Of a longing for local bus

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Aug 2017 09:48:21



Vijay Phanshikar,

MOR Bhavan Bus Terminus was a special place then. It is a special place even now more than sixty years later, though very chaotic and almost as if mismanaged on purpose. But, in the 1950s, the Government undertook construction of the Bus Stand for city buses near Mor Bhavan in Sitabuldi. For us kids moving around in the
area -- to school, to theatre shows, to Maharajbagh garden and zoo, to Bhagini Mandal, to Matru Sewa Sangh -- the very fact that a new bus stand was coming up, was a very
special event.

Until then, what we knew as an unorganised bus stand was at the Variety Square, next to the Regent Cinema. But from then on, things were going to be different and the local buses in west Nagpur were to be managed from a neat and modern facility. For us, that was a special thing.

So, almost every evening, and on Sunday afternoons, we would converge on the construction site and watch the facility come up fast. And when the facility was ready and was launched, it became a hobby, a wonderful pastime, to spend time at the new terminus that came to be known quickly and without fuss as Mor Bhavan Bus Terminus, even in official parlance, standing testimony to the importance that Hindi Mor Bhavan had in Nagpur’s life.

What fascinated me about the bus was that so many people got out of it and so many got into it in a neat manner. In those days, before the new terminus came up, people stood in chaotic clusters at the bus stands and pushed themselves somehow into the bus as it came to a stop in the most chaotic manner possible.

Then came the new terminus where the buses came and parked at designated slots and people stepped out properly and others formed a queue to board the vehicle.
That was quite a thing. And to watch those neat queues, I often went to Mor Bhavan Terminus, many times without any company.

In sharp contrast, when buses halted at roadside bus stops, there was chaos – of getting in without even allowing the people inside to alight with dignity. The picture at the
terminus was entirely different and spoke of order and
discipline. That spectacle fascinated me.

It fascinated even today – anywhere.
Of course, despite the so-called material progress we have made, despite the so-called modern facilities we have at most places, chaos still rules. Even at airports, one comes across chaotic scenes many times.
Back then, however, neat queues could be seen rarely, and that made going to Mor Bhavan to watch those became a fond activity for a child like me.

I am sure, today’s under-ten kids won’t even bother to do anything like this. They would, I am sure, not even understand the meaning of what went on in a child’s mind those many decades ago. I am afraid, even adults would not, given the social conditions today.

Back then, however, time spent at Mor Bhavan watching buses coming in and going out, people stepping out and getting in, had its own importance. Our parents were important people in town and we used to have decent numbers of celebrities paying them visit. On countless occasions, we could see those celebrities alighting from buses and walking towards our home and parents’ dispensary – Dawakhana -- on Sitabuldi Main Road.

On a few occasions, I remember having escorted a couple of dignitaries to our home.
This is only to show how travelling by bus to local destinations was a regular and honourable activity in th city those days. For us also,  travelling to various places in the city was a regular affair. All we did was to get a few ‘annas’ from Mother and go to Mor Bhavan and go to different places by bus, making best efforts to grab a window-side seat and watch the cityscapes pass by.

With passage of time, most unfortunately though, Mor Bhavan Bus Terminus fell on bad days. It suffered from
serious mismanagement. Subsequently, the control of local buses got passed on to the Nagpur Municipal Corporation. Then came the private bus operators with hundreds of
buses that have no designated place for parking. Then came the senseless and stupidly unresolved debate as to the use of Mor Bhavan Terminus.

The whole thing is absolutely  nonsensical, and a testimony to the gross ineptness of the Maharashtra Government to handle a simple problem. Successive Chief Ministers have failed to tackle the simple issue. They made Mor Bhavan, one time’s truly good facility, look like a nightmarish place today.

Why should this happen in the first place? There is no answer except that the State Government and the civic administration are not serious about a solution.
Let alone that, travelling by local bus held a special attraction for me. I loved it  simply because it offered
me a chance to be with  people, a chance to see the city pass by, a chance to travel almost at no cost.

Things have changed now. Life has changed. Travelling by bus is professionally impossible. Bus service, too, is no longer what it used to be. Yet, those days of bus travel still come up in memory, haunt the  mind-space for a while and then go back to rest in some corner.

As a watcher of public affairs and city’s development, as a person who still wonders how useful the Metro Rail is going to be in the city in the next some years, I still feel most sincerely that the city of Nagpur would do much better by developing  consciously an efficient public transport service through a wide network of bus routes. My observation may not find  much respect with the city’s leaders of today since they  seem to reside more on cloud nine than on the ground of  reality.

Yet, I sense that a silent majority of Nagpurians have similar ideas about mass  transport in the city as I have. That is, at least, a good feeling.