It cost us 500 rupees and some prayers, caused some apprehension amongst by-standers, gave our friends something new to talk about and left us a bit light-headed. Fair returns for an evening out, I would say.
It all started with a full sized ad in the morning paper about a flat 50 percent sale in Phoenix mall out there in Whitefield. The brands kept whispering to me as I got ready, until I sent texts and made calls to check who else was keen on going. It was a working day too.
I heard that O planned to go as well. “She wants to go there by Volvo, it seems”, exclaimed the friend who passed on the message. I was game I said, as I had no wish to drive out so far in the mad traffic. Though the friend tried to convince us to get a driver for the day instead, O and I planned to meet outside Bangalore Club after lunch and take the bus.
She was late, and I was even more late; a young man at the bus stop had told her that the Volvo did not stop here. It can’t be, I said. My son had just taken it a couple of weeks ago from further up the road, so perhaps we should go to Mayo Hall and check? The young man said the same bus would have gone past Bangalore Club but instead of answering us clearly about why it was not running that day, he got up and walked away.
I had almost persuaded O that we change the plan and go to 1 MG road, when we spied a Volvo bus that was going to Marathahalli bridge. On the spur of the moment, we decided to get into and take another bus from Marathahalli. Waving frantically, we stopped the bus and jumped into it. O rushed to the rear, saying the seats on the higher level were great fun.
I learnt then that her new-found zeal for bus travel stemmed from a recent Volvo ride home from the airport. Having taken that bus several times, I was blasé about the whole thing, even as O kept up a running commentary about being able to see tree-tops and into army compounds from our perch.
Getting off the bus at its last stop, we spurned the auto drivers and got into a bus going to ITPL. It seemed that we had to change yet another bus. I had the route in my head and I tried explaining it to the conductor. He seemed to have wandering eyes, and O kept jabbing me to hitch my neckline up. The bus had its own route, and since I wasn’t driving, we had to go where the bus did.
At one point, the driver decided to race against another bus, and as they reached a curve, our driver took it fast and sharp. With the other driver coming within a hair’s breadth of ramming us, we yowled, experiencing the first of the evening’s unexpected adrenaline rush.
After the bus meandered around ITPL, we got off and even the doughty O was ready to take a rick to the mall. But it was not destined to be. There was a bus waiting, all set to go past our destination. In we got, and 2 hours after we had sent off and having spent more than Rs.400/ ( a driver would have cost us a bit less), we got to the mall.
She wanted Bebe jeans – they cost about Rs.7-8000/- and they were not on sale; a couple of other stores had paltry pickings too. I did end up with a pair of M & S trousers (and I forgot to use the card that would have given an extra 5 percent off), a top from AND, and a dress from Avirate, all of which we could have bought in town itself.
I was wilting and wanted to call a cab to go home. O agreed, and then remembered that someone had suggested the Metro as a better option instead of the bus. We decided to take a rick to the station and ride the metro home.
Before that we stopped at Madhuloka to boost ourselves with a bottle of water. There, the miniatures looked so tempting that we succumbed and got one each to fortify us for the journey back. We needed it for what ensued. The auto drivers were tossing crazy numbers at us for a ride to the station, and the minute one of them mentioned a lower figure, O said yes and we jumped in.
The traffic was barely moving, and a few minutes later, our guy veered right and drove at top speed on the highway into the oncoming traffic. Then, he told us to keep holding on while he cut left and got back to the right side of the road (on the left). We kept praying to be delivered in one piece, and when we tumbled out at the station, told the driver off for being reckless and greedy, and stepped away from the dust and darkness.
Awaiting us was a wondrous sight indeed. Brightly lit, spacious, clean, uncrowded Byapannahalli Station! (The woman guard who had to frisk us said “Ae, banni illi”, to which O very primly tried to correct her to say “Ae, ladies, banni illi”.)
Were we entering a plane? Were we in Singapore?, we exclaimed and clapped in glee as we walked through the station and boarded this really cool train. Better than London, better than New York, we trilled to each other. Within minutes, and for just 30 rupees, we were on MG Road, where yet again we were at the mercy of an overcharging auto driver for the short ride home.
The highlight of the journey was this: a girl sitting opposite us had absent-mindedly left a tissue behind on the seat.( It wasn’t her fault, O had roped her into taking our pix at the station and in the train and she must have got flustered with all the directions being thrown at her). A group of young girls and boys got in at Indiranagar, and one of the girls insisted on picking up the litter. Her friends said that it could be dirty, but she didn’t mind, saying “We should keep the metro clean.”
The metro demonstrates that if we put our mind to it we can build and run efficient systems, and feel decent and happy and proud about ourselves.
I am looking forward to the time when I can take a metro to any part of the city with ease. If the metro works with BMTC to sort out the connectivity to and from its stations, it would see me more often.
(Disclaimer: The writer admits that though she’s walked to school, taken the bus to college, and in the early part of a reporting career hitched rides in trucks to get a story, she’s grown soft through driving a car ( and due to middle age). This story is about her first time in namma metro, almost two years after it started.)