Last weekend, I was in Chennai Koyambedu Bus Stop (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus). It is more than a decade since I travelled long distances in buses - most of the time we end up in trains or air. Obviously I never had the opportunity to see the Koyambedu Bus Stop so far, though I have heard about it many times in the past. It was an unplanned trip to Chennai (to support my relatives in their sudden bereavement) and I was returning to Bangalore and the state transport bus seem to be the most viable option for unplanned travel.
My first impression when I stepped into the Koyambedu bus stop was “WOW, it is huge”. I was even more impressed when I saw a nice central welcome hall which gave lot of space for passengers and public to wait. I was completely sold on the CMBT when I saw the excellent direction boards which clearly listed the platforms and the corresponding places where buses ply. I saw few wandering foreigners who were looking at the direction boards and making notes.
I was thrilled that I got easy directions from sign boards and started walking towards the platform bay where Bangalore buses start. I was so relaxed that I spent good time on the way in a small shop getting magazines and newspapers. When I reached the bay, I was in for a shock - as I saw buses travelling to some Tamilnadu cities were in the bay. I again went and checked on the sign board which clearly said - platform 5, bay 23. I enquired with couple of bus drivers who were standing and chatting - they were very helpful. Here is the conversation
me: sir, where is Bangalore bus?
conductor 1 : Bangalore busa? antha pakkam sutthi ponga (Bangalore bus? go around to the other side)
me (confused!): board said 5th platform…this is 5th platform
conductor 2 (looking at me as though I am from another planet): idatha mathidanga - board appidiye irruku! (changed the place, but the direction board is not changed!).
Now, I just ran around to find the right platform ……..God, you made my happiness short-lived!! And if you think that the story stops here……it continues ………….
Having used to making advance bookings on trains and air using net (especially, I have mastered the Tatkal booking scheme of Indian railways!!), I fell into the prey of booking the bus travel ticket over net (www.tnstc.in). As it was a hurried trip and it was a sunday morning, I did not get a print out assuming that the handheld I carry can display the ticket to the conductor. I also had my ID card listed in the ticket and thought it should suffice.
When I found the right place of Bangalore buses, I was into the second shock. There was no unique number for the bus which I was supposed to go (may be, I am still not very sure if I have missed it). There were three buses waiting to start to Bangalore and all the three had the same route number. Again, I reach out to the conductor standing near one of the buses
me: I have booking for the bus which starts at 10.45. which bus is that?
conductor 3 (looks very vaguely at me – again it is the look of “which planet did you come from?”): “intha busu pathinoru manniku pogum. eeri seatla okkarunga (this bus will go at 11. get in and sit).
me: (puzzled!): I do not have a print out of the ticket, it is in this phone and you can see it in this. is it ok?”
conductor 3 (completely convinced that I am in no way a passenger who can go by bus): “illa illa, print out venum. (no-no, need print out)”
me (not lost confidence yet!): I have my id card - voters card (with too much of a confidence!) also. you can compare it with your list.
conductor 3 (irritated now!): ”print irrunthathan vandilla eeralam (only if you have print out, you can get into the bus)”
me (bit tensed now!): Is there any office where they can print out here?
conductor 3 (totally lost interest): poi keetu paarunga anga - (go and ask in office)
Now, considering I have less time, I run into the office and ask them if they can print the tickets out (as there were no shops inside the entire CMBT bus stop which can print). While there were two computers and two folks operating it, they were least interested to even hear about my problem. I came back to the bus again and this time there was another conductor 4 who felt it was ok to get into the bus. I just got in and sat - yes, I did come to Bangalore.
So, if you are a first timer in CMBT, remember two basic lessons - ensure you validate the platform numbers with conductors and not just go by those direction boards. And avoid net booking and get the tickets directly from the conductors – considering there are so many buses plying it should be ok to just go and get the tickets on a normal day (may be, the reservation may help on some holidays or festival days where the crowd is too high).
Koyambedu - I know how to handle you now!