Mixed Juice - The Strung-out Delhiite, Served Fresh

A typical day travelling in a DTC bus - Kicking, head butting and elbowing your way inside the overstuffed bus, finding a foothold on the steps, swallowed by the crowd of at least 20 men who somehow contrive to stand at the doorway together, momentarily spit back out on the road by the same crowd, and then swallowed again just as the bus begins to move.

A DTC bus defies all theories of volume and space. It is possible for over a thousand people to travel in the same bus at the same time, and yet it does not burst at the seams. One can only imagine that the bus magically expands, or passengers magically contract on entering its hallowed portals.

The usual number of people in a DTC bus

The conductor is seated conveniently at the window seat next to the door. The passenger unfortunate enough to sit next to the conductor is constantly stamped, pinched, punched, slapped and poked by the bodyless hands extending to buy tickets. Your first task is obtaining your tickets by shouting your destination, waving the money under the conductor's nose, your hand disjointed from the rest of your body, finally clutching the scraps of paper thrust into your palm by the conductor. Always best to have exact change, as you may not be able to approach the conductor again.

You need not make plans for independent motion once inside the bus. Your progress from point A to point B inside the bus is like that of a stick of sugarcane through a thresher - you are squeezed through a human wringing machine into gaps and crevices. Your emerge hand-first as you try and prise your way through the jungle of arms and legs, your head follows, your eyeballs popping as all air is pinched out of your lungs. Your juicing is abruptly paused and you discover you have left your foot behind, caught in a tangle of shoes, bags and sandled feet, all sticking in different directions, others as helpless as you in the direction of their journey through the bus. A vigorous jiggle later, you manage to free your foot, only to find that your bag is now caught in someone's neck. The harder you tug, the bluer that someone turns with you choking her or him.

As you try to avoid murder while retaining your possessions, you find that someone is trying to amputate your free arm by wrenching at the shoulder. You accordingly twist your torso to counter the twist in your arm, while still maintaining a steady grip with your other hand on your bag. You end up facing in a completely new direction, squashed against a bony back, from where you can neither observe your bag nor ascertain if you are still two handed. You are also poked in your ribs by an unknown adversary, your legs are still being dragged by the human thresher.

At this point, you are at a 45 degree angle, your feet at the vertex moving away from the rest of your body at a steady pace, your hands forming a T-shape with your head in between. As with all other physical rules, gravity is also defied as you do not fall, but are suspended in this position for a few uncomfortable seconds while your bag is thankfully freed from a sore neck, your twisted arm finds respite in a momentary relaxation of force and your feet are released from their involuntary march. You find yourself roughly vertical again. By this time, you have reached "your spot", where you will spend the remainder of your journey, unless there are any major upheavals.

One has to create this spot for oneself inside the bus. Elbows, knees, necks and backs are bent at impossible angles to fit snugly into the jigsaw of human body parts in the narrow corridor between the seat columns. Each seat is designed to accomodate two people, and yet miraculously as many as four can be seen sitting in a zig-zag formation - posteriors positioned alternately on the back and front edges of the seat. Those who manage to sit experience numbness in their gripping fingers and cramped legs within 5 minutes of sitting, post which they are unable to move even if they want to. Ironically, miscreants with a misplaced sense of humour have scratched out the ma in "Mahilayein" to read "Hilayein" on the back of reserved seats.

The real challenge is when a lady demands her reserved rights be given and asks a male to vacate the "Ladies" seat. A complex choreography of moves follows as the man gingerly gets up from the seat, waking up his sleeping legs and lurching forward into the seat in front as he tries to punch his way out of the seat and into the human rapids in the aisle. The woman counters his way out with her own way into the seat. The whole procedure has a liquid-like quality about it, like water seamlessly filling a glass. The man, meanwhile, is left to his own devices to create his spot.

Depending on the distance from your stop, you need to make preparations to deboard.
Ideally, if your stop is

  • less than 10 minutes away, you should enter from the front door and hop off and back on at each stop till you reach yours.
  • 10 to 15 minutes away, you should be in constant motion to make your way from the back of the bus (where you enter) to the front of the bus (where you exit).
  • more than 15 minutes away, you can pause midway, create a spot for yourself, take a brief breather, and then plunge into the human thresher again to reach the front door in time.

Stepping gracefully off the bus is an art, developed over several journeys worth of practice. You need to stand your ground at the door against the wave of departing passengers attempting to pop you out. You need to swing off the bus with a spring to your step, facing forward. You finally touch Mother Earth battered, bruised, sweaty and reduced to a pulp, but triumphant and more than a little relieved. You become philosophical even, realising that the DTC bus is an equalizer of humanity across caste, creed, religion, age and gender. Then, being the true Delhiite, you shrug it all off and carry on with your life.


10 comments:

  1. ha ha ha... so true...

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  2. LOL-you have transformed the torture into humor...loved reading it...i have been through it!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Indu :) Anyone who has ever traveled in a DTC bus knows what I'm talking about!

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  3. Your post reminds me of travelling in a Mumbai Local. Sometimes you feel that all your clothes are going to get torn.

    Lazy Pineapple

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    1. I've travelled in Mumbai trains as well. But there is one big difference between the Mumbai and Delhi experiences - no matter how crowded it is in a Mumbai local, a girl can travel safely and without being pinched, groped or molested. In Delhi transports, whether it is crowded or deserted, morning or night, there is no safety.

      However, on a lighter note, Mumbai trains do pound you like bhaji and serve you on the platform-pav :D

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  4. Brought back memories.

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  5. That is converting the mundane - and the torturous - into an exquisite piece of fun writing.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Suresh sir :)

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

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