MIDWAY: Dislike justified

Abhaya Raj Joshi:

Sometimes invitingly unoccupied and sometimes disgustingly jam-packed, sometimes way ahead of time and sometimes far behind it, this is the every day story of the public buses in Kathmandu and why many people, including me, don’t want to get inside one unless left with no choice.

The microbuses are a new rage in the Valley, but it seems the difficult routes the tough big boys take all in a stride are simply too daunting for the little buses. One fine evening, I was on my way home. Knowing that going through Ratna Park at 4 pm during the “andolan” season was inviting trouble, I decided to go via the Ring Road on a big, rickety bus. Microbuses did not operate from the area that I was in and only the big buses covered the route. I knew that circumventing Ratna Park meant bearing with half an hour’s delay. But I thought that it was better than hanging on the door of a bus crammed with people or standing up inside the small micro-van fighting for a whiff of fresh air, or even having to walk.

Unaware of hurdles awaiting me, I got inside the bus and occupied a comfortable seat in the back row. The engine roared and a big shudder announced that we were ready to roll.

No sooner had the bus started it came to a screeching halt. I thought the traffic light had turned red as usual and waited for the bus to move again.

Fifteen minutes elapsed and there was no sign of any movement. Now that I had already paid the fare, I was left with Hobson’s choice to take the ride home. After a few long and anxious minutes, I was at Gaushala caught in the middle of a sea of people and honking vehicles as though there was a stampede. That was when the bus conductor and a gentleman from the front row announced that it was a sacred day and devotees had spilled on to the roads from the premises of the Pashupatinath Temple.

As we waited, one could feel that the sun was going behind the mountains and that the evening was enveloping Kathmandu. The bus gradually pushed forward jolting to a halt every few seconds and the driver ever careful. But there was no sign of the crowd parting to give way to the vehicles on queue. After nearly an hour of waiting and clearing of the roads, the bus, to the disgust of all the passengers, broke down.

The only choice left for me was but to take the microbus. And away we went, whiz past the crowd and the snail-paced bus. The little van had the answer to all of my problems. My congenital dislike for the buses was justified.