Karachi bus travel for dummies

Published: August 16, 2012
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If bus rides were movies, the conductor would definitely be the hero; mess with him and you are in hot water.

If you are a Karachiite and have been moving around the city in public buses for years, you are quite the adventurer. But if you are novice in the field, and you do not know about the ups and downs associated with it, then you’re in for quite the experience!

For the newbie bus travellers, I have penned down a few tips that will guarantee a less troublesome experience.

1. Grab the seat:

Are you the competitive kind? Then here is the ultimate test; the first and most difficult part of your bus journey is getting hold of a seat. Once you master this art, I assure you that other challenges life throws at you will seem measly. As soon as you get on the bus, you will encounter your first challenge. You must grab a seat – the nearest seat available.

Am I making it sound too easy? Trust me, you will have to push, shove and wiggle your way in and endure a lot of elbowing in your quest to find any available seat. Don’t you  go on being polite; elbow them right back if you have to! If you still don’t manage to bag your seat, pretend to be sick. Act like you are going to throw up. Nobody likes to sit with someone who might vomit on them. This is a sure-fire way to solve your problem.

2. The freestyle dance lessons:

Bus drivers, most of the time, are very rangeen mizaaj (colourful natured). They love to play loud Bollywood songs to aesthetically enhance and add the fun factor to their fast-paced voyage. Their playlists usually comprise Indian songs from the 90s which may remind you of a “Baaziger” Shahrukh Khan or a young Madhuri Dixit from “Khalnayak”.

Don’t be appalled; the bus driver is only trying to teach you something: dancing! As the bus teeters from left to right, ─ a phenomena quite common in buses in Karachi ─ you can learn to swing to the rhythm of the music. These dance lessons must be inferred from his daredevil way of driving and he won’t be there to give you any demonstrations. If you haven’t managed to get a seat, try looking at the upside; if the driver makes an abrupt break, you can learn how to moonwalk!

As for your captain’s driving skills, expect nothing less than “The Fast and The Furious”. Bus drivers love racing with other buses that pass by. I suggest you enjoy this rhythmic race as you don’t have the choice of opting out of it.

Although, if you haven’t been holding on to anything and you fall, the driver cannot be held responsible. Be cautious and grip anything sturdy near you; a handrail would be a good choice. But if bus is so full that you cannot reach out for the handrail, resort to holding on tight the person next to you.

3. Dealing with the conductor:

If bus rides were movies, the conductor would definitely be the hero; mess with him and you are in hot water.

This hero may not necessarily be the kind ensurer of justice sort. He may take your ticket money and vanish into the back of the bus without returning you your change. The best way to deal with him is to, never, never give him more than you have to pay. Always keep coins with you. If the conductor tries to cheat you by trying to keep your money, don’t be afraid to fight for it. Even if it is two rupees, it’s your money and you want it back.

If he tries to harass you, get off the bus without paying any keraaya (fare). You will be called names but he won’t get what he wants; the money.

4. Be brave:

I’m a girl and a frequent bus traveller, and I tell you that if you, too, are a woman, you will go through more problems on your bus ride than men do.

In case you get one of those “border seats” ─ seats that divide the sections for men and women ─ then sit at your own risk. Most of the time, a moron will be waiting to pinch your behind. In such a situation, you have two options; you can leave your seat quietly and move away or you can get up, turn around and give him the earache of his life! Confront the man, use abusive words if you have to. Learn to protect yourself; it will come in handy especially on your bus rides.

For men, the fear of having your mobile or wallet snatched or stolen is always lurking around the corner. Don’t take your phone out of your bag or pocket unless you really, really have to. Karachi buses are not the place for you to show off your new, expensive mobile phone. Control your pomposity or you will have to pay the price.

5. The rotund gang:

Coming back to the dilemmas of women, I think girls face more problems than men because they don’t just have to deal with the above mentioned quandaries but also have to beware of gangs of plump, usually aggressive women, that can steal things out of your bag sneakily. Sometimes they bully you, too. Trust me, you don’t want to get in that situation because it can get downright dirty.

So, girls, now I’m directly talking to you; avoid listening to music on the bus as it will let people know you have an expensive cellular phone or an MP3 player which they can steal. If you’re wearing jewellery, remain very alert. Don’t communicate with women sitting next to you unnecessarily as they may be crafty thieves in disguise. Some may even try sweet-talking you into a scam. If you sense something strange, don’t hesitate to confront them. The may fight back or hurl abuses at you but at least your stuff will be safe.

I’m sure I have, to some extent, prepared you for your joyride. All the methods mentioned are an everyday thing for me and I pride myself on that. I don’t mean to sound conceited but I do believe that I have excelled the art of bus travel in Karachi.

Lastly, my disclaimer; follow these tips at your own risk. Don’t hold this generous, helpful soul responsible if you get in trouble!

PHOTO: RIAZ ANJUM / FILE/ REUTERS

Follow Zobi on Twitter @Learnerofheaven

Zobi Fatima

Zobi Fatima

The author is pursuing MS program (M. Phill) in European Studies. Zobi likes to write about historical events and personalities. She likes using sarcasm and humour in her writing and tweets as @Learnerofheaven

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.