“2 Deccan please.”
The conductor punched a few buttons
Out came 1 printed ticket
For 2 people
Felt a little cheated.
We’re on our way to Cafe Goodluck. Decide to take the Pune public bus service (PMPML) – am doing any form of bus service after a very long time. Let’s see.
It’s a Sunday, so the beat up blue bus is relatively empty, at only 75% occupancy!. We get seats easily – not together at first, I sit ahead and Homi sits behind. 10 km to go. We settle down.
Some things have changed. Digital tickets – could be 2 or 10 all on one ticket, saves paper too, also more seats reserved for women, which is always nice More plastic than metal on the seats and railings plus individual last-row seats cutting down on space – hmmm. The bus driver is speeding over speed bumps while the seats have no cushioning and most people are without masks, which seems bad. Overall score – Ok on a Sunday. Any other day will be another blog piece altogether.
The masks have a story of their own. Most of the women don’t wear masks, but cover their face and heads with dupattas – saree edges – as they have been doing long before the world discovered Covid. This used to be a common sight where the blue collared and the economically deprived used these jugaad ways to fight against bad air and choking pollution on city roads. I used to wrap a gumchha myself on my bike rides like so many other Indian men. Not having one on public roads was like going to war without weapons. Without these make-do masks, your face would be a muck garden and your hair would be on fire at the end of the ride.
The ride was comfortable and we got down at Deccan at the signal. Of course nobody admonished us for not getting off at the bus stop.
I wanted, very urgently, to use a restroom and didn’t hang around to watch it amble away. I found restroom at a short distance near the Deccan bus stand. As I relieved myself, I thought about whether things had changed for me or others since the pandemic. It didn’t matter really – the changes, if any, seemed superficial. Those with little money didn’t have much of a choice. The bus was, and remains, the cheapest option for travelling in the city. Pandemic or not.