There's no metro where I live and the BMTC bus service is so unpredictable, I don't know if I should blame it on karma.

Bengaluru youre killing me How the citys traffic has made me an angry person
Blog Traffic Friday, May 19, 2017 - 18:53

I've lived in Bengaluru for over five years now and for the last three years, I've been using the BMTC's bus services five days a week. Before you ask, no, there's no metro where I live.

Every morning, I take a G4 from Arekere on Bannerghatta Road to Brigade Road.

Getting a bus depends on several factors like luck, karma, destiny and so on. Bus time-table, what's that?!

In all these years, I still haven't been able to figure out a proper schedule on which the buses run. So, on one day, I may get a bus almost instantly and on others, I'd be waiting for 45 minutes, burning under the sun, with no bus in sight.

I have to cross to the other side of the road to catch a bus, and on numerous occasions, I've missed it simply because I couldn't cross the road on time.

These days are another kind of terrible. They make me want to tear my hair out. Make me wish for a remote that could put life on slow motion so I could run and catch the bus.

There's also the Shivajinagar bound 368 on my route that crosses Brigade but that bus is rarer than a unicorn.

Anyway, what is ideally a 30-minute commute usually takes an hour and a quarter, or sometimes even more, depending on the traffic and frequency of buses.

It is not surprising then to know that Bengaluru's average vehicular speed has fallen to a mere 4 kmph. That's slower than the walking speed of an average adult.

Unlike bigger junctions like Silk Board, the Bannerghatta Road stretch has several smaller bottlenecks like Jayadeva, Dairy Circle and the extremely trying Johnson Market.

Since they are infrequent, the buses also tend to be more crowded. The extremely lucky ones get a seat. But it is not the standing sandwiched between commuters that gets to me, it is the never ending traffic.

When the bus doesn't move for several minutes at every crossing. When I see the bus jammed by long lines of vehicles ahead and behind it. When life seems to slow down and my problems appear magnified. When I'm forced to think of the productive hours lost in the traffic.

And so, I am usually late (than most) to reach work.

What this daily harrowing routine also does is that it leaves me drained - mentally and physically. At times, I find it difficult to concentrate. I've become a snappy person to be around and as many who know me would testify, I'm now an angrier person than before.

Of course, my experiences in no way are exceptional and hundreds of other commuters, too, go through the same ordeal day after day. And the traffic situation it is no different for people on bikes, autos, or cars either.  

On better days, I think of how I might be contributing towards reducing my carbon footprint. On worse days, I just go home and sleep over it. Because hey, I've got a bus to catch tomorrow.

In fact, the traffic is one thing that consciously or unconsciously is always on my mind. Know what my favourite memes are? Traffic memes.

When a colleague recently bought a car, my first question to her was "But how will you drive it in Bengaluru?"

I have mixed feelings for rains. I want it to rain, but I think of the traffic and then I don't want it to rain.

This one time, I stood in a stream of ankle-deep water for close to an hour waiting for a bus. I couldn't get a cab or an auto because, hello rain. So I had to walk to a nearby bus stop, take a bus that would drop me near Shanthinagar, take a 15-minute walk to the junction, wait for another 20 before finally getting a bus to my destination.

When I reached my stop finally, it was around 11:30 pm and the area was pitch dark. No kidding. Thankfully a friend offered to drop me home.

This other time, we had a party near Mekhri Circle and I decided to work from home that day.

It started pouring in the evening. And as I struggled to get ready in the middle of a power cut, I realised that no cabs would accept my request.

Stuffing an extra pair of sandals in my bag, I put on my slippers, grabbed an umbrella and left for the bus stand, frantically hoping I'd get an auto without having to walk all the way to the main road.

After numerous rejections, when one auto finally agreed to take me to my destination, he demanded Rs 450.

It was already 7:30 pm and the party was to start at 8. Honestly, I didn't know what the fare would be, but it sounded like a lot. So we haggled and agreed upon one-and-a-half on the metre.

If I thought the worse was over, just like the goddamn cliche, it was only the beginning.

It took over one-and-a-half hours to cross the stretch between Arekere Main Gate and Dairy Circle.

When I say nothing moved, I mean exactly that. We were stuck with no respite.

After I got bored of pondering the meaning of my existence, I began to count the number of times the driver, who was chewing paan masala, spat on the road.

When I finally reached, I was cold, bone tired, hungry, pathetic.

The fare was less than Rs 450 but I gave him the money because I collectively felt bad for both of us.

I wanted to cry but decided that I would eat instead. The party was over half-an-hour later.

My days are planned keeping my commute in mind. Since the frequency of buses is so erratic, I can never say when I'll be back home, no matter at what time I leave work.

I make sure to go to sleep as soon as I can after reaching home, which is usually late. I don't watch movies on weekdays. Would I meet a friend after work? Unless they are in this part of the town, unlikely.

When the traffic is not sucking up my energy, I've had a few positive and interesting encounters as well, thanks to the BMTC.

Once, a friendly conductor sat next to me and very lovingly advised me to look for a 9-5 job. After all what job can require a woman to stay out after sunset?

Haven't I thought of alternatives? Of course I have. I've contemplated switching jobs, living in forests or never stepping out again.

My experiences with auto drivers in the city have not been great either.

One ran over my foot last year- and also blamed me for it- and I had to sit at home (and climb up and down three floors on one leg during doctor visits) for one and a half months.

Another tried to rip me off and when I didn't agree, asked me to leave his auto and then called me a lot of names including "item" before scooting.

So yes, that pretty much sums up three years of braving the city's traffic.

I took the G4 today as well. It was one of the better days. The bus was crowded and when I got a seat, a woman politely asked me if she could sit instead. She offered to hold my bag. We struck a deal. 

(Views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.)

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