A common disease


We were on our way back home. The bus was not crowded and I was enjoying the ride.

The conductor had a pleasant temperament. He made small talk with an elderly man, waited patiently for a boy to fish out change and then settled down in his place. I commented to my daughter that nearly everyone on the bus was using a cellphone to either communicate or listen to music. She was doing the latter and didn’t respond!
At the next stop, a waft of perfume assailed us and a pair of chattering girls got in. The girls were nattily dressed and juggled hand bags and cellphones while holding on to the over head supporting rails. The conductor approached them and when one of the girls said ‘pass,’ he said ‘show it please.’

It was the girl’s obvious displeasure at being asked to show the pass that caught my attention. Screwing up her face she made a big show of digging deep into her bag. Out came chocolate bars, lip balm, tissues, wallet and finally the pass which she held close to herself and said ‘here.’ The conductor asked her to hand it over and examining it, pronounced it past its expiry date!

As the girl mumbled something about travelling by another bus without any problem, he asked her friend also to show the pass and the drama repeated itself. It was obvious that the girls were aware that the passes were no longer valid. They were trying to see if they could get away with it. The girls’ excuses didn’t cut any ice with the conductor and they were asked to buy tickets.

I gave the girls dirty looks and told the conductor that it was indeed shameful that well off girls try to cheat like this and got dirtier looks from my teenager. The conductor told me that this was very common. Asked whether they were not getting away with it too easily, by just buying tickets afterwards, he shrugged.

As I saw the girls nonchalantly get off the bus, I wondered how best to teach them a lesson? A fine of hundred or two hundred rupees won’t help. A celebrity in the US was asked to clean toilets as punishment for drunken driving. Perhaps asking these rule breakers to do the same in our bus stands would be punishment enough?

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