The 56 saga

Greetings, and welcome to my new post.

This post is to explain the significance of the number 56 in my life.

My connection with this number started out in a mundane way, yet the significance today seems cosmic. I see 56 everywhere, including in politics, for after all, our Prime Minister has a 56-inch chest.

Jokes apart, let me start at the beginning. The very beginning.

The first BEST bus I have ever taken was 505Ltd. The bus that today runs between Bandra Bus Station and CBD Belapur Bus Station. This was back in 1998, I don’t quite recall where the bus terminated, but I remember we had taken it from Vashi to Bandra and then took an autorickshaw to Santacruz. Subsequently I shifted to Andheri, and with a school bus or a car around, taking a BEST was a once-in-blue-moon activity. However, if and when I did board one of them, it was invariably a 38 or a 79, then running on the Hutatma Chowk-Goregaon Depot and Gadkari Chowk-Charkop routes. Circa 2002, we shifted to a new house. We had exactly three buses then: 38, 56 and 221 [Yari Road to Andheri Station via JVPD]. I was bad at Hindi and used to dance at that time. This meant tri-weekly trips to Seven Bungalows and bi-weekly trips to Versova for classes. The former, had a common bus stop for both 56 and 221, while the latter, had separate ones. Being tired, I’d usually walk to the closer bus stop, and 56 it was. 56 was also the most reliable bus to go to school, math tuition later on, and to meet my friend. Thus, over a period of 5 years, 56 became the most used bus for me. Bus number 56 made a casual appearance in my life, in various drawings, poems, stories and what not.

Circa 2008, I moved out to Bangalore. BMTC couldn’t fill the void that the lack of BEST had caused. Bad bus services, closing doors, in and out of the same doors, and horrible route planning made me dislike them strongly, but then, Volvo services helped out once in a while. Most of my trips were restricted to 365, 356 and their various sub-routes. Three years later, I was in Coimbatore. I saw 56 multiple times in a day, but it went in a different route, and I was never interested.

Fast forward to 2014. I come to Pune. I make a trip to Bombay, where I see 56. Memories are relived, I am transported back to 2007. The only difference is that it no longer uses a Rolling Cloth Display but now uses a scrolling LED display.

It was at that moment, that I decided to Start my Project 56. I managed to click buses number 56 operated by the PMPML, TMT and BEST. I convinced a friend to click Abu Dhabi, Madrid, and Winnipeg as well. My crazy mind decided to take PMPML 56 to Wadgaon from Shanipar. It took me through Sinhagad Road, which soon became among my favourite parts of Pune. Soon, I started travelling all the way to Versova to click a BEST 56. It took several attempts, but one day, after a polite chat with a driver, I managed to get it. A perfect click. Two months ago, I clicked the newly launched NMMT 56 between Kalamboli and Mansarovar Railway Station.

I’ve been seeing 56 everywhere ever since I came to Pune. It once cost me ₹56 in an auto to meet a friend. I clicked a photograph of the Tunnel on the Dehradun-Saharanpur National Highway and the timer on the traffic signal showed me 56 seconds. I was however, upset that I couldn’t click a BMTC 56, which is very rare, or a DTC 56, which got scrapped a month before I went to Delhi.


And that, is my obsession with 56.

For the sake of saying so:

BEST 56: Worli Village – Versova Yari Road Bus Station

बेस्ट ५६: वरळी गांव – वेसावे यारी रोड बस स्थानक

PMPML 56: Shanipar – Wadgaon

पीएमपीएमएल  ५६: शनिपार – वडगांव

TMT 56: Thane Station (West) – Tiku Ji Ni Wadi

टीएमटी  ५६: ठाणे स्थानक (पश्चिम) – टिकुजीनीवाडी

NMMT 56: Mansarovar Railway Station – Kalamboli Police Headquarters

एनएमएमटी  ५६: मानसरोवर रेल्वे स्थानक – कळंबोली पोलीस मुख्यालय

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Author: Srikanth

BEST? Bus! Vroom, *pulls bellpull* Hi, I'm Srikanth. I'm a freelance media fellow with a fascination for buses, toll plazas, fire trucks and drones.

12 thoughts on “The 56 saga”

  1. Excellently written, I must say. Bravo. To start a blog about something that most people would not normally care about, is something that few people bother to do. Great job. Love live the 56.

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  3. Its a great coincidence in having a similar life path as yours. I stayed in JVPD and 33,79,241 used to be the standard buses for travelling. Occasionally 255(the peculiar route it takes) and 355 . 56 was always dreaded since its detour via khar danda!

    In coimbatore the standard buses would be 1 C (vadavalli to ondipudur) and 70 (maruthamali to gandhipuram) and occasionally 64 to go to town hall and oppanakara street.

    Then shifting to navi mumbai the only bus route used was 502 Ltd. Originally it had a terrrific run from Wadala depot to nerul sec 48, then it got shifted to sion(pratiksha nagar) for some reason. It ran without a cloth board for 3 years, and came to be known as the numberless route, only the daily goers becoming excited in sion when a numberless bus appeared. Suddenly when they decided to make a cloth board, I almost missed my bus and was shocked to find 502 with a board! Now it has a weird run from Deonar-Nerul-Vashi-Nerul-Deonar ( only bus to terminate completely outside BMC limits! between Nerul and Vashi).

    BEST must introspect and see how certain depots manage buses really well, Wadala depot being a prime example. Like 353 which ran from wadala depot to tagore no 5 for almost 50 years, has been stopped because in 2012 it was transferred from wadala to ghatkopar depot. Even though the route remained exactly same, the depot transfer killed the bus! I doubt if even 1% of mumbai cares which depot the bus belongs to, and still such a drastic difference!

    And ya enjoyed your writing, now I am staying bangalore!

    1. I agree, some Depots in BEST are really amazing, especially Oshiwara [for AC] and Backbay [for Double Deckers]/
      As for the coincidence. I too have lived in Bangalore. xD

      1. Just read your excellent article on Electronic Ticket machines(ETM’s). I think wadala and oshiwara were the first depots to roll out them. BEST is also reeling under massive losses, and faces a huge uphill task on its new innings. Cancelling 50 routes during a single rota revision is very surprising!

        1. True. Cancelling 50 routes is indeed a huge thing, however, it hasn’t been finalised yet.
          Yes, Wadala and Oshiwara have been the first to try out new ventures because these are the most profitable depots thanks to the efficiency of the staff. 🙂

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