April 21, 2012
BEST management ever
Seated at the window, I feel a sense of adventure as the bus speeds and honks its way on the highway, brushing smaller vehicles aside, swerving at the corners and bumping over the speed-breakers. Being me, I enjoy the ride, happy that I'll reach my destination soon, even as some of my co-passengers swear at the bus-driver and some others share my joy. Some uncles are visibly angry, some discuss about the BEST's plight and stuff, and maybe, some lady is arguing with the conductor. Everyone sense something might go wrong. But, no one acts. They all just swear and abuse, the bus-conductor timidly listens, or abuses back, giving some lame excuse but none of them move their asses to get the right thing done - confront the driver and stop him. I am having a good laugh, as I always do when I hear people abusing each other in regional languages!
After some time, the story happens. The bus-driver is in cruise mode and jumps a signal, making a really sharp right turn at high speed. That's the blood-freezing moment when everyone realizes it is a double-decker bus and it is quite surely overturning to the left side. Everyone braces themselves, hanging on to something. This does not happen everyday, I do not remember seeing such a scene in any movie as well. The scene that comes closest is from the fantastic "Speed", where Sandra Bullock makes the hijacked bus take a sharp right turn, but not before everyone moves to the right. So, the bus flips back on to its wheels and moves on. This BEST bus is hijacked alright, it is already overturning, Keanu Reeves has not instructed, "This side of the bus, please, this side!", and before I complete my thought, there is a loud crash and screech of glass against mortar. The bus stops, finally, not on four wheels, though!
Seated on the left side, I bear the brunt of the accident - my back is to the ground, window glass lies shattered beneath me, there are people on top of me in a jumbled state and I can barely breathe under their weight and smell. Till the passengers come to their senses (it takes some 15-20 minutes!), I am still there, but I am used to it by now. I adjust a bit here and there and manage to survive. At the time I am rescued, it is 90 minutes since the bus has overturned - 90 grueling minutes of some sort of a forced yoga position. I have fractured something, but I feel lucky to have survived it. It could have been worse, but this is good enough for me.
In fact, none of my co-passengers died because of this freak accident. You may be feeling good, right, but hang on! The bus crushed a bike when it overturned. THE BUS (17 ton double decker) CRUSHED A BIKE (0.5 ton Pulsar) WHEN IT OVERTURNED (at some 50-odd speed). The bike, of course, had a rider (0.07 ton average guy), and he was the sole casualty of this freak show. Imagining being a passenger is okay, but imagining being in this man's position is what gives me the blood-curdle.
Back to reality - From the next day (and this was immediately apparent, since I am a regular traveler), bus drivers were more cautious. I noticed it in my daily beloved super-express 489 bus. No flyovers, no overtaking other buses, just sad, slow, harrowing journeys. I took this up with a friendly 489 bus-conductor and he admitted that it was a "management decision" to not overtake buses, especially those on the same route. What sort of a solution is this! Safe driving does not mean slow driving! This is the solution coming out of the minds of the illiterate literates sitting at the "management" positions of the BEST. These super-men have masterminded (of course, inadvertently) the declining revenues of the BEST over the years, making disastrous decisions with AC buses and silly decisions with bus routes and ticket fares. BEST bus conductors themselves admit that these "management" guys are no-gooders, lacking basic common sense - good business sense is a far cry. God bless the BEST!