June 18, 2014 at 9:15 PMJun (Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

It had been a while since the bus started moving. I was on the phone talking to a friend as I saw the bus conductor asking for tickets. I cut the call and took out my ticket. He had checked my ticket before I got into the bus. He must have checked, similarly, everyone’s ticket before they got in, I thought. I was wondering why he was checking tickets again. He saw me and moved to the seats behind me without checking my ticket.

In the seat that was behind my seat an old man was seated. The conductor asked him for his ticket and the old man pulled out the ticket from his pocket. The conductor saw it and asked, “Show your id card.” The old man was puzzled. “What id card?” he asked. “Any id card, voter’s id, pan card. Anything,” explained the conductor. “No, I am carrying none,” said the old man and immediately asked, “Why would I carry them?” When the conductor said, “This ticket is not valid if you don’t have an id card,” the old man was quick to say, “I have them at home. But I am not carrying them, that’s all.” “If you are not carrying one, this ticket is not valid,” reiterated the conductor. The old man was angry now. “How will it nor be valid? I have paid the money,” he roared. The conductor respecting the man’s age said, “Look grandpa this is an e-ticket. When you book an e-ticket and are travelling you need to be carrying an id card. Else you cant travel with this ticket.” “How can you say that I cannot travel with this ticket when I have paid the money for the ticket?” The old man’s anger was accelerated with the same “invalidity” being mentioned again.

The conductor took the ticket in his hand and pointing at a line written on it said, “See it is mentioned here that you should carry an id card while travelling.” The old man couldn’t make sense of anything being said. “I have travelled earlier too. Never have I been asked to show an id card,” he said in a restless way. “Then you had bought tickets from the counter. This is e-ticket,” tried explaining the conductor. “But I have paid the money. What more do you want?” questioned the angry old man. “Listen to me,” the conductor’s voice turned quite patronizing as he continued to say, “The rule says one cant travel without producing an id card while having an e-ticket. So, this e-ticket is invalid.”

The old man said he will get down. The conductor got worried and asked him where would he go from the point where the bus was, far from where the old man had boarded the bus. “What else am I supposed to do if you are not allowing me to travel even when I have paid,” the old man questioned. “Its not me who is not letting you travel. The rule is such,” explained the conductor. “Now you will not let me get down. You will not let me travel too. What am I to do?” asked the agitated old man. The conductor suggested he buy a new ticket. The old man said he did not have any money on him and took out his phone and called his daughter. “I am not being allowed to travel in the bus. They say the ticket is invalid,” explained the old man to his daughter. The daughter asked the old man to hand over the phone to the conductor. The old man handed over the phone to the conductor who explained the rule to the old man’s daughter. The daughter asked what the solution could be and the conductor explained, “I will mark this ticket in my register as ‘not travelled’ so that you will get some amount reimbursed. Let him but another ticket now and travel.” The daughter asked the conductor to hand over the phone back to the old man and the conductor did. “What is the matter?” the old man asked his daughter in an angry tone. The daughter must have said that she forgot to mention to her father about the need to carry the id proof. The old man’s anger was turned towards his daughter now, “Why do you say sorry now? I will have to buy another ticket. Two tickets for one journey in one bus.” The daughter must have explained to him that he will get the money reimbursed for the first ticket. “So what do you say I must do now? But another ticket?” asked the old man. After a moment’s silence, listening to his daughter, he said, “Okay. I will. But never again I want to travel in this bus again. In my entire life I have never seen a bus asking for id proof,” and cut the call.

The old man bought a new ticket. While issuing a fresh ticket the conductor said, “You will get your money back for the other ticket. I understand that you are not at fault. So I am registering here as you haven’t travelled in the bus. You will get the money back. If I report as you travelled but did not produce an id proof you will not get your money back. I am doing this for you because you dint know the rule. Had it been anybody else I wouldn’t have.” The ‘favour’ by the conductor dint matter much to the old man who turned to the person next to him and said, “I am a senior citizen. I am old. I have travelled many a times. But never in my entire life I have seen such a thing happening. He says the ticket is invalid when I have paid the money. Now he says I will have to buy a new ticket and I will get my money back for the earlier ticket. What sense does it make? I have to pay again to get my money back? Does it make any sense to you?” The man sitting next to him just nodded his head and turned in the opposite direction.

With my ears thrown behind me I was sitting in my seat looking out of the window wondering how technology and technology driven world leaves behind people who cannot keep up with the rapid changes. The bus of civilization makes their ticket invalid and makes them want to get down, without asking them to get down directly. Their travel with the world is made impossible or uncomfortable embarrassing and difficult. The exit is made either to appear volunteer or ‘deserving’ for their ‘fault’ by an extremely demanding and unforgiving technology.

I remembered Rajiv Gandhi once saying that the nation should take a leap into the next century. LEAP. Technology and rapid changes caused by technology demands us to run, demands us to take leaps. Do the weak and old have the strength to take a leap? Can’t the world be more humane towards those who walk those who crawl, those who limp?

I kept asking myself sitting in the bus which kept shifting its gear and kept racing ahead on a highway.

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