It’s the 7th of November 2013. Just this morning I got back home after two 12 hour long train journeys separated by 8 hectic, family visiting hours. Extremely sleep deprived, in part thanks to the journey, in part thanks to the 4 cups of coffee early in the morning and in part thanks to the coke ( the soft drink ) I had at a friend’s party, I still had a spring in my step.
In that mentally asleep, physically very awake condition, I went out to buy a few groceries. I waited at the bus stop, earphones plugged in, playing ‘This is the life’ by Amy macdonald. In a couple of minutes, a bus toiled along the pot-hole filled road and stopped a couple of feet away from me. I ran to the back of the bus to check where it was headed but there was no board. Adventurously, I decided to get on anyway. The conductor was busy writing down the final accounts of the day’s collections, obviously the bus was close to its destination. I asked him if it was headed towards the mall and he nodded and put his hand out for the money. I placed a 10 rupee note in his hand ( the ticket cost 9 ). He dumped the note into the bag in which he carried money and proceeded to take out a 100 rupee note from it. I was still waiting for both my change and my ticket, but seeing that he was busy accounting, I patiently waited. Then, a small miracle happened. He casually put his hand, the 100 rupee note still safely inside it, under the seat and a few quick seconds later when his hand reappeared, the note was gone.
Incase you’re unfamiliar with how bus conductors work, I’ll take you through a quick tour. Very often, if they’re getting close to their depot or are sure that the higher officials won’t be waiting to check on the way, they won’t give you a ticket. Instead, they’ll offer you a small discount on your ticket charge ( say for example, they’ll charge you Rs 5 without a ticket instead of Rs 9 with a ticket ). This way, they don’t have to account for the money for which no ticket was issued and hence they pocket that amount. If you travel by bus often, you would’ve invariably noticed this.
This particular conductor was accounting for all that unaccounted money, and found that he had made Rs 100 in the process. That money was now safely under the seat, from where he’d probably retrieve it later, when he was done handing over the accounted daily collections to the concerned people.
One stop before mine, I politely interrupted his busy illegal calculations and asked him for a ticket once again. He handed me a 5 rupee coin and carried on with his work. Ticket-less travel is an offence. One that I, like many others, are guilty of atleast once, if not more times by not forcing the conductor to issue us a ticket.
Today, in my boredom and given how mentally asleep I was, I surprised myself by holding out the coin and asking him for a ticket instead. He sniffed with contempt and assured me that no one would come to check. I persisted.He explained to me that I was making a profit by paying just Rs 5 instead of 9. Surprisingly, I still didn’t back off. I removed the right earphone so I could hear him better. I asked him for a ticket again, this time telling him that I didn’t want his money and that he could keep the entire Rs 10 but only if he gave me a ticket. I was now offering him 1 rupee more than the ticket charge to give me a ticket. He still refused. This was obviously a battle that neither side was willing to lose.
The bus stopped at a signal barely 100 metres from my destination. The other passengers were getting ready to get off. One of them, probably as bored as I was, sat next to the conductor to get a better idea of the epic battle that was happening. He reassured me that the bus was headed for the depot and so no one would he waiting to check for tickets. I ignored him, wondering what business he had interfering in my battle. I turned my attention back to the conductor and stood up, removing the other earphone as well so I could focus all my attention on the conversation ( I had been, until that point, humming ‘ this is the life’ in my head ). I asked him for the ticket again. He pointed at the stack of tickets he had and told me that he had already written down the details of the tickets he had issued so he couldn’t issue anymore. I retorted, pointing out that I had been asking him for the ticket ever since I got on the bus. He asked me what I would do with a ticket anyway. I felt that I was under no obligation to explain it to him. That, and the fact that I really had no answer to that question except that it was ‘ the right thing to do’. I had a quick look at the signal which was now counting down the last 5 seconds. I knew that I didn’t have too much more time to argue so I asked him once more, with little hope.
At this time, the gentlemen who was unnecessarily seated next to the conductor decided to play tie-breaker. By my assessment, he thought, that for some extremely important and unavoidable reason, I desperately needed the ticket and without it, I would suffer greatly.
He also thought, that the conductor was a very honest person who had no logical reason to deny me a ticket. He took out HIS ticket, and with a big smile on his face, handed it to me and told me to keep it and walked out of the bus.
Inside my head, I burst out laughing. Wasn’t that the most obvious solution or what. The conductor didn’t have to part with his tickets. I got a ticket. Everyone was happy.
I walked out of the bus, a little grin on my face. What an unnecessary argument, I thought to myself. But that ten minute bus ride just had to have some entertainment in it. It’s just one of the joys of a bus ride.