My fascination with buses

Impromptu Post Alert: I’m going to try and explain where my fascination for buses comes from.

It all dates back to 1998. I believe I had mentioned this on the second blog post where I spoke about why Bus No. 56 meant to much to me. This pretty much predates that. I spent my early days growing up in in Madras, known to most people as Chennai, where buses have an interesting story of their own. Earlier operated by the Pallavan Transport Corporation, and since renamed to the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, these buses [originally green in colour] enjoyed a notorious infamy similar to Delhi’s Blueline buses. They had a nickname too: Pallavan Kollavan, which literally means Killer Pallavan. My first encounter with a Pallavan bus was aroun 1997 when a bus drove off the bridge over the Adayar River at Ekkaduthangal and landed on the older bridge below. For some strange reason, this incident remained on my mind for weeks.

Fast forward to 1998, shift to Bombay, also known as Mumbai. The city that I today consider my home. I had been to Bombay back in 1996, but it was when I shifted in 1998 that things started falling into place. Staying in Vashi, the first thing that was done was to find a school to get into. The school we found, was in Santacruz. Thus, my first trip in a BEST bus, a 505 Ltd from Vashi to Bandra occurred.

A BEST Bus No. 505Ltd in its current avatar, with a scrolling LED display.
A BEST Bus No. 505Ltd of the Bandra Depot heading from Bandra Bus Station to CBD Belapur in its current avatar, with a scrolling LED display. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Slowly, as I grew up, trips by buses increased. First, it was the school bus. Since we had multiple school buses going to the same destination, with different routes, several of my fellow bus mates started having mock rivalries with students in different buses. It became a matter of prestige when our bus reached before the other one.

Slowly, I started taking BEST buses when I missed the school bus, or had to come back late. I used to take BEST buses for various classes and my attachment to them began. Of course, living in Bombay meant that there would be an extra attachment to BEST because there were proper marked bus stops, both shelters and unipoles everywhere.

This slowly escalated to a point where I preferred my 56 to the school bus.Β  I used stuff all the tickets [then and now considered a Collectors item] in my backpack. I was once caught by a Ticket Checker and he went thru around 300 tickets in my bag looking for the right one. I’ve never had such a collectors fetish for any other city’s tickets.

Come 2008, and a shift to Bangalore. I have to take a bus home from college. I discover that the city’s buses were [and still are] lacking in many ways. No direct buses home! I had to switch buses for a 5km distance. This acute badly managed set of buses got me interested in how to fix the issues. I wrote numerous times to the BMTC and then Transport Minister R Ashok. I posted on Facebook, and Skyscrapercity. Not that it made much of a difference though. I had a box of BMTC tickets, and unlike BEST, had no special attachment to them. I decided to build a model plane [curiously named the Flightplane Vajra after BMTC’s Vajra buses from where most of the tickets originated]. I designed the template with a regular sheet of paper, and thickened it with layers of bus tickets. Of course, the plane never did get built, its fuselage and wings are lying in different sections of my cupboard, mainly because I abandoned my Engineering dreams to take up a BSc.

In 2009, I came to the conclusion that buses were the future of Transport. I badgered anyone around me who was willing to listen. It was the year I made my first long-distance bus trip from Bangalore to Bombay, one that was to occur frequently in the years to come. I just hunted around looking for validation for my theory. I thought I was right when Mercedes Benz launched their buses, but it fizzled out. Later on, Scania’s entry and its presently strong market share have proven me correct. The biggest validation I did receive, however, was in 2016, when R Jagannathan of Swarajya wrote an article titled Why The Future Of Urban Transport Is The Bus, And Not Necessarily The Metro. I lurk around Swarajya too, writing on transport and urban affairs.

Post Bangalore, I moved to Coimbatore. I took to buses again. I traveled around the city, the suburbs, nearby districts, exploring towns, villages, rivers, farmlands, temples, etc. During Republic Day 2013, I traveled 350km by bus to Ulundurpet and Villupuram to take a photograph of two Toll Plazas.

I made a few trips to Ahmedabad in this period where I got addicted to traveling by the Janmarg. Being my first BRTS experience, it had a profound impact on me.

Then came the next move to Pune. Along with Pune, came a few trips to Dehradun, Delhi and Gurgaon. I made full use this time, with complete travel across all cities, taking as many buses as possible. The Pimpri-Chinchwad BRTS has a special connection to me.

By 2015, I had decided that I *just had to* start writing about buses somewhere. Starting a blog seemed to be the most apt thing to do, and thus, I did.

Here is my philosophy behind taking buses:

  1. You learn the city. I don’t look at a city by its stores, malls and cafes. I look at it for its topography, its layout, the culture of each locality.
  2. Buy a Daily Pass, board a bus and just scoot off! Take a camera or a phone, and click random photographs while traveling. You learn a lot of interesting stuff.
  3. I learnt Kannada and Marathi thanks to buses. I went from knowing just Aai Kuthe [Where is your mother] to Bus kramank 56 ghe, ani Khar dandachya bus stop utara [Take Bus 56 and get down at Khar Danda bus stop. I know my Marathi is still weak].

So, that’s the story behind my bus-mania!

