The Hell Experience –
I have been through some crazy bus journeys. From petty things like having to sleep in an AC coach without a blanket to chasing down a bus for about 30 minutes in a new city because of their mis-communication about pick-up points and six hours later, being dropped at the borders of Karnataka as that bloody ‘National Travels’ bus did not have a National permit – I have seen a lot of shit things. But yesterday’s experience trumps them all.
Just a couple of days back there was one of the most horrible road accident in recent history in India, with around 45 people charred to death. As you might expect, the tensions were pretty high when my folks heard that I was coming home in a bus. Though I tried to book a Tatkaal ticket, heeding to my Mom’s advice, I was obviously unsuccessful in that attempt. But honestly, I didn’t find much reason to worry because I have been doing this for that past one and a half year. Though I had my share of bizarre luck, I told myself that there could always be accidents – trains run off tracks, planes collapse into oceans and buses crash – that is a harsh reality. But what I failed to realize until yesterday was the contribution of human error to these accidents – negligence, irresponsibility and lack of respect/ concern towards others’ lives. Let me get straight onto the events of yesterday.
I was lazy enough to let my usual APSRTC and KSRTC tickets slip by and had to book tickets in a Non-Ac sleeper bus from ‘A.P. Tours and Travels’ which is NOT a government run service. I booked a 7:30 PM bus from Marathalli and reached at 7:15 PM. From my past experience, I knew a bus would never arrive on time, thanks to Bangalore traffic.
8:10 PM [MARATHALLI] –
A pickup bus arrived there. It was a semi sleeper – not the one I booked. We had to travel to Majestic (KBS) to get into the correct bus. After nearly two hours, most of which I spent in dreamland, we reached Majestic. It was here that I received my first jolt of the night. We were asked to shift into a sleeper bus that was waiting for us there. And that was the worst bus I have ever been in. The interiors were maintained like a bad public toilet. I seriously do not have any words to describe that bus except to say that if a match stick fell out of somewhere, the whole bus would have burned down to ashes and on top of this, the cleaner was smoking in the bus!
As we waited in that cob web filled bus, I spoke to a couple of passengers. One of them bought a ticket for an upper berth for Rs. 2200/- when the ‘normal’ price was Rs. 1800/- (KSCRTC AC Sleeper is Rs. 990/- and APSRTC AC Sleeper is Rs. 1360/-). He bought a 100% overpriced ticket for this dilapidated bus and there were many such people. I went to talk to the bus people and they said that they were waiting for few more passengers to board the bus. I went in and sat down and at about 10:30 PM, the bus moved. To my horror, the driver was drunk  and almost skipped a red signal. The three helpers shouted at the driver and stopped at a certain point. I went out to them and complained about leaving the lives of 25 people in the hands of a drunk driver. They got down and discussed something. And the next 5 minutes, some other guy drove the vehicle to another stop.
10:30 PM [HEBBAL] –
I was busy taking photos of the bus interiors to put up in this post while there were some discussions going on outside the bus. A few other curious passengers were following the conversations and finally the drunk driver came into the bus shouting out that the bus wouldn’t move. Then came two people claiming that they were from DIWAKAR Travels (yes DIWAKAR Travels, though I was in AP Tours and Travels… I have a video with them talking) and they checked some papers. I talked to them and found out that the vehicle was registered under DIWAKAR travels but the transfer of papers between DIWAKAR and AP tours were inexistent. He also said that the particular bus was not in good condition to run from Bangalore to Hyderabad. I, along with a group of people walked out and questioned these people why this bus came out in the first place. They said that they were not responsible . It was getting late and when more people came out questioning why this bus was sent out in the first place, the driver and cleaner fled.
12:00 AM [HEBBAL] –
The driver and cleaner were nowhere in sight and a group assembled outside the bus. One of us tried calling the nearest police station and I tried calling TV9 Bangalore. Unfortunately, no media person responded to my call but the police did. After 15 minutes, the driver and cleaner came running with a couple of sheets and said they were ready to go. There were a couple of elderly people who thought it was wise to leave the city and deal with the consequences as they came . I refused it outright and there were a couple of others who joined me, saying that if the bus was caught on the highway, there would be no respite for us. We managed to convince the lot and asked them to drive to the police station. The drunk driver ran away and the cleaner was trying to drive us to the travels office. We refused this as we knew no one would be there to take responsibility . Finally at about 12:30 am, the police vehicle arrived and a lady inspector, along with a head constable stopped the vehicle. Then we came to know that the cleaner had little experience handling the vehicle . After the head constable slapped the cleaner twice, he called someone and they talked. We were asked to wait in the vehicle and promised that another mode of transport would be arranged. The untrained cleaner drove our vehicle, hitting down a road divider on the way and took a U turn and stopped.
