Thursday, November 29, 2007

Travel in mangalore (or why superman can't walk)

Mangalore's been very different from the few other places i've been to so far. Some of these differences are rather mundane, while others are definitely esoteric. 5 days of intermittent travel for sightseeing is way too little to form an expert opinion (and i'm possibly wrong on a few counts too), but here's what i've noticed:

  • there are almost no traffic signals. The exact number i've arrived at is 2, but by city standards 2 could very well be 0 with no major impact :P

  • there are no traffic cops. Instead, there are men who look like a cross between cowboys in khaki and 18th century sepoys in the east india co's army. They stand on the road, apparently doing nothing.

  • the one time i saw a traffic cowboy do something was when a newspaper delivery man rode a scooter head-first into him. He exacted a fine of: 1 newspaper.

  • all roads lead to state bank. That's right, every single bus that i've been in either passes through or terminates at that mysterious junction. I haven't spotted the only thing that could possibly have given that place it's name yet. There is a rather largish state bank signboard nearby, but the thing below it looks like an sbi atm, quite like every other sbi atm that you'll find.

  • sbi atms are apparently placed within a 100 metre radius of every bus stop in the main city area. I've heard there's plans to put them in 100 metres of every bus stop, period.

  • buses stop everywhere, including at places that are not supposed to be bus stops. Quite interesting when read in conjunction with the above observation.

  • buses do not have windows. They have metal rods that hold up the ceiling. They also have tarp sheets that can be rolled down to give the illusion of closing the non-existent windows. Unfortunately there's one sheet for each side of the bus. If it's raining and you want to get wet (like i usually do), you'll either have to find a bus full of like minded people or take a hike.

  • buses have one or two conductors.

  • Conductors take money, but do not necessarily give tickets. Tickets look like they have half a lottery number on them and nothing else.

  • no matter how far you want to go, the bus ticket costs between 3 and 7 bucks.

  • bus tickets cost a random amount of money that depends on how many people are traveling in a group. There were 5 of us traveling today, but the ticket cost 26 bucks. The conductor handed us 3 slips of paper with different colours. I was too busy finding out what i had won to ask further questions.

  • buses also have announcers, whose job is to shout out a random list of words at each halt of the bus (and that includes traffic jams, the aforementioned 2 signals, pedestrian crossings etc.) some of those words resemble places (notably state bank), while others are words that apparently do not stand for any particularly place (eg. 'bega' which according to my mom's rudimentary knowledge of kannada, means 'come').

  • The typical announcement sounds like "xyz abc pqr bega bega bega abc state bank xyz"

  • announcers and conductors occasionally swap roles midway through the journey.

  • random male passengers become announcers at random points of time. Apparently the only criteria are that you should be able to whistle, say state bank and bega. Multiple announcers are welcome, especially if they say different things at different speeds but the same volume.

  • conductors, and occasionally announcers, communicate with the driver by whistling.

  • There are 4 kinds of whistle, one for stop (blown continuously as long as the bus should remain stopped), one for start, one for "go faster" (reserved for neck-to-neck races between 2 buses on a two lane highway with hairpin bends every 10 metres), and one that roughly means "stop the bus and stare at the hottie that i just spotted". All intelligent male passengers (myself included) have also learned to decode whistle signals primarily to separate the 4th signal from the remaining 3 ;)

  • buses do not have brake indicators on the rear, but they usually have them regularly spaced out along the inside. I can't read kannada, but i'm pretty sure they either read "say your prayers" or "up up and away"

  • it's probably one of the best kept secrets on earth - superman was paralysed when 15 xxxxl south indian hotties didn't heed the brake light following the "hottie alert" whistle and landed on his lap. Tch tch.

  • all buses have speakers at the rear, and many blast alien (or possibly kannada) music. some also have disco lights for the complete experience.

  • the brakes are wired to the disco lights and *not* the other way round.

  • rickshaw meters show the exact fare. That's right, no fare cards or clumsy multiplication. You pay whatever's the number on the meter. Dunno how they cope with rate changes, but that's not my problem :D

  • rickshaws come in all shapes and sizes, but they only seat 3 passengers. There are regular-shaped ones that are pretty much the same as mumbai rickshaws, there are the aero-undynamic ones that are flat in front for that little extra air resistance, there are even malformed ones that have a crookedly mounted front wheel and a very curvy rear that resembles that of one of superman's hotties. They manage to move in a straight line, in a definite thumbs-down to principles of conventional physics.

All said and done, mangalore has a surprisingly well run (and it's privately run at that!!!) bus system that can cheaply take you within 100 metres of any sbi atm of your choice from state bank.

Bega bega!!!


Meghna Bhujwala said...

very interesting & amusing & helarious & delightful & wierd & dats it!!

Meghna Bhujwala said...

I forgot..& lengthy!!

Pallav said...

i gotta check out this place...!

And dude, the blog feed is full from now on :) hope to see you there, thanks for the suggestion :)


krist0ph3r said...

yeah...mangalore's a nice place to explore, but it's more the family sort of place...unless you're there for just 2-3 days, you'll run out of new places to eat at :D

@nothingman: thanks! now i'll have to figure which one that is and resubscribe :P

@meghna: thanks...and yeah, i think it's my longest!!! my cellphone went from full charge to battery low and the browser stopped accepting any more text in the box!!!

My Foot? said...

OMG! this is definitely one of your best blog entries! I loved every word of it, must 'bega bega' to you blog often :D

was gonna copy paste the parts I like the most, but that would include most of the article :P

Enemy of the Republic said...

This is where I get jealous of those who live halfway around the world from me--you get to go to some cool places that would probably run me in the thousands just to get there! Your description of traffic reminds me of things I saw in Germany and Portugal, yet both countries have great drivers.

Thanks for coming by. You remind me that I have to update my twitter!

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