[We were asked to assemble at 9 PM at a place which was 1/2 kilometer away. By the time we finished booking it was past 8 PM. We had to have our dinner, refreshen ourselves and proceed towards the assembling place.]
We reached the assembling place sharp at nine. We were made to sit on stone benches under trees in a small triangular park along with other waiting passengers. The touts of different travel agents were bringing in many more passengers. It was fairly dark with lights coming only from the street lights and nearby shops; the November chill had started to set in.
9:45 PM and there was no sign of the bus. Apparently, the next step was to carry these assembled passengers to a place from where the bus was supposed to start. One Maruti van took turns to reach us in batches to a huge parking place (actually a dusty bumpy open ground) opposite Red Fort. We could see several buses waiting for their overnight journeys.
The place was very dark and when I opened my camera, the lens got covered with dust which I could not notice till next day. One thought went across my mind… Are they not operating illegally; how else you can justify that place as a starting point from national capital to major cities of other states ?
By the time we were guided & seated in our respective seats by the bus conductor, it was 10:15 PM. He also took the counterfoils of our tickets. When we asked for it as a proof of payment he said he’d give a fresh one once the bus starts. This one was needed to settle accounts with the booking agents.
I think here I need to explain the modus operandi of booking tickets.
Normally there are only one or two buses plying to a particular place during a particular time, say evening or night and all the travel agents issue tickets for those buses, communicating on phone with a central person about availability of the seats. More often than not it results in overbooking as the agents do not want to let go the perspective customers and hence the profit. The same happened with a family in our bus.
After an hour the bus was still there with passengers coming in small batches and the conductor checking their tickets. These buses are also used for ferrying loads of cargo on the roof or in the bonnet. Till the bus is not fully loaded, it does not move.
enquired argued with the conductor about the start-reach time. First he tried to convince me that he was waiting for a lady passenger who had booked a seat, telling me how I would feel if I was left behind for some trivial reason. Later when more passengers joined us, he very coolly said “Go to the person who promised you that timing. I never said we’ll start at 10.” knowing very well that none of us could afford to go back.
It was 11:30 of a winter night with no sign of any local transport (you know Delhi sleeps early). We were at an isolated place nearly 2 kilometers away from the booking place at ISBT and the only proof of payment was with him. Even then we contemplated of walking back but realized that the booking office too would have been closed by then.
As I mentioned there was a family of four which was overbooked and he did not know what to do with them. Refunding money was a kind of loss of business for him so he made them sit near the driver who was a strong hefty man of 6 feet 4 inches at least. All requests and yelling for a refund or allotment of seats by that family fell on deaf ears. His argument… “Have you paid me ? Why are you asking me for refund then ?”.
State buses cost less than Rs 200/- for the same distance and they are quite punctual. Here, we all, the educated & quite well off bunch had paid thrice that fare to get something extra in comfort and service but we knew we had been taken for a ride. It was nearly midnight, we were extremely tired and sleepy and we were still in Delhi. It was so dark that if you got down and move a little far, you won’t be able to find your bus ! I have taken photos of the bus but it is too dark to show you.
Since it was my idea of fun to experience this type of journey, PP patiently gave me company holding onto the nerves to revolt.. . to me and to others.
However, all the passengers were assured of a safe and ‘fast’ journey to reach Amritsar latest by 8 AM. That ‘fast’ made me skip a heartbeat.
The male folks had no problem in relieving themselves at the back of the bus. Knowing that the bus would start at its own time, many of the passengers had resigned to their fate and had already slept on their seats.
Inside of Bus
We too went to our sleeper berths and slept. I guess, the bus must have started at around one after filling up the rooftop and giving that family a double sleeper seat.
Next Post:– Bus Journey