Taking to bus ride in Delhi again

(Photo courtesy: Twitter/ @kolkata24x7)

Change no matter of whatever kind is resisted by one and all, because what follows is deviation from your set course and that means putting in a little more effort than the usual. So my latest job change didn’t just mean trying to acclimatize to new work culture and striking an equation with new set of people, it also meant trying to figure out a way to commute from Delhi to Noida on a daily basis.

Hopping on to a low floor DTC bus was among one of the first things I learnt when I came to this city in 2010. Unlike many forewarnings such as beware of pickpockets, eve teasers, etc, the experience was not so unpleasant. I have asked for routes and stops from some random people on board the bus and gone for job interviews, it was one of the routine things till December 2012. Something just changed after that — it was difficult to come to terms with the fact that a mode of transport as common as a bus could be the site of a gruesome incident like rape. It was never the same again and there was a sense of fear not just with the very thought of boarding a bus but wandering even near to a bus stop.

And so, when I was fraught with the question of taking the bus all over again to Noida, it was a tough call. It had been three years since I had boarded a bus in Delhi.

What began with a general curiosity question, followed by discussion with some colleagues regarding route and bus no., the information gathered had to be put to good use as well very soon. And a month later after joining the new office, I could muster the courage to give it a shot one more time — yes, I did hop on to bus no. 392, headed for Noida.

I’m not really sure to what extent means of conveyance in our country such as buses or metro for that matter have acted as a class solvent for our society; there is however, a certain class that travels in buses in Delhi which comprises of working men and women, who are in the lower or perhaps middle rung, freshers who’ve just joined jobs or are looking for one; daily wage labourers, men and women whose struggle reflects on their faces — bleary eyed, smelling of Dabur Amla oil, and then there are some common fragrances, you know them, characterised by a odour of deodorants and perfumes that range between Rs 100–150, only the brand name may be different but they all smell the same; and yes then there is whiff of sweat as well.

Many of my unfounded fears soon vanished and some unknown fellow passengers made me realise that it ain’t that bad. It so happened that one day at the Maharani Bagh stop, a bunch of people came barging into the bus, caught between the conductor who sits at the first row right behind the back door and the passage in between that leads to the front of the bus, I was stranded somewhere in between, while I was stuck, the influx of people just wouldn’t stop so much so that people brushing past my back and shoulder, began to make me feel uncomfortable. I tried to move but couldn’t do that, it was a struggle, holding on to the vertical rod coming down from roof of the bus to its floor, a pillar-like structure that helps you retain balance while the bus is on a move. In midst of the hustle bustle that was going on, I heard a voice saying, “aap idhar aa jaiye (you can come to this side).”

A man tried to make space for me as the crowd jostled past me, I struggled to move my feet, and when finally was able to retain some composure in midst of maddening crowd, realised my face was just few inches away from the gentlemen, but there was no untoward behaviour or an unsettling feeling…..

Why I chose to share this incident? While a lot of paranoia surrounds the public transport in the capital post-2012, on hindsight think some of it has to cleared in our heads, yes we need more policing, more street lights lining the roads in Delhi and more safety measures nevertheless, yet we as women also need to give it another chance as well. No, I’m not suggesting to go for a bus ride at odd hours but don’t try painting the canvas with a single colour when there are other hues as well. Sensitisation is a gradual process and we have to participate in it as well, it can’t be done in isolation.