According to Ajeet Bahadur, IndiaUnheard Correspondent, there are three categories of bus travel in his adopted state of Bihar.
The first is Business Class, where you occupy the seat in the bus. An iron combination of will, speed, maneuverability and providence will get you a seat. As soon as the bus pulls into your station, you can make a dash through the door to grab your seat. Alternatively, you can master the art of throwing in your handkerchief through the window of the bus such that it lands on a seat. By an unwritten jungle law, it claims the seat as your own. A cap, a bag, a shawl are suitable replacements for a handkerchief. Strictly, no more than five people are allowed to squeeze into a seat meant for three.
The second category is Economy, where you get to stand in the aisle throughout your journey. The number of people allowed to stand is way over the prescribed capacity. To the lay man, the bus may look like it would explode but the conductor, who knows better than you, will keep stuffing people into every vacant inch until limbs stick out of the windows and the conductor himself barely hangs on, centripetal-ed on the pole by the door. Will, speed, maneuverability and providence will aid you into getting a seat and upgrading to Business.
The third category is Luxury, where you feel the breeze in your face and have the spectacular pleasure of the view of the road and scenery zipping by you. From the roof it’s all windows whichever way you look. One must be prepared for sudden brakes and veering which threaten to throw you off. But by the end of the journey, your clothes aren’t crumpled and the breeze cools the perspiration against your skin. IRooftop bus travel is only for the brave and most desperate but Ajeet also observes an addiction peculiar to frequent travelers. They are unwilling to settle for Business and Economy. For most others, with so few buses plying between destination, there isn’t really another option. Some are born for Luxury, others have it thrust on them.
But whichever is your poison when it comes to bus-ing it in Bihar, Ajeet assures you that there is one facet that cuts through classes and is a consummate leveler among men. Wherever you are – sitting in a seat, standing in the aisle or perched on the roof – the rickety buses on potholed roads will conduct every bump on the journey all the way from your toes, up your spine and into your brain. Shake, rattle and roll.