Last Friday I took a Vishal Tourist bus for Karkala. My boarding point was 5 k.m. from the main point of departure in Gandhi Nagar, Bangalore. However, the time taken to cover the distance is about 90 minutes as the bus picks up goods en-route. These buses carry more parcels than passengers, who often get a raw deal.
On boarding the bus at 9:00 p.m. for the overnight journey, I found my bed wet. I told the driver about it. He did not respond to me, but scolded the ‘cleaner’ for his irresponsibility. I requested the driver to inform the main booking office so that they could arrange for a dry bed by the time the bus reached there. The driver told me that not closing windows while it rained was the fault of the cleaner and that I could try to get some help on reaching the main office. He was not concerned about finding a solution and would not alert anyone.
Then I called the agent through whom I had booked the ticket. His first reaction was that it was the fault of the cleaner and that he had been receiving a few complaints from other passengers too, which he had conveyed to the bus company. How about a solution for tonight? He would tell the main office to do something. After a while he told me that the agent at Gandhi Nagar would do something.
Come Gandhi Nagar, I seek help from the agent there. He gives a dressing down to the cleaner for his callousness and then gives him a thin plastic carry-bag to spread below the wet bed sheet. The sheet is still wet and the bed unfit to sleep. When I refuse the solution, the agent offers me another dry berth. I was skeptic and asked if the berth was really for me for the full journey. He nods in agreement and rushes out of the bus. The cleaner and I am happy. I stretch out to relax.
When I doze off in comfort, the bus stops at the next passenger pick-up point, a gentleman walks in and flashes his ticket claiming the berth on which I slept. It, of course, was booked for him. I call the all powerful cleaner and ask about the situation. He offers the wet berth to the new passenger, which, logically, is not accepted by him. He starts shouting at me. The cleaner sheepishly grins and I get out of the bed that I illegally occupied.
Representing the bus company as the person accountable for the whole episode is the cleaner – a 15 year old boy, Satish. All the fingers pointed at him. None else felt sorry about the situation and did not try to find a solution.
I asked the driver for the phone number of the agent who tricked me to occupy a berth allocated to another passenger. The driver did not have that or any other phone number. He was clearly unhappy about all the fuss I was creating and chose to raise his voice to an insulting level. I withdrew and kept standing on alleyway for a while.
The cleaner appeared on the scene again. He spoke to a sitting passenger and struck a bargain that he could sleep on the damp berth and I could occupy his seat. For me, it was better to travel sitting than lying on a damp bed. Win-win situation in losing scenario? When I sat down, I realised that the hand-rest of the seat was broken and hurt if I rested my hand. Lose-lose situation for both the passengers with a clear win for the cleaner, the only person concerned about the situation.
In the 10 hours journey, the bus tugged along for two hours with deep pot holes on the road in Shiradi Ghat. Cervical Spondylosis – or pain in the neck – gave me agomising pain with every jerk the bus suffered. This was in addition to the ear-pain I get when descending or ascending on land or air.
The bus reached the destination more than two hours late, spoiling some of my plans. I was spent after a prolonged tiring journey.
On my return to Bangalore on Monday, I called the main office of the bus company at Karkala. They gave a phone number of a person responsible to receive customer complaints. I was asked for the name of the agent at Gandhi Nagar who allotted an illegal berth and the name of the driver. I told that I did not know any name other than that of the cleaner. The customer relationship was not interested in knowing about the cleaner. Blames were on the road and condition and the rains. The customer relationship man promised to investigate the matter and to give me a feedback on my feedback to him. I am waiting and hoping that the cleaner does not pay for the wet bed, whosoever wetted it.