A couple of years ago, three of us who lived 30 kilometers and more from the office decided to do our bit to reduce the carbon foot print (And also escape the mind boggling Bangalore traffic with self-driving:)). The office cab was our option. “Let’s give it a shot” – we chorused. So there we were – Deep, Rumana and me from the north side of the city.
The good thing was that all of us would be in the same cab. Route No 001 was the cab assigned and we decided to avail the cab facilities from the following day.
Next day morning, after a wait of five minutes at my designated stop, I heard a screech and in zoomed an off-white Swaraj Mazda mini bus with red stripes, spewing the latest Kannada movie songs at earsplitting levels. It was only when I saw the familiar faces of my friends inside, did I realize that this was “the” cab.
As I stepped in, what do I see? Shiny Rexene dentist chairs! Where do the dentists come into it, you ask? Well you see, all the seats in the cab were at an angle of 45 degrees like how they are at your favorite dentist when he tilts your chair to extract a tooth. Imagine having to sit in this angle for about 30 kms one way! Once I sat down, I immediately realized that the Rexene hugged your bottom like a long lost twin. The other thing I noticed was that these seats looked like they had been designed for school kids.The leg space and the width of seats were very, very narrow!
These seats we got to know later were supposedly designed for two. But could only fit in one and a half average Indian adult. Imagine two people in a seat where the second person is half on and half off, while sitting at a 45 degree angle with posterior out hanging in the air! Oh man, is this one of the reasons why some Indians are so good at yoga?? Makes one think…:)
After my initial recon, I settled in the first seat and soon my focus went to the pilot, in other words our driver. The way he was flying on the roads, I felt pilot was more respectful! Let’s call him Santosh. True to his name, Santosh always had a smile on his face. Or was it a smirk, which said “you guinea pigs, you”. But smirk or smile, it suited him. A local lad with a colorful vocabulary in Kannada good enough to make a linguist do cartwheels. I also noticed that Santosh had the most beautiful doe eyes with long, sooty lashes a Bollywood film heroine would do an item number for.
Santosh zoomed away at top speed when “booinnnk!” suddenly, he executed, a teeth shattering brake that had your posterior clenching to remain in the seat.
I craned my neck to see what it was that made Santosh brake so. It happened to be a mere traffic light!
Scrreeeech….. Zoooooooooom! Sudden acceleration and after nearly losing our necks in the process, we continued our way to the office. He blissfully zigged and zagged his way at some places and roaring away in some. I noticed that use of the horn was mandatory in all situations. Lane discipline was practically nonexistent, and games of headless-chicken with other vehicles, combined with razor thin clearance were the norm. Road humps, pot holes, mud roads and what not, all shivered and shirked when they saw Santosh. All the pollutant belching autowallahs, made way for our dude, who gave them a run for their spinning meters!
While all this was going on in my head, sleeping beauty Rumana, suddenly said “STOP” in a loud voice. Santosh, true to nature, applied his brake with precision – that intestine shaking, face thudding and posterior clenching special, and the cab stopped.We were now near a medical store en route and we all thought that she needed some urgent medication. After stopping and waiting for a few moments, no activity happened. There was no one getting on or off the cab. Santosh came by to investigate.
Much to our general amusement it turned out that Rumana who was blissfully sleeping had yelled out in her sleep! We were guffawing away and Rumana still was in la-la land. Santosh returned to his seat muttering under his breath and started the cab again with a huge jerk.
I saw Deep suddenly rushing and standing right next to me. I thought he wanted to chat so smiled at him. He looked as if he had swallowed a pill and told me that he was seated in the last seat and because of Santosh’s braking system (the angry jerk, remember!), he was thrown to the front of the cab. “Well” I thought, as I saw him gingerly balancing his way back to his seat, “so much for a morning chat!”
We were now about 15 minutes away from the office and sure enough we came to a really bad stretch of road. This one even with Santosh’s speed lasted anything between 3-5 minutes and shook your insides thoroughly. I always think that all of us in the cab may have lost about 100 grams everyday due to this free vibrate exercise. That we pile on these lost grams when we eat those oily pooris (a variety of Indian bread) in the cafeteria is another story altogether!
We soon reached the main road from where the office was just a couple of minutes away and suddenly there was another screech and Santosh’s braking system was still on. Then we heard him, say in a loud voice “Thoo Magane, vaddhe andre” (roughly translated from Kannada to English, this means – “Aah dear son, how I missed you so!”:) :).
We looked out the windows to see what had happened this time and sure enough saw a biker-dude on a violet(?!) bike scampering away to the side of the road trying to get away from Santosh’s line of fire, after receiving his verbal morning blessing. We moved on and soon reached the office.
As I got down from the cab, I couldn’t help but think that our rides to the office were more like a Bollywood pot-boiler; With a healthy dose of entertainment, a regular set of actors (us in the cab), the main hero – Santosh (of course!), not to forget the background music from the cab radio, combined with special effects in 2D and 3D courtesy Santosh’s driving.
But all this was for a good cause – reducing the carbon footprint remember!
∗∗Dedicated to all those brave souls who place their lives in the hands of heroes like Santosh and travel in cabs and buses.
Note 1: All characters in this article are all figments of my rather plaid imagination. No offense is meant to anyone including the red Swaraj Mazda – Route no 001, which no longer plies on the hallowed roads of namma Bengaluru.
Note 2: This write-up was published in the office newsletter many years ago. Sharing it after a few edits. 🙂