He was chopping onions when I approached him. Although I was sheltered under the hood of my windcheater, it was no match for the blazing sun. Maybe that’s why it’s called a ‘wind’ cheater, because it is effective only against the wind.
Ultimately, the only shelter from the piercing sunrays at the interstate Panjim bus stand was under the bhel puri gaddo (bhel puri cart) that Bharat Singh runs. “Do you think the interstate bus stand is up to the mark?” I asked him.
He initially hesitated to answer my question and told me that the best person to talk to would be the taxi drivers, after which a taxi service person hastily joined the chat. It was as if he had supersonic hearing powers.
The question was then repeated to him, “Do you think the interstate bus stand is up to the mark?” and he did not hold back. “We can see how ‘up to the mark’ it is, we can see!” Exclaimed Irshad Khan, sarcastically. “There is nothing here! Is this supposed to be a bus stand?” he added in extreme displeasure.
“There is no place to sit, nothing shading us from the sun,” Bharat the bhelpuri wala finally chimed in.
And they weren’t wrong. The sad reality is that this so-called bus stand is just an open ground with piles of mud and garbage scattered around. The first and most obvious point to be noted is that it has absolutely no structure!
It’s almost as if the buses and the piles of garbage have coexisted wherein the buses only occupy the area that the mud piles have left vacant for them. After all, the buses are only visiting guests.
At the entrance of the bus stand are a few bhel puri gaddas like that of Bharat's, a questionable bathroom, garbage strewn around, stagnant water and piles and piles of mud standing next to the buses - this is the Panjim interstate bus stand in a nutshell.
The rains bring a fresh new set of problems with mucky water seeping out from underneath the pavers that have not been fitted with precision.
Not forgetting the wheels of the trolley bags that fail to roll smoothly while the travellers run around looking to save themselves from the Goan rains.
Honestly speaking, for a state that claims to be so big on tourism and its image, the first sight that tourists see when they set foot in Goa is not only pathetic, but has even made people faint!
“Most of my customers are fed up with travelling. There was once an incident wherein this couple got off the bus along with their son who stepped out of the bus and fainted because of the heat,” shared a very disappointed Irshad.
Very naturally, the place is full of clueless bus drivers. While some did not speak Konkani or Hindi, or perhaps did not want to comment on the topic, others were casually loitering around the place in their vests and taking a quick power nap on the side of the buses. Maybe it was siesta time, or perhaps, ignorance is obliviousness.
The evenings are the worst! Buses leave the bus stand at rush hour adding to the traffic chaos at Patto, which is the business hub of Goa. Traffic moves at a snail's pace till the KTC circle, and let's not speak about the blaring honking -- this is a competition to see which vehicle company manufactures the loudest horn.
Adjusting and adapting is a great practice, but situations like these will only take us away from growth and development. And, while there is always a solution to every problem, the first step is acknowledging that the problem exists and needs to be addressed.
When it comes to the interstate bus stand, it has become a problem that only people who cannot afford to fly and people like Bharat and Irshad, who work there have to face. As for the rest, it is only a pit stop leading to somewhere nicer.