Bussss... .. . .
By Etan Doronne
24 Mar 2013
Indian rural buses are essentially trucks converted to passenger carriers. They have to be to survive the collection of pot holes named: Indian country roads, but sometimes even that is not enough and it boils to a breakdown.
It was a hot day in the southern most town of the southern most state, Tamil Nadu. My business here was patching messy paperwork work. The roads earned their looks from the government.
I took a bus to the collector office. For locals it's basically like a pilgrimage to the king. A title inherited from British rule, the collector is the top authority in any district. Most Indian in remote areas never leave their hometown surroundings and for them there's no one above the collector.
On that day, it was also my first attempt to meet a collector. I wasn't in India for honorary ceremonies or political science research. My joy was as far as possible from those mammoth buildings, chauffeured cars and western-looking suits. My source of joy around India is what I share and there's was some of it also on the late morning of this day.
The bus drove through town and then started climbing the road on the outskirts when it suddenly stopped. It stopped a lot, but this time it kept standing. The conductor and driver stepped off and then we passengers did to.
Soon the driver in his clean and ironed uniform crawled under the bus to jack up the axle with rocks.
The conductor got the spare tire from up on the bus roof.
At the same time us passangers were not sure how's the ride going to continue. I, the only foreigner, wasn't on top of things either. My very limited Tamil wasn't enough for such complex situations.
However the attempt to replace the wheel kept dragging. It was a good time to watch the traffic, the people and also to be a friend in times of trouble - A chance I don't get often as I am the guest, who usually could use some help from locals.
I knew the collector wouldn't be waiting for me and in general government offices close up with an accuracy of a Swiss watch where as buses and traffic in general run on Indian watch. Yet, I was always open for any first-time, unplanned experience with Desi's - it proved to always be safe, no matter what, where or when broke-down.
While waiting, burning and sweating some went for the bushes, maybe to pee, maybe to visit relatives in the neighborhood beyond or maybe went home by foot. Others improvised sun shades from shopping bags, hanckerchiefs, towels, etc.
Looking at the assortment of vehicles passing by we could now envy these stuffed up in an autorickshaw loaded to and over the top or a family of 4 squeezed together on a moped.
Eventually, after many fully loaded buses that couldn't or wouldn't we hitchhiked one and we all climbed aboard, enjoying any jump, dust and noise as long as we had shade, seat and were moving forward toward are plans for the day.
In the last photo a spare tire rolls around as I snap it driving away on the rescue bus.
Here are 2 video clips I captured of Indian bus culture: