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The Delhi Walla takes a ride.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Scene I: ISBT, Anand Vihar. It's so humid that even fish can swim in the air. I have to go to CP and the Anand Vihar-Dhaula Kuan Blueline is gurrring to go. Hey, look – 543. It's red, low-floor and sleek. Is it that AC-walli bus newspapers have written about? But it's heading to Mehrauli. Who cares? Anything to get away from the humidity. I knock on the glass door, the driver sitting inside his 'cockpit' presses a button and phurrr, the door slides open. Noiselessly.
Scene II: Inside, it's as cool as Rajdhani Express while the ticket remains very un-Rajdhani. Just Rs 15 for Ashram flyover. In a Blueline, it would cost Rs 5 less. I'm paying just Rs 5 for AC's thandak. Ah, it was high time to take DTC for a ride.
However, once a DTC, always a DTC. The driver is in no hurry. The door sliding open. People coming in. The door closing. Opening again. Every new check-in enters with eyes wide open and neck turning 180 degrees to take in the scene: wide aisle, large, really large windows, plush seats.
Finally, the bus starts.
Delhi and its dust clouds swirl past outside the window making me feel like a tourist who is sightseeing around Incredible India in an air-conditioned bubble. No dust getting into my ears, no strange sweat dripping onto my arms, no smelly body odours assaulting my nostrils and no Himesh Reshammiya singing out of the 'deck'.
And, the cream on the cake: fellow commuters in adjacent Bluelines are looking envious. What luck.
Bharaak! The bus suddenly stops. But no jhatka. It's Ghazipur traffic light. Three minutes. Ten minutes. Seventeen minutes. No problem. All looking chilled out as if we have found nirvana. And everyone is well-behaved. No spitting, no cursing, no molesting. At least, no one groped me.
The bus starts inching ahead. Fast, but not faster. More bus stops. Doors sliding open. People pouring in and out. We the people, the kind who do railway booking in AC 3-tiers only if there's no berth available in the cheaper non-AC sleeper cars. But here, on DTC's AC bus, it's surprising to find ourselves travelling dust-free and sweat-free, and with our budget and dignity intact.
Soon, the bus is running over Japani bridge. The Yamuna is looking blue, the air is 'feeling' clean, and even the newspaper headline is cheery (Bindra Gets Gold in Beijing). Soon, the door slides open at Ashram.
Scene III: I'm out – back in the heat and grime of incredible Dilli. Why did Ashram come so soon?
A street banner in praise of the AC buses