1:00 AM [HEBBAL] –
All the 24 odd members from the 22 berth bus came out and occupied the road. Then came a skinny man claiming that he was an agent of OMER travels and also dealt with AP Tours and Travels. There was a long push and pull for what needed to be done. That man said that everyone who bought online tickets would be compensated within a week and the others who payed hard cash would be compensated within a day. A few people started questioning the rules and the how-tos of the compensation but another youngster and I declared that we would only settle for an alternate transport to Hyderabad as we did not want to lose our holidays. “I don’t want a sleeper, get me a semi sleeper or seater or even a Tempo Traveller and send me home”, I said and a few girls, who had come to Bangalore for only one day and had no place to stay there, joined me. The agent tried to talk us out of it, saying that there was no available bus. He added, “This bus has all permits, but if you are caught, I am not responsible ”. I did not make any sense. If his bus had all the permits, why would it be caught in the first place and even if it is caught, why wouldn’t he take responsibility? I questioned him on these and then the police also started questioning him rashly. Then he revealed that this bus had problems right from the start and they knew it , but sent it out only to meet the demand. The passengers surrounded this agent and blasted him from all directions. Finally he agreed to arrange an alternate transport from Anantapur (202km – 4 hrs from our current position). But the cleaner, who was now the driver, hesitated to drive. He was not confident if he could drive 202 km. The agent talked to the driver and finally got him ready to drive. The passengers decided amongst themselves that they would take turns and sit along with the part time driver and make sure there is no mistake. Just before we left, on the advice of a lady passenger, the police officers noted the ID card and address of that agent so that he could be held responsible if a new bus wasn’t arranged in Anatapur. Finally, at about 2:30 AM, we made a shaky move.
6:30 AM [ANANTAPUR] –
We stopped in Anantapur, where a more regular kind of bus was arranged for us. We transferred from our super luxury, mosquito filled sleeper to a DIWAKAR travels Non-Ac bus . Finally, at 11:45 am we reached our destination – Lakdikapool.
At the end of the day, my story might not sound as dramatic as others, but I am happy for that because if it were any more dramatic, I don’t think I would be here, writing this.
Observations relating to the superscript sentences in the post:
 – The drunk driver was just one instance of how careless the management is with its drivers. To put the lives of 25 people on a person who is in no state to drive – this is how accidents happen!
 – In all fairness, the DIWAKAR people did their bit of internal inspection and adjudged that the bus cannot make it past the first check post, but that should have been done even before the bus left the depot and not when there were 25 people waiting in it.
 – This is the perfect example of the insolence and utter thoughtlessness of the common public. When you know that you are in an ill conditioned bus and you know that it is going to be stopped at the first checkpoint and you still want to take a chance! No, you cannot negotiate or buy your way out of everything. Once in a while you need to use your brain, not just your wallet!
 – Everyone was throwing the towel and pointing to one another. The word responsibility was just about to go down the drain.
 – No second driver, hence the cleaner took charge of 25 lives, literally and took us through a roller coaster ride for 5 hours. This again shows heights of negligence on the part of the management who did not provide even a single driver, who was in his senses and could safely transport the passengers.
 – Responsibility – down the drain you go!
 – Another instance of how less the management care about their customers. They send a bus which they already knew had problems!
 – This is still a mystery that I don’t know who can solve. An AP Tours and Travels bus had issues, then why did we get a DIWAKAR bus? One can only speculate!
My conclusions and requests –
– After this completely unnecessary sequence of twists and turns in my life, I have decided to not book another Private Travels’ vehicle, ever again!
– From what I have seen, I can only request each of you to please plan your travels ahead and book a train as far as possible, if not a train, please book only State Travels.
– I am not a great fan of the government but –
(1) Every government vehicle has a uniformed driver – a trained, responsible person.
(2) They have a mandatory 2 diver rule
(3) The last and most important of all, should anything go wrong in a government vehicle, there is always someone to take responsibility – something that was clearly and completely missing in my horror story from the Private Travels’ personnel.
Finally, a loud shout of thanks for the Bengaluru Police Department, without whom we would not have made it to Hyderabad that day and to my friends who, even at 2:00 AM were ready to pick me up from the outskirts of the city with just one phone call. And please, please, please be more responsible about your life and your neighbour!