It’s being 2 months, since I wrote an article. Some of my friends had asked me as to why Iam not writing any stuff. I don’t want to give any excuse; it’s just that I didn’t feel like writing. Being unsure of how things would pan out might make a person inactive. Fortunately, few things happen to us which shake us out of our deluded state & push us to do something which we have been avoiding all along. :P Iam going to share here one such incident.
It all begins with an unexpected trip to my grad college NIT, Trichy to attend the Technical Fest, Pragyan. I had been planning to visit my college for a long time, since I was based out of Chennai for the last 4 years, invariably ended up not visiting the college. Over a casual discussion with Alumnae, he mentioned that he has plans to visit the college. So, that was the genesis of this trip. With my mind made up on the trip, I proceeded with the next logical step in the process of planning a trip. 1) Decide the travel destination; 2) Book the tickets for travel. Three things are ubiquitous in the world. Entertainment, Mobiles & Internet. So, the ubiquitous Internet presented itself as a convenient mode for booking my tickets. I went to the tnstc online booking site and begin my search for the type of bus. Few years back, the only bus in my consideration set would have been the ‘standard deluxe’ bus costing between 150-200 bucks, the only criteria being it should have a push back seat, or sometimes when I want to indulge myself - a ‘Ultra deluxe’ costing 400 bucks in case A/C is required along with the push back seat option. Now since Iam working now, the cost criterion was put on the back burner & many new varieties were added to my consideration set. I went on and looked at the different option for choosing the bus type. There were many options namely ‘Ultra deluxe, Deluxe, Air conditioned, Semi deluxe, Volvo A/C’ etc. It looked more like a menu card. I was wondering which one to choose; and with occasional inputs from my colleagues, we began the process of filtering the options.
Since I have travelled in few bus types before, the thought process that ran in my mind for each option went like these:
‘Ultra deluxe’ – Tried and tested.
‘Semi deluxe’ – Less tried & yet to be tested
‘Deluxe’ – Untried and wouldn’t want to be tested
Air conditioned – Looks promising
Volvo A/C: A combo offer. Definitely a good Contender to consider
The VOLVO apart from having a catchy name which was appealing, the price of the ticket which was around Rs.400 helped me in zero in that as my option. I have always believed in quality more than the price. Generally people believe that a higher priced product means a better quality, and a lesser priced product means a lower quality. I don’t exactly buy into that. I don’t say that a higher priced brand wouldn’t have a good quality, but it needn’t be true always. I prefer to follow Warren Buffet’s philosophy that if the product is of a good quality, one needn’t look at its brand or expensive price to validate its good quality. I don’t allow the brand name or its price to figure much in my decision making selection process. But in this case, the VOLVO bus seemed like a Dhamaka offer, not only you have air conditioned; it would definitely have the push back option too, a lot more comfy & relaxing since those are present even in a normal deluxe bus.
All said and done, the day of the trip arrived. Since the bus start time was at 10:58 pm, I left my office a little early by 5pm & reached home to take a little rest. I packed up few things in my bag and left home at 8:15pm. Contrary to the expectations, the traffic was less and in spite of the State Government’s best efforts to make all the roads in the Anna Nagar – one way (due to the Metro project), the traffic kept on moving and I reached Koyambedu bus terminal by 9:00pm. It’s been few years, since I had come to Koyambedu so I took some time to find out the platform where buses plying to Trichy were put up. The buses were standing in a row, like all were on display in a showroom. I took a stroll from one end to the other. There were people milling around, trying to find their bus & some enquiring about the ticket availability. I plugged in the ear phones and immersed myself with the best past time activity – listening to music, while scanning the crowd.
