[Story] Jump Around Town

Part – I

The Mayor looked at the proposal sent in by the citizen group. This was what he had been waiting for ever since he had been sworn in. He held a proposal sent in by the citizen group with a detailed action plan to set up a municipal bus service in the town. He quickly sent a copy of it to the Municipal Commissioner for his approval, as well as to the Minister. He knew this was the one thing that the town needed at that moment to get the attention of the local politicians who had been ignoring the town for years. This was the only town in the state that was a District Headquarters but did not have a Bus Service.

The proposal was to purchase five minibuses and hire another ten to run them on ten routes. One of the citizens, a 70 year old War Veteran, had suggested buying five of them first so that the town could keep them forever, on a sentimental basis. The Mayor added his proposal to set up 50 Bus Shelters in the town with advertisements on them to earn some much needed Revenue.

The Municipal Commissioner, who had been appointed a year ago, the same time the Mayor got appointed, was upset that the town was ignored, and thus felt bored most of the time as there was no work to do. It was therefore, but natural for him to feel elated when this proposal was received, for it meant he’d finally have some work to do in this small but bustling town.

The Commissioner sent the signed proposal up to the Minister. He had a plan to get the Minister to accept the proposal without a fuss. The Minister had agreed to meet him for half an hour to discuss the proposal. He walked into her office and sat down.

“So, Commissioner, tell me. How is this proposal going to go through without any government funds?”

“Ma’am”, he replied, “It’s a Simple Deal. All the Council Members of the Municipal Body have agreed to divert their Local Area Development Fund for this year towards this. With all 37 of them agreeing to contribute, that enables us to purchase 35 buses. However, we are spending on only 5 buses for now, hiring an additional 10, so that we may also be able set up a Transport Body and employ drivers, conductors, and other staff. The Municipal Body will totally undertake this operation. The Mayor has a bill ready to be introduced in tomorrow’s session to set up a Transport Board consisting of several Council Members and Citizens as well.”

“I see. I trust, you won’t be bothering me or the State Government once I sign this proposal?”, she asked.

“No ma’am. We just need your approval to set up the board, the undertaking and give us complete autonomy over the entire operation, so that we won’t have to disturb you again.” He wanted to add that he had drafted the document in such a way that the State would also not be able to interfere in the Transport body once it was set up, but he refrained from saying so, as he didn’t want to antagonise her at this stage.

“Alright”, she replied, “You have my approval, now don’t disturb me again.”

“Yes ma’am”, he said, saluting as he left.

He walked out of her room and ran out to the parking lot, where a car was waiting to take him back to town. He couldn’t wait to get back and hand over the signed deed to the Mayor and Council. He reached his office and immediately asked for the Mayor to call for a Council meeting. The Mayor immediately introduced his bill which the Council passed unanimously. The bill referred to the deed that was signed by the Minister, and once passed, the Council set up an ad-hoc Transport Board with three Councillors, the Mayor and the Commissioner.

The Transport Board called for their first meeting an hour later where they decided to discuss three things. The first, was the composition of the permanent board. The bill passed in the Council mandated a seven member panel with three Councillors, three citizens and the Municipal Commissioner. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor would act as Observers, but would get to weigh in and no decision by the board would be valid without the signature of the Mayor. The board agreed to induct two senior councilors who had earlier lived in bigger cities due to their experience, one of the two ad-hoc Board members from the Council as half of the Board. The citizens side was to be represented by two Retired Army Officers, both of whom had experience dealing with bureaucrats, and the wife of the Commissioner of Police. Once this was done, they decided to proceed with the next item on the agenda: Shortlisting manufacturers for the buses to be purchased and hired. This was easier said than done. A week prior to this, the Municipality had invited bids from several Manufacturers for Minibuses. All of them eagerly came forward with fancy buses. After agreeing that they needed a basic, no-frills, but fuel efficient non-airconditioned bus, they zeroed in on one model. The Commissioner sent his deputy to inform the bidders that the process was over and that the winning manufacturer would receive the order in a day. The Municipality had also invited bids for hiring buses, and decided to go with the cheapest offer.

With two hurdles out of the way, the Board now had only one major item in their agenda. They needed to find drivers. The Mayor suggested that they hire drivers and conductors along with the buses, and find a permanent solution for the purchased buses. The Commissioner agreed, and decided that the Transport Undertaking that had been formed would formally put out advertisements the next day. With the main problems sorted, the meeting was adjourned, and the Mayor posted the minutes of the meeting on the Noticeboard outside the Town Hall.

