They offer a variety of services from the clean expensive AC buses (Volvo) to the cheap crowed smelly buses. Of which the black board bus, which is a branch of the crowded smelly bus are the ones I have chosen to travel in. The other branches are the Red board and the Pushpak.
Getting hold of a monthly pass was not as easy as I thought it would be. I had to get a photo I.D card which almost looks like a pan card, with all my vital details on it.
Kempe Gowda bus stop, the main bus stop of Bangalore city, hosted the head office of B.M.T.C where the photo I.D cards were issued.
I walked up the stairs to the office on the second floor of the B.M.T.C main building. As I entered the office I came across one of the longest queue I had ever seen. It stretched from one end of the room to another diagonally, but it was not a straight line. The queue looked like a snake or the letter 'M'. I stood in the queue cursing my rotten luck and the B.M.T.C authorities. I wished if I could get such passes online, instead of wasting my time in the queue.
The snake queue moved at snail pace. People were visibly bored. Some were busy on their mobiles explaining how long the queue was, some were playing on their mobiles and some tried to read a newspaper.
One old man who looked to be in his early sixties stood in front of me, he had grey hair, his facial skin had developed wrinkles and he stood with his shoulders bent. He was trying to figure out the various options on his, what looked like a new mobile phone. He kept pressing the menu button and then the back button; he clearly had no clue as to how the mobile worked. He gently turned back and gave me a warm smile. I smiled back with the thoughts of helping the old man with his mobile bouncing around in my head. It took me almost ten minutes to decide to plunge into the cause of helping the old man with his mobile.
"Hello, my name is Nikhil. Do you need any help with the mobile?" I asked
"That's very kind of you, young man. I am as confused as a kid in a mathematics class" he replied with a chuckle and handed me over his mobile
I took hold of the mobile and navigated through it with the confidence and speed of a race car driver in a track. I started explaining, how he could send instant messages to anyone in any part of the world, with his mobile. He was visibly surprised by a simple feature of the mobile. He listened to every piece of information I gave with child like innocence and student like concentration, and quickly jotted down the steps to send a sms, in his hand book.
"Are you ready to send a sms" I asked
He nodded his head and replied
"I want to send a sms to my son who is in The States"
He typed out a small message with his shivering hands and pressed the send button with all the might he had.
I smiled and said
"Uncle you don't have to press the button that hard"
With wet eyes and a soft smile he replied
"I was hoping if I pressed hard it would reach him faster"
I just didn't know what to say to that, I quickly managed to change the topic
"Uncle, I like your number it ends with 007, quite fancy"
"Oh, James Bond, never thought about that, it's nice, have you seen Dr No?"
"Dr No, is it a Bond movie?"
"The first Bond movie kid, Sean Connery an excellent actor, wonderful movie, you must watch"
"Oh, I know Sean Connery, he was in 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', he is good, but I think Pierce Brosnan was the best Bond"
He looked at me smiled and said
"How can you call him the best without having seen the best"
I stood silent for a second, and then we both broke into light laugh.
He looked ahead at the people standing in the queue and said
"This queue is surly going to take a hit at my one o'clock lunch"
"Your wife must be waiting for you at home" I added with a smile
"She is waiting up there for me" he pointed at the heavens up above
"Oh, I am so sorry..."
He cut me
"Don't be, she lead a very beautiful life" he smiled
I nodded my head in understanding and smiled back
"The only thing that's waiting for me back home is my T.V" he added with a chuckle
We stood quite in the queue for few more minutes, and then he spoke
"I like to travel in the bus, the variety of people you get to meet and observe are beyond one's imagination."
I nodded, but I had not yet experienced the bus enough to agree or disagree with him.
We were almost near the I.D card booth when he said
"I like emails and now this instant messaging service, some say they are impersonal, but it's nice they reach faster than the letter."
"Why are you smiling, is it because I am the first old man you have met to have said this. Letters are fine but now we have to change with the changing world."
He reached into his walled and pulled out a worn out piece of paper, and handed it to me. It was an old letter, dated 26 April 1986, exactly two days before I was born. He took the letter from my hand and said
"This is the first letter my son sent from the States, he is now settled there with two kids, they email me, I have never met them, but they have promised to visit next year."
I looked at him, with the fact that this old man has been living in the city alone with his only kid thousands of miles away, just settling in.
He looked down at the letter and said
"The only thing emails don't give is the feel. I can still feel my son's touch in this letter"
Silence took over my words, but luckily for me we had reached the end of the queue. We parted ways with a short good bye, as he moved towards the senior citizen's booth.
The letter still remained in my head.
One small paragraph that I noticed in the letter played continuously in my head.
"My studies are going........................
......................................Appa, I miss you a lot, can't wait to come back home.