Goa boasts of a good road network, but the same can't be said about its buses, more so when it comes to their punctuality. If you bet a bus will not arrive on its scheduled time, chances are you may win hands down. Goan buses don’t show up on time, and other times you find yourself chasing one.
Every day waking up and commuting via the same familiar route to the workplace feels pretty redundant, but not if you’re a passenger on a local Goan bus. You may find yourself rocking as if in a cradle from side to side but there’s always enough drama to keep you entertained.
For instance, the passengers conspiring against the conductor who keeps filling the bus to the brim, an argument between two passengers, the stories left in those engraved notes behind seats and conductors performing their favorite stunt of hanging by the door (as though he has two lives left).
In Goa, local buses are economical means of transportation. People travel to and fro for work, school and shopping. Meeting strangers, musing on a few things, daydreaming and at times finding yourself becoming a part of some hilarious moments.
If you are the one who is always privileged to drive a car, then it's time you also see the other side of life by jumping onto a bus or if that's not possible, then at least get to know a few stories and observations from a daily bus commuter.
FAST AND PRETTY FURIOUS
As it's rightly said 'sometimes it's not so much about the destination, it's more about the journey'. And the journeys via local buses are quite bumpy. Not only because Goan roads are full of craters that allow one to have an off-roading experience, but because bus drivers at times believe they are part of Formula 1 (F1).
And the winner of the race isn’t the bus that makes it first to the end destination, but rather the one that reaches first at every bus stop to pick up more passengers. 'Voch go begin' (get inside the bus fast) and 'chol re, konnak poita’ (get in, who you are looking at) are some of the commands from the conductor.
The 11-standing advisory written inside the bus is just hard to follow during peak hours, which means you will end-up being awkwardly close to people you've never met. And this isn't the worst part. The racing bus brakes at the moment you least expect it and what happens next is you've fallen on a complete stranger and he or she on somebody else, like some kind of human domino effect.
THE MOOD CHANGER
It’s amazing to tune to your customized playlists, plug those ear pods and get lost in some music. But that's hard in Goan private buses which blast music by breaching all sound pollution norms. And, you don't have a choice in deciding the kind of music you want to hear because the driver is the ultimate DJ of the journey.
Sometimes, you will get to hear political satire with the most obnoxious views sung by a Goan tiatrist. On other days, it’s the romantic Bollywood numbers that some passengers end up lip-syncing to. At times the Konkani mash-up is interrupted by a YouTube hair oil advertisement that makes the baldies shift in their passenger seats and stare outside.
Travelling by bus is pretty time-consuming given the number of halts at stops. Nowadays, traffic too is tormenting. So if a bus ride is going to take about 30 minutes or more, you need to think about how to spend it.
Earlier people’s best time-killer was getting into conversations with their co-passengers about trivial things like the way the conductor keeps chewing the betel nut while asking where they're heading or having an argument on the bus fare with the red juice almost dripping off his lips.
But modern times have brought in their own ways of connecting with people not within your immediate proximity. You end up eavesdropping on people's phone conversations with their loved ones informing them about their whereabouts, complaining about the weather and more.
Despite the rough ride, the 30 minutes spent on the bus are a breather for those caught up between their job and home responsibilities; you find them taking the best nap with their head resting on the windowpane and mouths slightly open.
Aunties are also seen catching up with their favorite shows on their phones. Youngsters scroll through Instagram, engage in e-shopping, tune in to breaking news and listen to some motivational podcasts.
Bus services also exemplify the phrase 'unity in diversity'. People from all walks of life ride a bus and share the same space. Giving up a seat for the elderly, adjusting to make more room and making sure everybody is okay are regular things people do on a bus.
It’s like while you’re set out on your own journey, for a brief time everybody’s paths collide and you become part of each other’s day. Even on days when there’s no interaction, with the only sound of the friction between the tires and the road, bus journeys feel like everyone is trying to keep the sanctity of a religious abode.
No wonder the statues of Our Lady, Ganapati and Sai Baba are placed near each other in an altar-like setting in the bus cabin, seated near a fellow passenger whose faith is different to yours, you murmur a prayer for a safe ride to the God you believe in and they do to theirs.
Bus rides somehow resemble the trajectory of life. With some getting off and a new set of passengers getting on, it’s like the people who enter your life to teach you lessons and leave as if in a hurry.