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Public Transport Woes

Queue of commuters to get aboard a microbus in Kathmandu, in November, 2016. Photo: THT

If you do not have to use public transportation to go to your workplace, particularly in Kathmandu, you are fortunate in a sense. However, you will miss out on many experiences at the same time. Here, I am talking about the “Balkhu-Baneshwor” route and I assume similar experiences are there to be had along other routes as well.

The first thing you encounter is that you have very little chance of getting a seat during rush hours. So, get ready to stand up throughout your journey. Now begins your predicament. There comes a pack of school children! Their backpacks are more or less double their size and you will be sandwiched between these backpacks. You are somehow just managing to preserve your standing space, the conductor comes shouting, “Go back, go back! Hey auntie, you shouldn’t turn left! Turn right! There is a little space between you two guys, so you go to that side. Oh, you don’t hold on to that handle.” Regardless of where you are standing — be it at the front, middle, or back — he incessantly instructs you, “Go back,” until you get off at your stop. You must have imagined that the standing passengers should be in a harmony like matchsticks in a matchbox.

If you are lucky enough to grab a seat, don’t think that you will be spared from unfavourable situations. Your seat partner may not be considerate enough to leave you ample space. Mainly, these people are males who cover two thirds of the available space, so you need to squeeze yourself into a tiny sliver of space where hardly half of your body fits. Anyhow, you manage this way but another problem is waiting for you. The people that are standing keep falling over you at every jolt, they cannot help pressing you and even more painful thing is some hands may come to pull your hair. Hang on, you cannot complain because it is not their fault. You need to compromise as everybody has to go to their workplace at the exact time, no choice, but to be patient.

Wait, the most dreadful experience is still coming. It is the spitting people. Some people on the public bus are so nasty. They do not care about their fellow members and keep spitting. It gets more dangerous when they clear their throats as loudly as they can, collect the mouthful of phlegm and spit on the road without looking around. Imagine you are near such people and it is a windy day; in such a situation it is almost impossible to save yourself from rogue spit droplets and the conductor is also not an exception to such acts.

Recently, there was a news story about fining those that litter or spit out of bus windows. I wonder if that rule has come into effect and I also wonder what department is monitoring this. Looking at the comfort level of the spitting people, I do not think that anyone has been fined for their misconduct. Anyway, if you are thinking of using public transport, you have to be ready to face these challenges, and so much more.

By Byanjana Sharma