This post is dedicated to three very special friends:

  • Geetzy, who although doesn’t take a bus, encourages me to remain positive. To put it in perspective, don’t fret in traffic. You are in a bus with a Pass, not in an Uber, paying by the minute.
  • Nidhi, who till date is the only person who has understood my craze, and has bought a pass to accompany me in a bus with her camera.
  • Sammy, who clicked a photo of a bus when I badgered him to do so.

So go ahead, share my craze among your friends. We all have a passion or obsession. What’s yours?

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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.

48 thoughts on “My fascination with buses”

  1. Wow! Now this is something really special! I like the way you’re following your passion so beautifully. πŸ™‚ In my case, photography always fascinates me and I love clicking pictures. πŸ™‚

    1. Being an amateur photographer, and the only one in my Photography class during postgrad who didn’t own a camera, I resorted to clicking stuff with my camera. I was kicked out of class once because I got better pics than my professor with a Motorola Moto G. πŸ˜€

      1. Hahaha! Well, its hard to hold back one’s talent and with limited resources if you’re creating magic then its an area of concern for others πŸ˜› Keep traveling and clicking pictures! πŸ™‚

  2. Dear Blogbuddy,

    This is such a heartfelt post that sums up your journey and fascinating so beautifully. When I am going to a new place I look out for bus routes. So that I could travel the list of places I have dotted down.
    You put your fascination a d uniqueness as a matter of fact way and that honesty is what I love here. More power to you and your unique blog. 😊

  3. That’s interesting article.
    I am originally from Bhopal, where I never had to use bus because of my personal vehicle, but when I shifted to Kolkata, than for the 1.5 years, I had travelled only in bus, and really I got to know about the habits, culture, and a lot more about the local people.
    In the initial days I enjoyed so much while travelling through buses, hanging on the gate that I continuously update facebook posts regarding my excitement πŸ™‚

    1. You’re bringing back memories of the days when I got my first phone, and roamed around hanging on buses and posting tweets with Snaptu. πŸ˜€

    1. I’m not too enthused by Mercs. They were a failure and they’re yet to produce a stunning product.
      Scania on the other hand has done a good job and has captured a significant chunk of the market share. Nothing makes me go as weak in the knees as a beautiful Scania.

  4. Good one..liked the way you have penned down details from different cities. My passion is dancing and can never get tired of dancing πŸ™‚

    1. I used to dance to at one point in time. Till studies took over everything. I still try and catch up on the old days when I get the chance.

  5. What buses are to you, trains are that to me. Well documented journey of your passion and also highlighting the benefits it did to you like learning the languages. Awesome! Keep travelling and explore more buses and also the local culture of different places as you travel.

  6. Having lived in Mumbai all my life I know one thing, if you want to get from Point A to Point B there will be a bus plying that route. I have traveled more in the BEST than the Local Trains and have loved every moment. Even I used to collect the tickets, but have managed to lose them over the years. I understand your fascination, and I do not think very many people will be as equally fascinated as you.

  7. Impressed, unique fascination but Yes, I too have traveled through Buses a lot. I appreciate BEST buses and routes, never faced any problem while traveling in BEST buses during my stay in Mumbai. I enjoyed sightseeing specially in Delhi buses. MY weekly route was via Rashtraprati Bhawan and its beautiful. Wish you good. #UpMyRank

  8. A very good write up on buses .
    I agree that reaching early before other folks bus reached was really so much joy .
    And clicking, getting daily pass etc. Always makes the journey comforting when we are travelking regular m

  9. This is fascinating! I wondered why you blogged about something as ubiquitous as buses – this explains it! Although I don’t use buses anymore, it’s really interesting to read about your passion for them!

  10. Very good article on buses. Really like your passion to discover your city πŸ™‚ culture

  11. Hi Srikanth! Felt nice reading through your post, you know why? Because you wrote it with so much passion – your love for buses comes out beautifully! I’m more of a local train person, buses I use only for long distances. Oh by the way, I’m from Vashi too, and yes, I like the 505 to Bandra too πŸ™‚ Buses do have a charm of their own, I find them good for observing people and trying to decode their lifestyle πŸ˜€ time-pass it is. You can compile your bus travel learnings and turn it into a book – will make for a fascinating read.

  12. Two years of traveling by bus for college in Delhi, has put me off completely with this mode of transport. In the Delhi heat and humidity, in peak hours where you don’t get a place to stand and men ogle at you and attempt to inappropriate behaviour – I have sworn off buses completely.

    I was actually going to stay, wait till you take Delhi buses but then I saw you did! πŸ™‚ Completely understand your fascination and an awesome awesome post!


  13. Man!! You you do really love buses, don’t you? I have an uncle who keeps telling us to travel by bus whenever we go to a new city to explore it fully. I feel the state in the buses is still not that great and safe for women to travel alone and explore things on their own!
    Hoping that the scenario changes in some years!

    Happy to know someone who is so fond of buses!


  14. Wow! What a refreshing post! I always believed that if you visited a city, unless and until you travel in the city bus (if there’s one), you can’t get a feel of the city. So pleasantly surprised to hear the lines – “You learn the city. I don’t look at a city by its stores, malls and cafes. I look at it for its topography, its layout, the culture of each locality.” I’m a big fan of Chennai ‘MTC’ buses and still use them as daily mode of transport while almost all my friends prefer bikes and cars.

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