That night while eating dinner, the Mayor was going thru the documents prepared earlier in the day and realised that there were three things to be done. He called up the Commissioner and told him that they needed to build a depot, set up a system for tickets, and set up bus stops.

The next day, the newly formed Transport Board called for a meeting with full strength. The Commissioner tabled the Mayor’s recommendations and the agenda was set. The Municipality had a barren plot of land at one end of the town where the new four lane highway connecting the town to the State Capital was to end. The State Transport body was planning to shift the ST terminus there as well. The Board agreed that this plot would be fenced and divided into two, one for the depot and one for the bus station. Once funds started flowing in, a proper bus station would be built. The Board agreed to name the body ‘Jump Around Town’ and on the suggestion of the Deputy Mayor, decided to invite bids from advertisers to set up Bus Stops with hoardings across the town. A local Printing Press was given a contract to print 25,000 tickets of different denominations and the board set up a fare slab.

Part – II

A week had passed after the Board Meeting. A bank account for Just Across Town – JAT, had been created where all the Councillors had deposited the money they had pledged. The Manufacturer had said that buses would be delivered in a week as they were quite popular among government agencies. The Printing Press had delivered the entire set of tickets to the Municipality. Twenty drivers and conductors, as well as five depot managers had been hired on a permanent basis. Ten buses had been hired, and ready to be put in service. The board had decided to put up advertisements on the bodies as well as the inside of each bus. Several advertisers had come forward and one was selected. One advertiser had set up 20 bus stops around town and signed a deal to pay 10% of the income to JAT. The land for the depot had been leveled, concreted, and a wall erected all around it, as well dividing it into two. The depot was given an office block as well as a resting area for staff, build using Ready to Assemble components. The Bus Station was given a proper shelter, washrooms, platforms and benches, with a huge signboard proclaiming: CENTRAL BUS STATION.

The Board was ready for the inauguration of bus services.  They had invited the Minister, as well as the Politicians representing the town to the event, although none of them turned up. Four routes were planned:

  1. Central Bus Station to the State Transport Depot
  2. Central Bus Station to the Railway Station
  3. Central Bus Station to the Fire Station
  4. Central Bus Station to the Hockey Stadium

The Board announced that there would be free transport on the day of inauguration. On the suggestion of one of the Board Members, a few thousand Daily Passes, and Monthly Passes were also printed. Each conductor was given a ticket punch, and each bus was fitted with a bell-pull.

With 20 bus stops in place from the Advertiser, the board had allocated funds from their Corpus to set up another 50 bus stops across the city, and leased it out to advertisers, thus earning a lot more. A pay-to-use car park was built across the street from the Bus Station which was made operational that morning. Shops were set up inside the parking and the bus station and rented out to several traders.The Mayor and the Commissioner had thought of everything humanly possible that was left to be done before services commenced.

The inauguration ceremony was simple. The Mayor made a short speech about JAT, and the Commissioner made a quick intro to what the Undertaking’s setup looked like. Once this was done, they unveiled a special collectible Medallion with an engraving of a bus on one side and JAT on the reverse. This was to be sold at a premium rate at the bus depot. 5,000 of them were produced in the first lot. Once done, all four buses left from the Bus Station. The townsfolk happily boarded them and took a joyride. Around a hundred Monthly Passes were sold then and there.

Part – III

Jump Around Town was very successful in the coming years. The number of routes went up from 4 to 56 in a year. All rented buses had been returned as JAT bought itself another 100 buses. The State Transport department stopped running its buses through the town and handed over its routes to JAT. Thanks to the new National Highway, the town began to expand in along the Highway. The National Government agreed to set up Bus Stops along the highway for JAT, while the State Government grudgingly expanded the Municipality’s limits in the newly added areas. Route 56 became the longest route operated by JAT, connecting a Refinery on the Outskirts to the Fire Station via the Central Bus Station. The Mayor and the Commissioner were happy and pleased with their work.

However, the State Government was not too pleased. The Minister, who had approved the Transport Plan, deemed it illegal and unconstitutional when she realised that the State Government would not be able to meddle in its affairs. She had the Commissioner transferred to State Health Department and replaced him with another fellow, one who was loyal to her. This move did not go down well with the townsfolk or the neighbouring villages, which were also now served by JAT.

