Getting Around In KolkataPosted: August 6, 2008
Getting around in Kolkata can be strange at worst, or an exhilerating experience at best. No matter which, it is bound to be an eperience you cannot forget. Nor can you replicate it in any corner of the world.
Commuting from Sector V, Salt Lake to Theatre Road (or to any other part of the world) could leave you breathless. And I tried to do this at half past eight in the morning.
Being the technology hub of West Bengal (for all that is worth as a tag), this place comes to life only at 10 in the morning. After that, posibly, but defunitely not before. For the enterprising Bengali spirit does not allow the bhodroloks or bhodromohilas (i am trying not to sound sexist here) to venture out before a certain hour. This hour varies from one member of the species to another but is rarely before 10. So this is the scenario that awaits you if you try to look for a taxi anytime before that hour. Because there just aren’t any around.
Waiting for a taxi certainly gives you options. The first option to present itself was a private car, the driver ferrying the car from one place to another without employer supervision, making some money on the side. I thought I would wait for a taxi. Carried on waiting, but the taxi didn’t appear. Quite soon, I was running out of patience and running into ample sweat. This was when the next option presented itself. Known in this part of the world as shaadaa mini, these are racing equipments (much like most other beings on Kolkata roads) disguised as buses. And one must see it to believe it. Well, this one was a shaadaa mini, to distinguish them from their non-shaadaa cousins from the (almost) F1 circuit. Getting a place to sit was not an issue.
I decided to get down to reading. Though the way the bus was swaying owing basically to the driver’s demonstration of his geometric genius by drawing near perfect sine curves on the road in his attempts at getting ahead of every single living creature on the road, no matter it’s denomination, reading was to be an exercise in futility.
So I decided to look out of the window. Wonderful day, with the beauty of nature being recently washed by rain. No wonder, I thought, about the person who had told me about the delight of watching the scenery outside the bus when travelling in these parts of the world … After all, you don’t have much choice do you? Not really given that you would much prefer to keep your eyes glued outside the bus, hoping to supplement the driver’s sight if not his brains. And try to swallow your internals into the same place where they were before they decided to take an exit route following your alighting the mechanical monster. And trying to keep your legs steady once you are off it. That should keep you occupied enough to keep your eyes on the road … And in the process also feel the soothing touch of Mother Nature… Specially along the Bypass.
You can also watch from the sidelines the highly intellectual debate between the bus conductor and a passenger about whether the fare should be Rs. 8 or Rs. 9, culminating in the passenger challenging the bus conductor’s knowledge of bus fares (that’s only his job after all, while being a topic of passion for the passenger) and the bus conductor inviting the gentleman to not avail the services of the bus.
PS: Park Street retains her charms even at this time of day.