Sunday, September 6, 2009

Memories of Travel in Bangalore

When I lived in Bangalore as a Kid in the early 90’s, traffic was never a problem. I used to always reach my destinations without ever having to bother about a traffic hold up. It is another matter that I wouldn’t have bothered about it anyway, what with all the tensions and problems a 9 year old kid faces in his school and home. My school was located about 5 Km from my home and was considered to be a highly reputed one going by the amount of donation they collected. My daily means of travel to school was an Auto-Rickshaw which was stuffed with kids to the brim. Back then most of the roads were potholed and our Auto-Rickshaw driver would diligently run over all of them giving us a thrill which is unfathomable to this day. I used to call him Auto-man whereas the other kids called him Raju uncle, I don’t know why I chose the name Auto-man over uncle but he didn’t seem to mind it, probably thinking that I adored him with the likes of He-Man, Superman, Bat-man etc. Well, a highly unlikely possibility considering that the only man I really adored was Newman, whoever it was. A classmate of mine had described Newman in grotesque detail as having a steel body and laser eyes and I fell in love with him.

Auto-man had a chain of 3 Autos using which he catered to the students living in all parts of the city. He used to run one of the Autos himself and for the other two he had hired drivers. Even though he was always short of money, he used to occasionally treat us with a snack of raw mangoes or an Ice cream from the road side vendor. My mother would have fainted if she had seen me lapping up the ice cream with gusto. This was one information that I always kept out from the “What did I do today” speeches that I gave to my mother in the evenings. On rare occasions I was given the honor of sitting next to the Auto-man when he was driving. That was one of the most cherished locations in the Auto and every kid would die for a chance to sit there. Usually the high chair was reserved for the big boys but on a couple of occasions I did manage to corner it.

On quite a few occasions Auto-man didn’t turn up on time, putting into disarray the peace and tranquility of my family. I not wishing to lose out on a chance to get back on the adults and seeing the possibility of a holiday would scream that I would be punished for being late. Finally I would be bundled of into another Auto, pouring cold water on all my plans.

Sometimes my father would turn up on his Bajaj Super scooter to pick me up and to surprise me. On those days I was the envy of all the kids in the Auto, there was no comparison of riding on a Bajaj Super to that of an Auto. Couple of kids who stayed near my home would invariably jump ship to the scooter.

One fine day we moved into our new home built at the outskirts of the city. Auto-man didn’t have a network for this area so I ended up in a mini-van. The kids in the van were not kids but they were all mini-devils, fighting and bullying was common place. One day a kid brought a syringe with a needle attached to it inside the van. He sucked up water into the syringe from his water bottle and then declared that he was a doctor’s son and he can treat anybody. Finally it was the unlucky me who ended up getting treated, with the syringe stuck to my thumb. At first I cried and the others started laughing, seeing this I flew into a rage and banged the boy black and blue, the driver had to stop the vehicle to separate us. That was the final day for me on the mini-van. I’m sure that if I visit any jail today I will come across one of those guys there.

Next came the BMTC bus travel. With only the mini-van catering to my area this was the only option available. My mom would give me two 50 paisa coins for the to and fro journey and would instruct me to get in and out of the bus only through the front door so that the driver can ensure that I have climbed in or out safely. The bus conductors as usual were as unpredictable as they are today. Some of them used to give me tickets, some of them would just take my money and would not give me the ticket and some of them would take the 50 paisa coin and would give me in return a 25 paisa coin. I loved this third group of conductors the most. In a week I used to save a couple of 25 paisa coins this way. With this money I used to buy stickers from the forlorn sticker seller who used to sit outside our school gates or sweets and toffees from a nearby sweet shop. I started to love this arrangement more than anything else because now for the first time I had money power.

Finally as they say, all good things must come to an end. After only three months of enjoying the BMTC travel my father got transferred to Ahmedabad. It was time to say good bye to a phase of Bangalore, which I never found again when I returned back.