I had barely boarded my bus back home yesterday when the rather aggressive-looking conductor came up to my face and asked me rudely where I'd boarded. "Sony World," I said. This was apparently the wrong answer; astonishingly, she barked, "NO ONE got on at Sony World! Where did you get on?"
I was completely baffled and asked her what she was talking about, though I really wanted to ask, "what have you been smoking, woman, it's made you daft!" After a few fruitless sallies in the same vein, she revealed grandly that she was an inspector of some sort, and had deduced that I was traveling ticket-less and hence would I damn well pay the fine.
Well then. Here were the facts of the case.
I got on the bus at said point. Since the prime concern was to not break neck/back/femur bones while boarding, my attention was somewhat focused on that aspect. Further, to secure a seat so as not to break neck/back/femur after having boarded, I dived straight for the first available seat.
I had been on said seat for about 9 seconds when this person came up to me. As she was attired in a khaki uniform (with a white sweater on top) and she straightaway came up to me and asked where I'd boarded, I leaped to the conclusion that she was the ticket-checker.
The real ticket-checker was nowhere visible in the entire nine seconds, although I had the change to purchase a ticket ready in my hand.
Bear in mind the hostile and aggressive demeanor of this so-called officer- she had not even identified herself as an inspector. Out of curiosity and I admit, spite, I asked her what this 'fine' would be. "One hundred sixty rupees", she said, nastily. "Ah," I said, equally nasty. "I haven't got it."
"Have you got an ATM card?"
"Nope, afraid I haven't."
"What I should do then madam?"
"No, you tell me, what I should do, madam?"
"I will fine conductor also. He was standing here when you boarded the bus, from back door."
"Ah. Then you did see me board the bus...yet you just told me I hadn't boarded from Sony World?"
Silence. Muttered Kannada to her colleague who has suddenly materialized at her side, elderly uniformed gent with a slightly befuddled air.
"OK you take ticket from conductor."
"He is way over there at the back of the bus, as you can see. Do you want me to get up and go to him in the men's section to purchase a ticket?"
"No, you wait he will come.."
"Which is exactly what I was doing when you accused me of trying to travel without a ticket!!!"
I don't know what to make of this episode. First of all, why not identify yourself as the 'inspector' you said you are? Why dress in a uniform 90% similar to a bus conductor, then NOT say who you are, and ask a question a real conductor would ask?
Second, why zero in on me, of all passengers present? Did the laptop bag have something to do with it? I have no idea. Since you spoke to me throughout in English, you clearly assumed I was an outsider and didn't speak Kannada.
And third, forgive me for being so callous, but is ticket-less travel really a big enough crime to warrant actual officers to be deployed to randomly get on buses and make pointless arguments with paying passengers? In all my eight years travelling on the buses in this city, not once has the ticket-checker let me get off without paying for a ticket, no matter how jam-packed the bus.
How about deploying officers to make sure buses are adequately equipped with proper seating, hand-holds, escape routes, seats, and other such mundane features? Eh? Eh? And don't get me started on the driving, or indeed, the honking.
Sigh. The upshot of this regrettable episode was that today I clutched my bus ticket in such a fierce death-grip that the conductor gave me a strange and suspicious look.