The buses had different timings mentioned on them: 9:45pm, 10:15 pm, 10:19pm, 10:45pm, 11:00pm & they were standing in a row accordingly. (What complex model would have been used to arrive at the timing 10:19?) Since, my bus timing was at 10:58pm, I began to wonder going by the timings mentioned, my bus should stand between 10:45pm & 11pm. But there was no sign of any bus. A thought crossed my mind if the bus platform was similar to that of the Platform 9 3/4, King's Cross Station in the Harry Potter series. Probably I need to check in the space between the platforms where 10:45pm & 11pm buses were standing. Just then I saw a bus conductor come towards me. I took out my bus ticket and asked him if he knew when the bus would arrive. The conductor had one look at the bus ticket and then remarked ‘It will come at the time when it is supposed to come’. I wondered if the conductor was a fan of Rajnikanth, given that he was delivering Rajnikanth’s punch dialogues. I thanked and continued my strolling. It was around 10:55pm and still there was no sign of my bus. I double checked the date and time of the bus, in case I had mistakenly booked a bus for some other day. Fortunately, all details were right. After walking to one end of the platform, I turned around and my eyes fell upon a beautiful, marvelous sight. Contrary to your fantastical imaginations, it was not a girl.
But the very dear Volvo bus for which I was waiting with anticipation. One look at it and it would be hard for anyone not to fall in love with it. With its majestic look plus a pure white color & a shiny LED’s at the front displaying the places & route number, the VOLVO looked like a King with a crown adorning its head. It was so marvelous to look at, that it could have been bestowed the privilege as the National Bus of India. Overall, a complete royal look! My heart puffed with pride on choosing such a good bus, that too a royal selection. The conductor began to check the tickets & a bunch of people gathered around him in hopes of getting a seat in the royal bus. The uniform worn by the conductor, the high tech ticket issuing machine which he had in his hand & the big bright door of the bus looked aesthetically inviting, as if the ones entering it were the blessed ones. Alas, that was the end of all good things - Imagined or real.
The bus conductor checked my ticket and I put forth my right leg into the bus. One look at the interior & my jaw dropped down open. People talk of an expectation gap, i.e. the gap between the things one expects and actually gets. Considering that, the expectation gap in this case was big enough to create a gap in an ideal expectation gap itself. I hope you got the point. The things which I had imagined in the VOLVO and the ones which I saw before my eyes had no correlation, except the fact that there were 4 wheels below us in both cases. The bus was a normal A/C Volvo bus which is prominently used for the local transportation & has a higher ticket fare. The authorities have marked seat numbers over each seat and made it into the ‘VOLVO A/C’. I went and sat down in my seat. Fortunately, I had brought only 1 bag, but in case I had gotten a bigger luggage hoping that the seats would have been broad, it would have been a real test of my patience limits. What was funnier was the fact that there were many people in the bus who had the same dumbstruck expression on their face. Few who were mightily crushed on seeing this, were busy pouring their heart sorrows to their dear ones over phone. A man was remarking on the phone ‘And there is no TV, No push back seat, and No place even to keep the luggage’. Poor guy, I could fully empathize with him. All of the people inside were sitting like machines, spine straight, eyes straight ahead, sitting stiffly – both body and mind. The luggage’s which were brought became an integral part of the body, which was kept alongside the legs (Alongside & not under the seat. There was no space to keep the luggage under the seatL). The conductor brought in a few gullible passengers, with the promise of a luxury bus travel while charging an exorbitant fare of Rs 370. The happy faces which bought the ticket and came jostling in, soon got the ‘How did I get stuck here’ look in their faces.
The only way I could console myself was by reminding that if a Horse can sleep standing, at least Iam better off having a seat to sleep on! Something is better than nothing. Still, as wise people say – there is something good in a bad condition too. The degree of torture was lessened by the fact that the journey was completed in 6 hours, hence reducing the torture time. Imagine, sitting like that for 7-8 hours which happens sometimes when you take overnight journey. (My colleagues had come down from Bangalore in KPN and unexpectedly, it took a good 8 hours for them to arrive at Trichy. Probably the private travel groups would have felt sad that people take their punctuality for granted and wanted to show that even they can beat their government counterparts by arriving late). Finally, around 5:30am, I reached Trichy bus stand.
As soon as the bus stopped, people tumbled over each other to get past the door and into the open air as if breathing the air of freedom, which was kept away from them. Few others after getting down began stretching their hands, legs, body etc to ensure that the body parts resumed their normal functions again. As I got down from the bus, I could only smile & think ‘never would I have imagined such a VOLVO travel. Maybe that’s what is meant by “delivering beyond one’s wildest dreams”
P.S: Feels good to break the inactive mode finally. The return trip was fortunately better, as i had chosen the standard bus type - 'Ultra deluxe'. I tell you nothing works better than Warren Buffet's principles :)