Midtown madness

Sep 29, 2007 in

So, after spending 1 week in Chandigarh, I bought a new bike (for 2000 Rs)! It’s a classical Indian bike – no light, no gear shift – but it’s ok. Of course, you have to look out and be cautious all the time in this kind of traffic: Bicycles are at the lower end of the traffic hierarchy. Even after rickshaws and horse powered carriages since they are slower and bigger. Other vehicles try to get attention by horning all the time. It’s always a fight who will make it’s way faster through the streets.
But nobody can horn away local buses. They are at the top of the food-chain of traffic: They are big, they got heavy load and they drive fast as hell. Trucks are pretty big, too, but are not driving quite as adventurous and fast – at least while they are not on the highway.
By owning an own bike here, I at least don’t have to bargain with all those annoying rickshaw drivers when I want to go somewhere. It is really a good feeling of freedom. They charge you extra when you are white and refuse to understand “no” or even “nahin”.1
However, I’d need one hour to get from home to work with the bike, so I don’t want to rely on my bike for that.
Surprisingly, the public transportation system is nearly able to handle the amount of people here. Only few buses are so full that the people hang out of the entrances (the buses have no doors). The only really bad thing about ordinary local buses is the legroom: There is not even no legroom, there is a negative amount of legroom. At least for people my size.
Also, the buses don’t really stop on bus stops, so one should be prepared to hop on (or off) a moving bus. :)

When I first sat down in a local bus, I saw a writing on the back of one seat bench that said “For handicapped person”. OK, nice. But when I further looked around, about half the bus was reserved for several minorities and majorities (low-key)! Some more were reserved for handicapped persons, then about two seat banks “for blind person”, some for “senior citizen”, some more for “middle-aged woman” and even some for “freedom fighter”! Whoever this is and how he is recognized! :D
What I first thought of being a joke or the work of an over-ambitious employee, can actually be found on all buses.

One day I stayed in the office till 9:45 PM and was shocked to see that I missed the last bus back into Chandigarh2. OK, there was one auto rickshaw driver standing at the bus stop but I knew he would charge me much extra because first of all I’m white and second I looked desperate. Well, he wanted about three times of the fair price from me and was not trying to bargain with me. It was not soo much money (100 Rs) but this was about my principles! So, I just walked away.
But then I realized that I really was desperate and it would take 2, up to 3 hours to walk home – partly through slums. Near to the next traffic light, a local was standing besides the street and I asked him where he wants to go. He simply replied that he’ll go to ISBT (main bus station, my destination). “What? I read that the last bus to Chandigarh is already gone, how will you manage to get there?”. He told me that I was right, no local bus is driving to Chandigarh anymore but this is the road where the long route buses from Shimla ISBT to Chandigarh ISBT drive by and he will just hop into the bus while the bus stops at the red traffic lights. And he was right, after some minutes, a bus came, we run a bit and got on the bus. And paid just 5 Rs, the standard bus fee :]
This was a little adventure but now I’m using that opportunity more and more since those long route buses go directly to ISBT and are therefore a lot faster :)

1 The standard dialogue goes like this (if you don’t ignore them): “Rickshaw rickshaw?” – “Nahin” – “Hotel? Cheap? I take you!” – “Nahin!..” – “Go to Mohali?” – “No!.. look! I just want to go to the bus station over there!” – “OK. Manimadja? Rock Garden? Hotel?” – “No! I live here, I just want… ah, fuck you”. By that time, you should be rounded up by about five other rickshaw drivers then. ;)
2My office is outside Chandigarh and I need nearly one hour to reach it with public transportation.

For whoever!…
King of the road!