Travelling in Chennai Buses.

For the past 6 months, my life has been centered on 19 B. Given that I’ve to travel to the IT corridor from the heart of the city, boarding the bus at T.Nagar seemed to be the most viable option. This was one among the very few buses that took the shortest route to reach Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR). So, the minute I came to know that I would have to travel to OMR on my own on a daily basis, I did not have to worry, the AC bus option was available for me.

Travelling in an AC bus, that too in Chennai, is a different experience. I am not sure about the other AC buses that run in the city, my knowledge is limited to 19 B .The people, the attitude of the driver, the rapport of the conductor, the constant music that is always played, everything is a new experience. But, wait there are a few similarities between travelling in an AC bus and a normal bus. For instance in normal buses the conductor would sulk if you do not tender the exact change, the conductors in AC buses are no different, but they do not harass.

One might look at the people travelling in these buses and think of how lucky they are to travel so comfortably. Believe me, it is comfortable, but getting there is not as easy as it seems. You have to be talented 3 aspects to be able to travel comfortably. 1. To board the bus at the right time 2. To be able to run with your bags 3.To be able to stand steady in a moving bus. Let me elaborate.

One. If a bus is scheduled to leave at 8.05 am, in a perfect world, the bus would arrive at 7.45 am. Now here is the tricky part 1. If you wish to get a seat, you would have to be at the bus stop before 7.46; else your chances of procuring a seat are few. I am one of the lucky few who alight before the famous Shollinganallur signal. So, in case I happen to come even a minute late, I have the luxury of waiting for another 15 minutes to board the next bus. But for those who have to travel beyond Shollinganallur (where the time spent waiting in the signal varies from 5 minutes to 30 minutes), they are left with no other choice than to board the bus.

Two. Let us assume that the bus is approaching the bus stand. Here is the tricky part 2. Some bus drivers stop the bus at the signal just before the entrance of the bus stand. But, some of them refuse to stop the bus at the signal, making all of us (around 20, on any normal day) run the entire circumference of the bus stand with our bags and lunch bags, unmindful of the traffic. All this is because people prefer to sit and travel than to stand in an AC bus, which could turn out to be a nightmare. But in a way, I’m grateful to these drivers, they help compensate for the lack of any brisk activity throughout the day.

Three. Here comes the tricky part 3. To be able to stand steady in a moving AC bus. The problem here is, though we have enough space to stand, there is not enough support to hold on to. I guess the minimum qualification to be able to drive an AC bus is that, the person should have had experience in driving an auto, in Chennai. Now you get the idea of how an AC bus driver would drive and how the passengers would have to hold on to all the support they can find to avoid swaying in all directions. (Another workout of sorts is my guess).

Most of the drivers are known to be reckless when driving an AC bus, so much so that even the auto drivers stop to hurl abuses. Just imagine, an auto driver reprimanding someone for reckless driving. But on the brighter side, for all the Harry Potter fans there is something to look forward to. We did not have the privilege of going to Hogwarts; at least we have been given a chance of riding on the Knight Bus!

Coming to my experiences, People here (most of them) are very well mannered. To begin with, the conductors address everyone as Sir/Madam; the drivers wouldn’t openly show their irritation when you politely ask them to stop at a signal and most of them would stop their buses if we signal them to stop, for us to board the bus.  There are no separate seats for women here, but when a seat is vacant and there happens to be a man and a woman standing, most of the time, the former offers the seat to the latter. When an elderly person steps in, people do not think twice about offering their seats. One need not be alert all the time, you can keep your lunch bag next to the conductor,  ask someone in the front to hold your bag and stand at the rear end of the bus, without having to check if the bags are safe. They will be. In fact men even offer to hold women’s handbags.

I’ve been travelling for 6 months now in these buses and I make sure I board the 8 am bus. So there are a lot of familiar faces and people do not hesitate to talk. Now I know the Branch Manager of a reputed bank, a VP from Cognizant, a senior Project Manager from HCL, about 7 to 8 people who work in the same building as I do, and many others, and we talk about something in general or something random. If anyone asked me how I knew them, the answer would be simple “We travel regularly in 19 B”. Speak of the benefits of being social.

The traffic sometimes irritates you. Stuck at a point for more than half an hour is irritating, but light conversations with these people will keep you engaged. Even if there is no one around, the music played in the buses would give you company. That again is, depending on the driver, whether he chooses to play the latest set of songs or play a CD which has songs that one would normally come across in funeral processions. In that case, I would suggest you listen to songs from your mobile. If that option is not available, just close your eyes and beg for forgiveness from God for all the sins you have committed. The background score would be in sync 🙂

On the whole, I am assured that my trip to and from work is lively and entertaining. What a way to start (and end) the day!

P.S. Coming up next..How to get a seat in an AC bus, in Chennai!

59 thoughts on “Travelling in Chennai Buses.

