anywhere between 1000-2000 buses ply everyday)
WHY? WHY?WHY? WHY? WHY?
Need I say anything more?