by Aastha Katyal
“Kaka, Lamington road kaunsa bus jaata hai?” I asked a bus conductor whose duty was at the bus stop, shuffling in passengers onto the buses as they came, giving them tickets beforehand, etc. He kindly guided me to the next bus stop and told me the respective bus numbers. But as he was speaking, a bus came along, which slowed down to stop but gave a little jerk. As a result an old, blind woman, who was getting off the bus, missed a step and almost fell, but was caught in time by the conductor who supported her up and got her down safely. That nice act of his, made me forget about going to Lamington Road, to wait back and speak with him.
I waited for him to get relatively free, and then pounced on him, like a perfect journalist would, except I was not fishing for a story, I merely felt like conversing with him, getting to know him, and thus began our talk.
Prakash kaka, lives in Byculla and has been a bus conductor since the past 19 years. “I am actually a graduate. I did Bachelors in Commerce from Mumbai University but managed only 49% marks. I thought if I join this service, some time or the other I would get promoted. But with the reservation policy, (regarding OBC, SCs, STs), those guys kept getting promoted and I got stuck courtesy the backlog quota. Finally I crossed the age limit till when one can expect promotion.”
Alternating between Hindi and perfect English, he continued, telling me about his two children, with pride in his tone and a smile on his face – one son who studies in the 8th grade in St. Antony’s school in Byculla, while the daughter Pooja, is in her second year studying Commerce, from the Junior College of SNDT. “I dream of her success. She wishes to become a fashion designer. I told her she could do anything, but she has to work hard.” My heart soared at this statement of his, which gave me an insight into his open and progressive mind.
At work from 7 a.m till 9 p.m, he has a busy and long day throughout the month, but still enjoys his job, even after 19 years. “I enjoy meeting new people, engaging with them. This way it is a new experience every day,” and on that optimistic tone, I had to end our talk as another bus pulled up and he got busy once again.