Over the weekend, I was in Trivandrum with my second daughter for her TT tournament at the YMCA. Once we were done, we were supposed to take the Inter-city train back to Kochi. Then the train derailment at Angamaly happened, and our train was canceled a few hours before we were about to leave. Quickly we hopped on to the internet and booked tickets to Kochi via JN 71, a super-fast low-floor Volvo A/C bus that is operated by KURTC.
The last time I had taken a bus was to go to Bangalore a couple of years ago. Since it is not my most favorite mode of transport (give me a train any day), I was not very enthusiastic about the bus trip.
It did not start well. We were supposed to leave at 5:20 PM, but by 6 PM the bus had not turned up. After a couple of enquiries, we were told that the bus was stuck in traffic somewhere in Trivandrum and that they were trying to get a backup bus for the trip. No way this was going to happen, I groaned, given the stellar reputation of KSRTC.
Within 15 minutes, a clean KURTC bus rolled into the bay and started loading us up. And 5 hours and 25 minutes later, it deposited me and my daughter at Vyttila, Kochi. As we ambled slowly across the length of Kerala, it was a pleasure to see my home state from a higher perspective!
So, here goes why I think everyone should make a KURTC ride a to-do item on their bucket list!
- Go for the ride: I can now proudly say I have visited every transport stand between Trivandrum and Vyttila. Apart from these “designated” stops, the bus decided to stop at every spot where at least 10 people were gathered, and whenever a passenger called out to the conductor as he neared his stop. What surprised me is that most of the stands and stops looked the same, had the same chaos and pandemonium you associate with bus rides, and generally made you feel that you were at the transport bus stand on Rajaji road in Kochi. As the evening progressed, the thattu kadas along the way slowly changed their menus from pazhampuris and bhajjis to parottas and set dosas. Not to mention the swelling queues outside the beverage depots all along the way! Ahh, Kerala!
- Go for the entertainment: Quick. When was the last time you heard golden oldies like “Maanasa maine varu” and “Sandhyekku endhinu sindhuram”? These Malayalam songs were all that was on offer for entertainment. And they were belting them out at decibels that ideally only the canine ear would find comfortable. At the cost of alienating my Keralite fellow travellers, I requested the conductor to turn down the volume. Unfortunately, my benumbed ears did not catch the reply he gave me. But I did get the dirty glare. After three hours or so, these slow songs gave way to even more louder (as if that is possible!) Hindi and English songs that I have never heard of. Maybe KURTC had bought out the listening rights to some of these songs exclusively for the sole entertainment of their passengers. Cool!
- Go for the comfort: The journey was smooth, the passengers nice, the conductor efficient. The seats were incredibly comfortable. Wish I could say the same for the air conditioning though. The bus was set to cool at 15 degrees below zero and after close to 340 minutes of having that cold air blast into my face (no, I could not turn it off. You think I did not try?), my body was conditioned to the coldest climes mother Earth can provide. For someone who complains about the bitter cold whenever the A/C remote at home displays 25 degrees, this was one conditioning exercise I stood up well to. Anyone need a middle-aged woman to lead an expedition into Antarctica?
Jokes apart, when we landed at Vyttila closer to midnight, I was indeed grateful to be home, safe and sound. I am glad I took the bus. The online ticketing, the backup bus within 20 minutes, the ride from Trivandrum to Vyttila in little less than 5 ½ hours, the cities, towns, villages and hamlets that slowly passed by – I think my state is slowly changing for the better.
Let me know when you are planning to take that ride. You will not regret the vignette of life that it is bound to offer you.