After close to four years of doing Mallathahalli to Bellandur in Bengaluru, and enduring much travails with BMTC’s 500K, my commute changed, for the worse. The workplace shifted to Mahadevapura and there was a whole new paradigm of traffic jams and pile-ups to deal with.
I put my money on the bus route 333T, a Volvo service which runs from the BDA complex in Nagarabhavi to ITPL, cutting through the heart of the city, via Okalipuram, Majestic, Old Airport Road and then Marathahalli Bridge. I would get down at the bridge and hitch my way towards Mahadevapura in the perennial flow of 500Ds.
This bus would leave at 7.45 am and then again at 8 am. Some days, one of the buses would be missing, probably doing service at ORRCA, Manyata or Globle Village. They would then combine the two services and run one service at 7.52am
I would take the 8 am service, when it was available, to the railway station and get into the train to KR Puram, scheduled to leave at 8.45 am, but guaranteed to leave anytime before 9.30 am (I haven’t seen a bigger delay, yet, touchwood).
This train is full of people commuting to Whitefield and KR Puram and from there to their workplaces. I heard that it used to leave at 9.15 am and they had to make a request to get it advanced to 8.45 am. I wonder if the train still misses the old days. Even if it were to leave at 8.45 am, there are three stations to stop at before KR Puram—Cantonment, Bengaluru East and Byappanahalli, some lasting 20 to 30 minutes. But the key is always Byappanahalli. If it leaves from there, you are guaranteed to reach KR Puram without stopping.
Considering all the hoopla about Commuter Rail, this is what worries me. The number of tracks they have running in each direction is at the most two. Any train coming from Mumbai, Delhi or Assam that gets delayed, would make any of these trains stop for 20-30 minutes between stations. Given that, how reliable can Commuter Rail be, unless it has its own tracks? And I am not talking exceptional cases here. An exceptional case is when the train leaves on time and reaches on time. This has happened once this year, in just over a month.
There is another option with Super-Fast expresses, but you can travel only in unreserved compartments which are filled to the brim with long-distance travellers. So you crowd in the sleeper compartments, hiding when the ticket collector (TC) comes along or keep moving to other compartments, hoping the train reaches faster than the TC.
The return journey is through buses. The only good train option was from Byappanahalli at 5.30 pm. I realised it took me 45 minutes just to get to the station, 6 km away. And then 30 minutes to the City station, if the train was on time. A few colleagues who take the 6 pm train from K R Puram to the station once had the train stop at Seshadripuram for 40 minutes—no platform to park apparently.
For the return journey, I decided to try the 333T. Except that it didn’t turn up in Marathahalli Bridge, even after an hour of waiting. A driver of the perennial 335Es said that these buses would go as 335E till Majestic and switch the number to 238T there.
The next day I asked the conductor of the morning 333T about the timing of the evening bus. “Timing yenu illa,” she answered. Of course, you never ask a conductor about timings. No conductor worth his salt would commit to one. Where would it come? “Platform 29” she said.
So the next day I set up camp in Platform 29. I asked the guy manning the Nandini kiosk about 238T. “Baruthe illi,” he encouraged, as he prepared the coffee I had requested. After 30 minutes of waiting, I approached a BMTC guy in khaki uniform. “I'm new here, I don’t know,” he said. I had to go home disappointed.
There were multiple other attempts to find the bus. I waited again for 30 minutes, this time for the 61A Volvo which I had seen quite a lot of during my wait for 238T. My theory was that the bus I wait for wouldn’t turn up, and 238T might, now that I wasn’t waiting for it.
As expected the 61A stopped turning up, as if a tap had been turned off the previous day. But there was no sign of the 238T either. If any of you reading this were waiting for the 61A and were inconvenienced one of these days, please accept my apologies. I always wait for the 500KC which used to ply from Nagarabhavi BDA complex to ITPL via Banashankari until two years back, and will continue to do the same now at Majestic.
Once I had to use the toilet, and next to it was a counter that said ‘Enquiry’. Feeling hopeful, I asked them about 238T.
“Platform 29,” he said.
“Alle iruthe nodi, thumba ide” (It should be there, there are a lot of them.)
I was amazed at this religious belief in the existence of a bus that I was certain had vanished and did not exist. It wasn’t just the BMTC folks; even the people manning the kiosks were in on the secret and perpetuation of the myth.
It has been over a month since the new commute started. I still do Mahadevapura->Marathahalli Bridge-> Majestic-> anything-that-goes-in-the-direction-of-home-and-accepts-a-BMTC-pass, to get home. I have successfully brought down my commute time from 3.45 hours the first day, to 2.30 hours for the return journey. I keep a constant eye out for the 238T.
I still sometimes ask other conductors or BMTC officials, mostly just for kicks, slightly for the sake of hope. “Baruthe”, “Platform 29”, they still assure me confidently. I am yet to see one on the return path, and I mean the whole path till home.
If you have seen one in the evening recently, or happen to see one, please let me know. A suitable reward awaits—I’ll keep an eye out for your mythical bus.