I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks and its been eating me from inside. It’s funny how our jobs and family take more priority sometimes.
Today, I write about an experience from a few years ago. I was in Bihar, one of India’s most loved (for many reasons) states. Not only it has one of the most popular politician of all times- Mr.Laloo Prasad Yadav, but also is the land of the Buddha, with Bodhgaya being the most visited. It is also the home to Madhubani paintings, an art, though commercialized, still finds its way into major museums. The state is very hot in the summers and cold in the winters. The local language is Bihari, which is ‘sung’ and not spoken and the people are hospitable.
Anyways, I was on my way to Pattarkatti, a small village, 40-50km away from Gaya. It was a local bus, with no air-conditioning and filled with people. It was so full and hot that some people were sitting on top of the bus for both space and cooling. I was stuck in the bus, having no inclination of being on the top.
An elderly couple entered the bus and for the first time I saw bargaining on a bus fare. The fare was Rs 10, for equal number of kilometers. When the conductor asked for the fare, the couple gave them Rs 2, which was 20 percent of the actual fare. Seeing that, the conductor asked them to full fare or get off. The couple took out another Rs 2 and handed it over. The conductor was in no mood for jokes and shouted at the driver to stop the bus. The elderly man took the change back and quietly paid the entire fare. Failing to achieve his end of the bargain, he looked at me and smiled. The conductor won his end of the bargain, asked the driver to move on, and smiled at us. I guess it was how Bihar functioned and it was a part of the lifestyle.
(This happens with most of the passengers on the local routes. The conductor wins almost all the time. It’s part of his job description, I guess)
Be it a bus or a train ticket collector, they always get a lot of words from the customers. I was in Munger (scary little town) and was on my way back to Patna. Together, with my associate, I boarded an air-conditioned coach without a ticket in hand. I know it’s a crime but then I was told that it would be OK. As soon as we were seated, I started looking around for the TTE (Traveling Ticket Examiner), so that I could buy the tickets and not be caught for ticket-less travel. Since I couldn’t find him anywhere, I decided to wait on him.
I looked at the local next to me. Plump, unshaven, buttons of his shirt open and having tobacco. Just another ordinary man from Bihar. After a while, he looked at me and asked me if I wanted a ticket to Patna! Yes, he was the TTE though he didn’t resemble one from any angle! Rather than charging us a penalty, he quietly gave us two tickets and went back to sleep. When he woke, he served to the passengers requests; while some wanted the air-con on, some complained it was too cold. Thus, he started switching it on and off to keep everyone happy. In between he summoned a local channa-chat vendor and everyone was served a snack. I volunteered to pay for the TTE, keeping in mind the ordeal he was going through. He looked at me and smiled. Yes, it is part of the lifestyle of our much-loved Bihar!