“Where can i get a bus to Noida”, I asked this young gentleman. Go towards the bus depot and you will know. The answer appeared vague then, but I soon learnt what he meant.
Naveda, Naveda – bus conductors were shouting in their typical western UP style to draw in passengers. Barely had I disclosed my intention to go to Noida that I was literally forced into a bus. Route 347 runs from ISBT to Noida.
“What time will the bus start?”.
“8.15”, the staff answered.
“But isn’t it already 8.15.”
“In my watch, it’s still ten minutes to 8.15.”
I moved my eyes through the bus to lookout for vacant seats. Settled for a seat at the front, although many were still vacant at the back. The side seat had a girl busy with listening to some pop numbers on her mobile headphone. A young boy dressed in a dirty looking shirt and jeans came ahead to warn me against occupying the seat. “This is staff seat. You would have to get up once the bus starts”. Unfortunately, the bus was more than full by then. I fought back saying that there already was this girl sitting. Why such undue favours for the womenkind! There was little support to expect from the crowd. Most people had already sealed themselves from the hollering through headphones. Helplessly, I moved out from the seat.
Taking my place by one of the back seats, I was more open to the different people boarding the bus and the situations they were in. A group of labourers, most probably from Bihar, was returning back to Noida after vacationing at their native place. They were herded to the back of the bus with their luggage (each of them carried at least a travel bag and a jute bag). Now where will this group be adjusted? For the bus conductor though, this was child’s play. He soon adjusted the bags on the side stands, whereever there was vacant space. As for the men, they were rallied to the back.
A burly guy boarded the bus with a girl half his size. “Get the ladies to the cabin”, one of the staffs announced as this couple was trying to get to the back. When the girl opposed, she was settled at the staff seat, which I had to vacate at the start. Though I had planned to oppose such kind of favouritism, I backed watching the strong beneficiary. The guy stood nearby.
Ladies instantly made way for the cabin. This essentially has seat for not more than 8-9 people, but was now holding as many as 15 or more. With the Delhi government ordering against seating people on the bonnet, the girls who now felt fortunate to get a seat at least on the bonnet, would have to leave their seats once the bus started.
No one was allowed to stand at the entrance to the bus. The weaker ones (one who couldn’t resist the orders of the bus staff) were forced to the end. The stronger ones kept standing at their preferred places (Me included. Since I was already pissed at being thrown off a seat, the staff wasn’t forcing things upon me).
An elderly man came in tearing the crowd. He appeared tired as he moved his hands to find a handkercheif to wipe off the sweat. None of those sitting were moved enough to offer this elderly person a seat. I made some place for him to stand along.
The staff was busy bringing in more and more passengers. Those outside the bus kept on shouting Naveda, Naveda. By now, there were already three lines of people standing beside the seats.
The bus finally moved at 8.25 am ( the buswallah’s watch showed exactly 8.15). Meandering it’s way through Kashmere Gate, it halted at Lal Quila to take in more passengers. With the way the bus staff got down to have tea and bidi, it was clear that the halt would be longer. Passengers from nearby Old Delhi Station board the bus from here with more voluminous luggage. However, thanks to the skillful bus conductor, experienced in managing crowd on the bus, all of these will be accomodated.
The bus finally moved after a long ten minutes halt only to be caught in a long traffic jam at Daryaganj. Although the road leading to Lal Quila upto Daryaganj is fraught with traffic jams, the buswallahs would still come through this route, rather than the comparatively freeer Ring Road, because of the large number of passengers that can be found here.
Only when the bus reached the Ring Road from Daryaganj that it moved freely. Moving through IG Stadium, ITO and Indra Prashtha Metro Station, the bus came to Noida More. More people boarded the bus. But as the bus was destined to, it easily accomodated them.
A women dressed in a body hugging kurta and churidar also boarded the already packed bus. In her black gogs, she looked really hot. As men will always be, one of them started taking advantage of the crowd (as she alleged). She kept silent for long, and finally erupted with anger. The man drew deep into the crowd, trying to save face.
Crossing over Yamuna river through a wide four-laned bridge, the bus reached Akshardham Temple. Modelled on the Akshardham Temple in Gujarat, this massive building in red stone has recently entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest Hindu temple. Mayur Vihar Phase I is the next big stand where more local passengers board the bus. Although Noida is not more than ten minutes from this place, it takes longer, because of the traffic snarls, thanks to the Delhi Metro works. Reliance is constructing a gigantic retail complex here. Already many big brands have put up their billboards here.
Winding through the traffic, the bus finally moves into Noida. Mayawati, now Chief Minister of UP, has had a giant gate created at the entrance to Noida/UP with a big Buddha statue in peaceful pose welcoming all. Enter Gol Chakkar
At Gol Chakkar, there was more excitement waiting to happen. A passenger suddenly found that his mobile was missing. He immediately raised alarm. He wanted the bus staff to co-operate, but they weren’t willing to. “You must have forgot your mobile at home”. However, when trying to call back, the phone appeared switched off. Pick-pockets have turned so hi-tech these days. The boy finally gave up and took one of the vacated seats devastated.
Gol Chakkar is the destination of a majority of the passengers. So there was a commotion at the gates with everyone wanting to get out of the bus fast. People, luggage, kids- everyone vying to get down fast.
Silence precedes a storm (as they say). Here there was silence after a storm of people left. With only a few passengers left over to continue their journey, the silence was disturbing, particularly after the hour long commotion that I was subjected to.
A few minutes later, the conductor announced sector 16. I was to get down here to appear for an interview.
“Won’t you have problems in commuting”, the interviewer questioned. “Not at all”, I said. In my mind though, I was thinking about the hardships I have agreed to by commuting from Delhi to Noida.