Visualize this- You’re in a new city, do not know the local language, you’ve boarded the bus for the first time in this city to reach your office and you do not have a clear idea where exactly to get down. The bus gets crowded, jam packed. Now, suddenly someone gives Rs 10 to you and tells something that you don’t understand.
What will you do?
Option A: Say thanks and pocket the money
Option B: Ask the person what you’re supposed to do now...
Option C: Return the money
Option D: Pass the money to a person in the opposite direction and utter the same word uttered by the person who gave you money.
My first bus journey in Chennai, few years ago, I had to go to Tidel Park where my office was located. I didn’t have an idea where to get down and I was told- “There’ll be a huge blue building visible from a distance with Tidel Park written on top of it-it’s easy to locate” So I was in an overcrowded bus, trying to keep an eye outside the window so that I can locate the Tidel park building and get down.
Suddenly someone passes me Rs 10 and says something. I didn’t understand what he said, nor had a clue what I was supposed to do. There were so many people around I couldn’t exactly identify who gave me money. I was supposed to opt for Option D above, but I conveniently opted for Option A and kept quite.
Then some kind of turmoil started and lots of words were exchanged. I minded my own business and kept looking outside. Then someone shook me and said something. I could make sense of few words like 'Kaasu', 'Ticket' and felt that he might be asking the money back. I took out the note from the pocket and someone literally snatched it and gave it to someone else.
If you have travelled in Chennai MTC buses, you might have got a clue by now. If not read on.
In most of the cities, the conductor of a bus moves all over the bus and issues tickets. In Chennai, the Conductor will be permanently positioned in his designated seat. It will be the responsibility of passengers to somehow reach him/send money to him and collect the ticket.
Because of this, it is a common scene in MTC buses to see people passing money and tickets among themselves. You pass the money to the person near you, in the direction of the conductor and tell your destination. This money and destination reaches the conductor after passing through several hands and a ticket reaches you through a similar exchange of hands. If you’re sitting/standing in-between the conductor and a ticketless passenger, you’re required to the community service of passing money and tickets.
Looks like everyone are comfortable with this mode of buying tickets (Or may be they have got used to it) and the system seems to work with an efficiency at par with of Mumbai's Dabba walas. Do you see any merits in this system? Why can’t the conductor move around like in other states? Are there any advantages in this system that I am not aware of?
- If destination gets changed (because of mispronunciation etc) while changing hands and passenger pays extra/less who is responsible?
- What should I do if my money gets lost while changing so many hands?
- If the conductor moves from seat to seat and interacts with passengers, he will have an idea who all bought the ticket and who all have not. When he sits at once place, he won’t be able to identify who all have not paid. If money comes he issues ticket, else he keeps quiet.
- Why should the passengers be disturbed every now and then for someone else to buy ticket?
- Except Volvos all buses have this system. Ticket verification is almost nill