The jasmine flower garland adorning her hair looked fresh even at 7 pm, in a crowded bus from Koramangala to Banashankari. The girl bent over her bling screen crushing candies busy counting her points. Not for once did she look up at the crowded roads outside, the pressing bodies straining their heads to catch fresh air-as fresh as it can be in a bus carrying 60 passengers when it is meant for 40. At every bus stop there are another 50 each trying to jostle in with the bus driver simultaneously steering the wheel, disciplining the passengers, cursing the evening rains while taking us to our different destinations.
The daily bus rides have become an essential part of my life, an enjoyable exercise even when I get tossed and thrown, battered and bruised.By the time I disembark I am a total mess, my only joy being that every body else is. But the bus ride gives me enjoyable window view and some time to contemplate. That’s when I think about the absence of kili in the bus.
A ‘kili’ ideally means a bird in Malayalam but it is also the pseudonym for that indispensable member of bus ride management that includes the driver and the conductor. It’s the ‘kili’ who does the crowd management, space adjustment in Kerala buses. He is the commander of the bus,whose directives are obeyed unquestioningly by the driver. So the ‘kili’ thumps the bus, speeding it up or slowing it down, ensures the passengers are safe by dangling outside protectively, rushes to close the door and open it, rings the bell, advises, threatens and cajoles others on the road depending upon the situations and in general and sort of thrives in chaos.While the bus conductor goes about collecting money and giving away tickets, the driver veers his vehicle through the twists and turns of a typical road in Kerala, the ‘kili’ ensures that the job is well done, by keeping the bus going.But why is public transport so few and far between? Why doesn’t it cover the entire city and beyond?
The so-called IT capital of India is yet to use technology to ease the concerns of the common man. ‘Kili’ or no ‘kili’ bus rides can definitely be made better experiences for all!