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  1. I am glad to hear that you are getting your daily quota of workouts courtesy MTC and also getting to socialise with a wide variety of people we dont normally get to meet with…i think the next step for you to upgrade your workout is to try and travel hands-free (standing-up) and see how much balance you can maintain(best done in a empty bus)naturally. and of course the final test- getting down in a running bus…and you get your masters certificate


  2. Haah.., this, for sure, reminded me of my college bus travel. I used to board the famous 21H from Parrys at 8.15am to go to OMR. One indeed needs a special skill for getting a seat in MTC bus that too with bags and other things you carry around…

    May be the profile of people you get to meet in a/c buses would vary from other buses. Nevertheless, the socializing that happens in travel is always entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed it for 3 years. Great to know that your share of life in travel is entertaining and healthy too! The three aspects you listed down for a comfortable travel may be a survival guide for Chennaiites! Great write up 🙂



  3. Very well written mam.
    Hope to meet you some day at Thoraipakkam junction, where I board the bus sometimes 🙂
    BTW I still remember that twitter conversation we were having about Chennai buses and the next day an hike in the Bus fare #Unforgetable 🙂
    Hope you continue having a gr8 trip up-and-down , and yeah waiting for your next post on how to get a seat in an AC bus 🙂


  4. A very enjoyable post about your nice bus experiences! I have had a lot of Chennai bus experiences before but they have not been as exciting and I haven’t traveled in an AC bus either. But glad that they are picking up now. You have made boarding and travelling in a bus into a science. Nice little tips for people there. And yeah.. if you are being reprimanded by a Chennai auto driver, then I guess you are on your way to the Guinness records for bad driving. But I am glad to see the niceties in the bus. It is always good when people around are warm and kind. It makes you happy and peps up your day. I wish one day these things start happening in normal buses too. But that will take some time I guess. But am glad your daily bus journey is interesting and fun. 🙂


  5. That made me laugh.. Especially the third point.. I have fallen twice in an AC bus because of the lack of support… I would take my purse out and simultaneously the bus would take a turn which will end up with me on the floor… Travelling in Chennai MTC actually requires an intelligent mind with a sturdy body!!! Well written!


  6. I have travelled in the famous AC buses twice and I just loved the experience. I like the arrangement of the seats, some of which face each other enabling conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed your experiential narrative. And you, being you can easily charm people and win friends with your charm 🙂

    Joy always,


  7. hahhaa good tricks Ashwini 😀 neatly documented 😀 and the work out lol 😀 making most of everything is it!!! thats good :d

    Yes its always fun to meet people on our travel thats very interesting!!! 😀 may you get many more such nice opportunities 😀

    welll narrated nice post 😀 liked it ashwini 😀


  8. 🙂 you had a good ride then .. Now along with food I am looking forward to the bus ride too ..
    you shud go to punjab and have a ride in punjab roadways .. you will thank god that u arrived safe .. it does not have any windows and nor any doors 🙂



  9. Hey, nice one Ashwini 🙂 Reminded a lot of my travel days to office (the part about having familiar faces around), though not the comfort of an AC bus, rather a hearstopping mammothyly big crowded electric train to Mahindra City !! Well written indeed 🙂


  10. Nice Article, I am new to Chennai and would sure want to try them out. Is it safe to send teenage children alone to school in these buses?


  11. Hey Thank you Anand 🙂 , yes, socializing happens everywhere but these buses ply at certain fixed timings , so the regular crowd is more in number. You definitely need some special skills to get a place in these buses, or even board these buses for that matter. As you said, my travel has never been boring, something always keeps me engaged. 🙂


  12. Thank You Raj :-), It feels good when people talk with us while travelling, it makes the journey wirthwhile and makes one lose track of the time. Today, when you find most of them plugged in with their headphones, away in their own world, it's nice to exchange small talk with like minded people!


  13. We have some similar experience here at Kolkata too..The everyday tryst with the AC buses plying to the IT corridors are pretty much exact to what you wrote here..I could see flashes of my daily experience zip-zap as I read thru :D…Well written.


  14. Yes, we need to have good reflexes and Yes I was referring to the same incident which you mentioned. These bus drivers have a good sense of timing. They apply brakes and take a turn exactly when we are not holding on to something 🙂


  15. Lol Yes. I've been travelling for more than 6 months now in these buses. That was enough time for me to learn all these tricks 🙂
    It's always nice to meet new people and to talk with them: Thank You 🙂 Glad that you liked it!


  16. That is still the condition in some buses here Bikram 🙂 still you will enjoy the trip here. Let me know when you come to Chennai :-), I'll introduce you to the Chennai Bloggers group, it's full of fun loving people 🙂


  17. How did I miss this one ! That one goes to kelambakkam rt ? 19 b ? I have done that travel five seven eight years ago in non ac 19b . That's definitely not that super considering chennai heat . Not regularly though . Rarely when I had no office bus . And I remember reading Harry potter on one such trip . Boy ! This post had many reasons for me to be nostalgic 🙂


  18. Interesting traits needed to board the AC bus Ashwini… Since the advent of AC buses, even I feel that the drivers and conductors have become tolerant and relatively polite. Maybe its the ambiance, the temperature inside the bus that calms them down! Otherwise, places like Chennai and Mumbai are always hot!

    Waiting for your update on “how to get a seat in an AC bus”


  19. nice feel good post about ac bus travel and its benefits. are always kind and generous to women whatever bus it is!i travel by bus..i never get contacts like this!!might be i should catch the same bus at same time to meet the usual people..nice tips for travelling and socializing!!


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