Jan 8, 2008

Fair Fare

She pulled her dupatta tightly over her head. The cold air from the A/C chute was biting.
Her mind kept racing back. She looked out of the window. Perspiring motorists. Blinding heat.

“Will this bus go to Tambaram?” the old lady had asked,folds of age flapping about her bones. “I will take the bus to my village from there”.

“Yes”, she had replied, her voice sounding strange.

“But you may not be able to afford fare, this is a special bus”, her glance spoke these unsaid words.

Was she understood? Did her look say the things that wouldn’t come out her mouth? She searched for the old lady in the bus. If only she had had more tact.

Why do they have to make the fare so high? She didn’t need this A/C bus. The office is air-conditioned anyway. Why did it have to be her? Why hadn’t the old woman asked someone else?

She felt caged inside the Volvo bus. It was not her fault that she could afford this bus. It wasn’t her fault either that the old lady couldn’t. She shuffled uneasily in the cushioned seat.

The lady next to her was absently fingering the Ipod dial. What a marvel, this device! And what a model! She thought of her own shuffle, which paled in comparison.
Wish she could afford this one.

“One Tambaram, please”, someone asked the conductor. Her thoughts reeled back to the bus stop. Was the old woman still waiting for the bus? The heat outside was horrible. There was a slight jam. A poorer cousin of the Volvo was belching out excess passengers, who were hanging from all crevices.

Was the poor old thing being nailed by this human sledge-hammer? They should give free rides for the elderly. Especially the ones below the poverty line. She cursed the lawmakers of the land for their ineptitude.

She could have purchased the ticket for the old woman. Brainwaves like this occur only in retrospect.

She got up way ahead of her stop. Balancing in the standee-unfriendly bus drugged her hyper active conscience.

Getting out of the bus, she waited for a while to see if any other 21G would pass by. Nothing was visible as far as her line of sight could reach.

Her legs slowly joined the beat of the street. And she walked into yet another day at the office, her conscience lulled to sleep by the music of monotony.


Aravind said...

hmmm. could there a better end to the story .And was the old lady affected (good /bad) in any way by this character's attitude.

Aparna said...

Good one!

Hari said...

Touching. And very well put down. Glad that you are back. In fact checked your blog with the intention of demanding a post when I saw that you already have! Yeah. It sometimes makes us guilty when we see the underprivileged. And looks like Aravind mistook it for a story!

Aravind said...

well not really.though i did put it as if it were a story.

~SuCh~ said...

aravind ,wish life were a story, which one can improvise. :)
aparna , welcome to my blog, and thanks :)
hari,it makes us guilty, yes. On a philosophical bent, who are we to decide who gets what? And why should we be guilty? On a more practical side, why feel guilty when ultimately things would continue to be the way they are?
Primarily it was just a post to capture the futility of the middle-class guilt.

Karthik B.S. said...

Nicely put. There is a huge growing gap between the rich and the poor in our country.

BTW, is this your own real experience? ;)

Karthik B.S. said...

And regarding your blog title CHANCEY ILLA.. what a title "Hmmm...". :D

rsubras said...

Great story such.... tactful use of words.....

narration was very nice...although i felt it went slightly overboard and dragged at places..overall it was nice...

>>The lady next to her was absently fingering the Ipod dial. What a marvel, this device! And what a model! She thought of her own shuffle, which paled in comparison.
Wish she could afford this one.

any unseen link to the story??

>>They should give free rides for the elderly. Especially the ones below the poverty line

this is really great thinking

and regarding the high fair for the a/c bus... well i have different opinions.. the govt is right in introducing different classes of bus... why are the ppl questioning this thing, do not complain about the first class coaches in train having a very high fare :) the logic is this... if the cost is high, there will be lesser no of ppl using it and consequently the maintenance will be easier...

giving free or less fare rides to older or ppl with disabilities is fine but lessening the fares shud not b thr...this is imho :)

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

Sol, literarily (?) good writing. Philosophically, would kind of agree and differ on two points:
1) The great Indian apathy theme - i do think some of us this are based on our own guilt. However, I do also think even doing something for the lady would have been transient cure to that guilt rather than anything sustainable
2) the other part is the socialism - there are different views to it - I was thinking about this y'day; I'm not an expert on "isms", but I think its fair from a perspective and unfair from certain other...

LUCKY said...

Every moment on the roads of this country can be a soul-wrenching-guilt-trip.
Not many people bother.. and thats the apathy. You have obviously been impacted. See if you can take this forward and do something sustainable about it.
Every small measure counts :)

I am preachy ain't I ?

~SuCh~ said...

@ karthik : welcome to my blog:). Yes It is my own experience.
@karthik again: Thanks :)
@rsubras: It is not a story.
And the link, is the contrast, between the previous lines and these. The middle class mentality of feeling guilty of having what one has, and nevertheless wanting more than what one needs.

The person who can afford the bus, might as well take an auto.The Govt caters to this neo-rich class, thinking they pay the taxes. But they try their best to avoid the taxes, and even the taxes we pay ends up in the politician's pocket.This nexus between the neo-rich and the government leaves the underprivelged poorer and more deprived than they really are. And this percieved poverty is even more dangerous than real poverty.

And moreover, the intention of the post was not to discuss goverment policies. Just to record my thoughts, in this particular situation. To show the vacillating middle class mind.

1) Couldnt agree more :). Equitable devolopment would forever be a distant dream.
2)Communism/socialism are grand ideas gone wrong. They are the ultimate panacea when we consider mankind as a whole, but the individual, they spell the ultimate ruin.

@lucky :
Ofcourse not, you are not preachy. Probably have hit the bulls eye. My own apathy and the guilt has been my passivity. Hope the new year brings some respite on this count.

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