Sunday, 27 October 2013

Atal Sarige to Vajra

To those of you who have stayed in the real Bangalore for a while, both these terms are self-explanatory. To the rest of you, Atal Sarige is a scheme started by a previous BJP government here. It is named after my favorite Prime minister of India - Atal Bihari Vajapayee ji. These Atal Sarige buses are basically old buses which have refurbished seat layouts and paint jobs. They ply between areas which are frequented by the common man at half the normal rates
The Volvo buses which are a common sight all over the city go by the name ' Vajra.' These buses are filled with the IT crowd. They ply at rates that are about 3 times the normal rates.
I travel from one end of Bangalore to work and board both these buses in order to reach my destination. My co-passengers in the Atal Sarige buses are folks who use body parts other than their fingertips to earn a living. There are masons, painters, carpenters, garment-factory workers, vegetable vendors... I've even traveled with a couple of ragpickers once in a while. The conversations here are about rising prices of food, the rains which flood houses, an upcoming festival or fair at a suburban locality.
I switch buses and enter a Volvo and it is a whole new city in there. A whole new world. The woman who sits in front of me probably spends more on her hair and make-up in a month than the woman who was sitting next to me on the previous bus spends on food and lodging. The conversations here are about the exchange rate of the dollar and how it is tougher to get a H1-B visa now.
The Atal Sarige has real Bangaloreans. The city has not been protective of them. They moved to the city dreaming of big things and luxuries as did the IT crowd in the Volvo, however, the disparity is unfathomable.
The folks in the Atal Sarige feel comfortable talking to strangers about how they've stopped using onions in their food and are using cabbages instead. The poor folks in the Volvo don't have the time to talk to their own friends, strangers are out of the question. 
I see genuine smiles on one bus, while I see mostly knotted eyebrows on the other. On one bus, the school kid next to me wants to know why I'm chuckling to myself while looking into my phone; on the other, the guy next to me is too busy chopping virtual fruits though he's never offered to chop real fruits to help his mom prepare a salad. 
Me ? I gel equally well with both crowds. My commute is a journey. A journey toward finding the right balance between the two cities. This is Bangalore. The city offers you everything you need and sits back and watches while you imprudently pick only what you want.  Jai Karnataka.


  1. The difference in attitude between could be an issue of situation rather than the people themselves. The same people in the Sarige would probably act the same way if they started taking Vajras (elevation in economic status). Everybody wants to get better economically. This change will undoubtedly bring about a change in the their attitudes as well. This change in attitude is important, too. But have no doubt that you will find scallywags in both buses if you look long enough.
    I also denounce that there can be any notion of "true" Bangaloreans. :)
    Nice observations.
    Yo, I sit next to you at work, why am I typing this down?

  2. Great effort, was a nice read!
    I have to agree with S... the comment from anonymous. Some of what you've written seems to be observed differences in behavior, and some perceived. Some of the differences in their attitudes and perceptions are most likely brought about by their differences in economic conditions. When it comes to the smiles, frowns, and honest interactions, it sounds a bit biased to me. I'm sure there are all sorts in both buses. Everyone aspires for a better life. I don't think this is a trait seen only in a particular bunch of people. There seemed to be a strong undercurrent here.

    I appreciate your ideas on how the sarige users do not have it easy in life. The current disparity in value associated with using just your fingers, as opposed to any other body part, is unfair. The city of bangalore, or rather society in general, seems to be unkind to them. There seems to be an inherent design to keep them as they are.

    I also like your ideas on trying to achieve a balance between economic security and luxuries. But its probably very difficult to define. Are all our possessions just the bare necessities? You and I might agree that blogging from a nexus 4 defines this right balance, but I guess the man who cannot afford onions thinks we're wasteful. Him, the woman with the make-up, and the rest of us think probably that our way of living is the right way. That's because that is the situation we find ourselves in. But why should that make any of us right?

  3. I have to agree with N... the comments from anonymous. Also, S is the symbol for hope from where I come. What is important is how we conduct ourselves no matter what bus we end up travelling in.