8 June 2016. Like most of my posts, this too begins with a commute. A little boy, with his head covered in gauze and an IV catheter in his arm, sits in front of me. It is a seat meant for two, but like many things Indian, a ‘little adjustment’ ensures that three people are squeezed onto the seat, not counting numerous bags placed under the kids’ feet and on their laps. Never mind the older boy who is clearly on his way home from the hospital. Or the little one, trying not to topple off the edge of the seat, holding on to a bag that is almost as big as himself. Buses here are so crowded at times that kids occupying a seat on their own is a big ‘no’.
The older boy, he was barely conscious. I suppose whatever medication he was on had put him in a daze. He was resting his head on the makeshift railing that was badly welded to the body of the bus. Every time the bus hit a pothole or braked, which was often, he would bump his head. Every time the bus sped up, the railing would vibrate dangerously, and his head too. Suspension? What is that?
His parents were constantly watching out for him, trying to make his journey easy and making sure he doesn’t hurt his head, but really, the bigger question is this: Can’t our cities provide even a basic level of bus service to its residents? Where one doesn’t have to fight for seats? How hard can it be to get good buses, and maintain them over time, to ensure that kids like him can travel a little more comfortably to schools, to hospitals, to playgrounds?