Elections were around the corner. The Mayor’s party wanted him to stand as a candidate from the Town to the State Legislature. Thanks to its unpopularity, the previous government fell and the Mayor’s party pulled through with a slim majority. The Mayor himself won with an overwhelming majority and was now made the Minister of Transport with his former friend, the Commissioner assisting him as the Commissioner of Transport. They knew that good times were ahead for the state. They had five years to turnaround the fortunes of the ailing State Transport undertaking, and integrate services with the numerous local services. The future was bright. Very bright.

 

The name Jump Around Town [JAT] was inspired by Jump Around Carson [JAC], the Municipal Transport Body in Carson City, Nevada, USA.

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[Poem] The Little Red Firetruck

I witnessed a fire in the heart of Pune City last week and the sheer number of fire engines present there inspired me to write this:

 

It was once, on this dark and cold night,

We were all asleep, our taps were sealed tight.

Then came alarm, loud and clear,

We were off, and soon the heat was near.

The flames were huge, they were massive,

Into nearby buildings, they were invasive.

There were people trapped, in floors so high,

That was a moment, people wished we could fly.

We rang our sirens, to keep people away,

Water under pressure, we decided to spray.

Lives were saved, we ensured that nobody died,

The buildings were damaged, front, back, and the side.

The next day the papers proclaimed,

₹500crore in insurance had been claimed.

We were given a grand washing to restore our colour,

The bright red was our identity, our honour.

We were happy, we were satisfied,

Our job was to ensure that nobody died.

On Fire Safety Day we were proudly paraded,

The very next day, some of us were derided.

Negativity never affected us much,

The importance we deserved, was never given as such.

To complain, was not in our nature,

But who knew, what would happen in the future?

Then one fine day, I was retired,

I was not upset for I was not being fired.

Then came the day, we were sold as Scrap,

Retirement was a way for us to escape this Trap.

 

This is my first major attempt at poetry. I’d really appreciate it if you could post your feedback in the comments below.

 

 

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[Story] Sherlock’s Day Out

This story is dedicated to my furry four-legged friend Sherlock, who has been a constant source of joy for the “hooman” he owns.

 

Sherlock was a bit upset. He had updated his Facebook status to: upset that the hoomans in the buses didn’t let dawgs like me enter today. He had a dream about driving his own bus one day.

A dog driving a bus named church. Ever since he had seen this image of a dog driving a bus, Sherlock wanted to drive a bus.
Ever since he had seen this image of a dog driving a bus, Sherlock wanted to drive a bus. Image copyright all rights reserved b-mcg, available on Flickr.

 

The sun’s rays broke through the curtains and hit Sherlock right in his eye. He woke up, quickly shaking himself, and started barking. He then stopped barking when he realised that he was probably waking everyone up in the morning. He wagged his tail as he trotted over to the front door. The humans had unlocked the door earlier, he observed. He stood up, opened the door with his paws and grabbed the newspaper. He kicked the door shut and took the paper towards his bowl. He spread the paper out and there it stood out in big bold letters; Corporation launches special bus for Dogs. Sherlock was stunned. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He barked loudly and woke everyone in the house.

His owner, or The Girl He Owned, as he liked to say agreed to take him out and got in touch with the authorities. Sherlock was given a special dog tag for his collar which would act as his bus pass. The initiative was that of one elderly gentleman living where his owners had earlier lived, known to most people only as Mr. Sir. Mr. Sir, unknown to most of his neighbours, was an Animal Psychologist who also ran a shelter for abandoned and abused dogs.

Sherlock was super excited when the day for his first bus ride came. He stood with his human at the Central Bus Station when the the bus pulled up. It was silver in color with the words Special written on it where the routes were normally written. The side of the bus had WoofBus written on it along with pictures of Scooby Doo, Snowy, Ruff and Snoopy.

It was an old Volvo B7RLE with its seats replaced with cushioned dog baskets. The front door was shut and a mini doggy toilet similar to those used at several airports was seen there. Mr. Sir appeared there and greeted all the would be passengers and the humans that they owned.

A Doggy Toilet at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. A similar toilet was found inside the WoofBus.
A Doggy Toilet at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. A similar toilet was found inside the WoofBus. Image copyright Bob Cromwell, all rights reserved. Image can found on toilet-guru.com

 

Now I’m afraid I can’t tell you what happened further, because I wasn’t there; but Sherlock, who right now is busy looking over my shoulder with great excitement will tell you all that happened once he boarded. All I can do now is provide you with an image of his ticket and then I’ll type out whatever he has to say.

