Friday, May 8, 2009


I am not sure if I've ever travelled on the Metropolitan Transport Corporation in Chennai until a couple of weeks ago. Of course I've travelled in the city's buses, but as far as I can recall, it happened in the days when they were called 'Pallavan', rather than the current, bland moniker. In fact, it seemed to be a rather odd thing, in the early '70s: the transport authority of the state capital was named after a lesser dynasty than those of the smaller cities of Madurai (Pandyan), Coimbatore (Cheran) and Thanjavur (Chozhan). At least the blandness of the current name has put a stop to the rampant splitting and re-naming of transport authorities across the state, for a dozen years, now.

My Pallavan memories are still the green buses, with two seats on either side of the central aisle, with metal brackets on them providing handgrips for those standing; handgrips made shiny by the sweat from countless palms, leaving behind a sour smell on your hands for long after you let go of the bus. Today's coaches are bright and plasticky, the handgrips more hygienic probably, but less memorable, surely. The seating plan is still the same, but I found a familiar sign missing from its usual place. So I turn to the conductor, and asked him where the seats reserved for the women were. Very brusquely, he pointed to all those on the left of the bus and then glanced at the side of the roof on the left. The he did a double-take, took a quick look a the last, full, row of seats and turned grinning to me, saying, "Inge thaan saar adhu" (This is where it is, sir).

Certainly reassuring to learn that the old habit of keeping all the seats on the left for womenfolk hasn't died, even if there is no sign saying so!


lviss said...

Now we have some better looking buses plying on th roads. These should replace the old to give a uniform look.

Shantaram said...

@ Lviss: Uniform is certainly not something that the MTC aims for... check out this post!, or this one!

Maya said...

Can never forget that in Kerala the reserved-for-women seats r in the front and vice-versa in Pondicherry/Chennai.. My parents had the shock of their lives when they took their first bus ride in Pondy :D

Shantaram said...

@ Maya: That must have been quite an experience for them!