Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVIII No. 24, April 1-15, 2019
During early sixties, the private buses I commuted from Poonamallee to Guindy where I boarded the electric train to my college opposite the Madras aerodrome were on the dot. They seldom broke down en route. Only flaw was they raced with one another, as competition was the mantra of free enterprise.
The 9.05 bus I caught daily was driven by Palani. He was a jovial man who would chit chat, cutting risqué jokes with his conductor or the time-keeper. But the moment the Palani sat behind the wheel, a metamorphosis would come over him. He would look grim. One admirable thing was he will not start the bus, the moment the conductor Loghu blew the whistle, or shouted Po, Rights, but wait for few vital seconds, so the lady with a child at the hip may settle down or an old man deposit himself on the seat without falling. Loghu, made me sit near him, adjacent to his seat at the entrance and regaled me with his rustic witticisms. He was particular about not overloading. The bus had a permitted pay load of 38 (36 passengers + driver + conductor) and never should or would such number exceed. Venkoba Rao, an acerbic checking inspector, who looked like an alter ego of Shakespearean Cassius, would board the bus at Porur or Butt Road will report to the owner if the number exceeded the cap. This lapse will entail suspension for a few days. No wonder, Loghu will always be doing a head count. There were occasions when he had refused admittance to the third family member, if only two empty seats were available.
Most of the days, a lady, having a child at the hip and a boy with no coverage at the bottom will be waiting near Retteri. Palani will stop the bus for Loghu to collect the brass tiffin carrier that had a neatly rolled banana leaf stuck on top. A pleased Loghu, after a brief exchange with the lady will shout ‘Double Rights’ for the bus to move.
Chari my college and bus mate, who had an ear to the ground told me one day in a hushed whisper, that the Retteri lady was Loghus’s second wife, the first one ensconced at Saidapet. ‘My god! Anyone at Chetpat or Teynampet for good measure?’ I asked him?’ He smiled wolfishly, shrugging his shoulders. I realised the sailors may not be the only ones who had a wife at every port. Chari said, ‘The romantic males who have a spacious heart go for more. But is not Loghu applying two different yardsticks, one for the bus and one for the family by overloading more than the prescribed number?’ I reflected over that nugget. ‘Well, every rule, including this one, has an exception,’ I said, in a double-speak.