Sherlock's WoofBus Pass for the day. Of course, this was clicked before he got it. When I got it at the end of the day, it was soggy.
Sherlock’s WoofBus Pass for the day. Of course, this was clicked before he got it. When I got it at the end of the day, it was soggy.

And now, over to you Sherlock:

Hullo Hoomans!

I am Sherlock, a dawg who gets fed fer bein’ himself. Woof!

I got into a bus and there was Meester Sur in his uniform, smilin’. He held out his paw, we shook paws, and he scratched me ears. He then took the eye-dee around me neck, and put it to his machine. The noises it made! I couldn’t help watchin’ with a tilted head.

Meester Sur smiled and went to the next dawg. After makin’ noises with eye-dees on every dawg collar, he went to a chair with big letters on it. D-R-I-V-E-R. Some scary, strange noises later, we were all movin’. Some dawgs peeked out the windows of the bus to bark at their hoomans wavin’ at ‘em, some clung to ‘em baskets fer dear life. I had taken a fancy fer the fire hydrant and tried to mark it as mine. A big black Great Dane dawg grrrowled at me. I stared at him, blankly. “Grrrr….”, he went again. ‘Em uptown dawgs think they own everythin’. I finished me business and  walked away, rubbin’ me feet on the grass, as Meester Sur pressed a button and there were sprinklers, cleanin’ up. I gave one look to the Great Dane and walked away, to me comfy little basket from where I could see out of the window.

Meester Sur stopped the bus at a three light pole when we all saw it. It took all of one second fer the roof to come crashin’ down on the bus. On the kerb, lickin’ its paws, was a Meow. Like ‘em dawgs on the street, it would not wear a collar. Sheesh! It looked at us, climbed the railin’ on the pavement and stuck its catty face against the glass of the bus. All ‘em dawgs barked like Meow was dinner. I was clearly mistaken. These are no uptown dawgs or downtown dawgs. We are just Dawgs, the kind hoomans use to call each other low-life. All ‘em cats should have their arses bitten, but that no reason why a dawg should leave his dawg-ners. Or “manners” as hoomans would have it. I am a well-dawg-nered dawg, yoo see, even me bark is sophisticated. I studied Barkology at K9 University.

Meester Sur then took us on the new highway from where we saw the beach. A hooman held on to two Golden Retrievers, busy talkin’ on her phone. I barked at ‘em, they returned back. If only…

But, we had just the day, and not an entire lifetime, so we drove along. Meester Sur stopped the bus. I raised me neck to look out of the window. P-O-O-C-H–P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E.   Meester Sur left and came back with some dawg treats. Just like the cat, the place was like a bunch of stray dawgs fightin’ fer biscuits when he threw it in the air. Dawgs, I tell you. While he was gone, I sat at the place that had D-R-I-V-E-R written in big letters. but he probably figured somebody would do that so took the keys away. But I got to sit in the front of a bus, at the driver seat. Half of me dream fulfilled!

Meester Sur stopped next at a place with big, shiny letters: R-U-F-F–T-H-E-A-T-R-E — Excloosively fer them dawgs. hence it was always a mess. So many of ‘em dawgs jumpin’ about and running! One stupid dawg knocked over me food bowl. How utterly dawg-nerless! I gave ‘em all a piece of me mind with some sofisticated barks. Thankfully, the show not ver long, otherwise I would not be able to bear them dawgs. We left, with Meester Sur and his machine makin’ those funny noises with ‘em eye-dees again.

We set off, this time, to our final destination, fer the day. P-A-W-S–L-A-N-D the first theme tree-lamp post-fire hydrant area fer us furry ones. I didn’t feel like joinin’ on any of the rides because of, well, ‘em dawgs. I instead found two nice hooman females with whom I had a nice Barkin’ Symphony.

Meester Sur then rounded us up, and brought us back on the bus, and drove us back to the Bus Station. I got off to see me hooman waitin’ fer me. I looked up at her and gave her the look. She told me that dinner was waiting. How kind of her!

Woof!

Sherlock can be found on Facebook, when he’s not with his hoomans.

This story would not have been possible without the help and support of Rohini, the hooman owned by Sherlock. Rohini can be reached at her page.

Unfortunately Sherlock is no longer with us. He passed away on the 28th of January 2017. His organs were failing, resulting in his sad demise. He turned 11 just two weeks ago. May his soul attain Moksh. Om Shanti.

Sherlock Phadké
Sherlock Phadké

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[Story] The Forgotten Bus: 8954 of Depot 4

The Forgotten Bus, is the story of Bus. 8954 of Depot 4.

8954 was lonely. He had been in Depot 4 for 6 years without a transfer, and was the only one of his batch left there. He was upset  that he was such an archaic model while the newer and younger models around him boasted of superior features such as improved fuel efficiency, better suspension, and more power. He felt guilty that he cost the Company so much more in terms of maintenance. 8954 was worried that one day the Company would junk him, or worse sell him off as roller scrap. He feared the latter a lot more because he felt that being sold off as roller scrap was slavery.  He wasn’t far off from the truth however. His good friend 8126 of Depot 6 was sold off as roller scrap and her new owners forced her to collect garbage.

8954 remembered his very first day with the Company. He had just been delivered from the Factory, and was Bright Red in colour. He was from a special batch of buses; one that was built in the factory itself and not by some coach builder. He was part of six special buses given to the Company in a trial basis, and soon after the trials were complete, he was gifted to the Company along with his batchmates.

He had been handed over to Depot 2 for trial runs, and when he was made permanent, he became a part of Depot 1. It was at Depot 1 where he had the time of his life. For starters, he and 8126, another bus from the Special 6 as they were called, were put on a special route. They both were on a Inner Circle route, continuously moving around the Central Business District. 8126 went clockwise, 8954 went anti-clockwise. The two of them netted the highest revenue in the depot in a day and the second-highest for the Company, making them as Proud as Punch. A year later, they were rerouted to form an up and down pair on a new set of routes launched by the Company. The route manager of the depot felt that the Special 6 buses should be relocated to Depot 1, and all 6 would be used on a new route Express-1, or E1. E1 was a special superfast route that took all flyovers and bridges en route and had fewer stops. The depot manager felt that these buses could handle the terrain and the gradient of all the bridges, thus making it a premium route. The plan was a success, and E1 was soon the most profitable route the Company operated.

Soon, the Company procured a newer set of buses from the same manufacturer. These buses were far superior to the Special 6 and were called the Incredible 8. They were far superior, individually and in number. The Incredible 8 were deputed along E1 and the Special 6 were shifted to a newer route E2. E2 was a shorter route, but more profitable. The depot manager and route manager argued with the Company that these buses were functioning well and had years of service left before they could even think of doing anything to them.

But all that was in the past. 8954 was now 8 years old, and the Company was no longer interested in maintaining him or his batch, nor were they bothering with the Incredible 8. The Company had struck a deal with a new foreign bus manufacturer who had supplied them with 100 new buses at really cheap rates. These buses were of better quality, consumed less fuel, were more comfortable for passengers and easier to drive. The New 100, as they were called, were deputed on all high-speed routes and high-revenue routes, while the older buses were slowly being phased out. Special 6 and Incredible 8 remained because the manufacturer was still providing support for them. However, due to a lot of mismanagement and bad maintenance, they were falling into disrepair and thus, slowly being sold off. 8954 was the only one among the 14 to still remain with the Company after 9 years, as he was still functioning reasonably well. He was deputed onto a Hop-On, Hop-Off route that generated very little revenue in terms of ticket sales, and thus was plastered with ads, turning him into a giant, moving billboard. Due to frequent breakdowns, he was not allowed to go very far from the depot, and was thus, transferred to Depot 4.

Unlike Depot 1, nobody cared for him at Depot 4. He would often go unwashed, with litter on the floors inside him. It used to sicken him, but there was nothing he could do. He had to put up with the lackadaisical behaviour. He used to wonder, ‘After all these years of hard work, this? Why couldn’t people be a little more considerate in their lives when their actions affected others? Today, the maintenance stops, tomorrow, I’m sold off as scrap, and nobody will even remember me after that. Is that what our lives are all about?”

8954 remained with the Company for another three years. When his condition became irreparable, he was sold off by the Company, but his new owners spruced him up a bit and rented him out, thus making him happier than he was in his last days at Depot 4.

 

I hope you liked the story. If you did, please leave your feedback in the comments below and share the story around. Thank you.

 

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