Sometimes I take local buses in Dhaka. I would travel by bus more often if I could figure out where the bus-stops are for the destinations I need. While I now know the locations of a number of bus stands, it remains a challenge to catch the right bus. Speeding buses, battered, bashed and bursting with people, slow down a little as they approach the stand. There is a bus-wallah (a sort of bus conductor) standing in the doorway of the bus (there often isn’t any door). These extraordinary, resourceful individuals are enormously helpful to both driver and passenger: they assist people on and off the bus; they help people carry stuff on-board or stow it on the roof; they act as wind-screen wipers, side and rear mirrors and indicators, shouting out instructions or drumming signals on the side of the bus to warn the driver; they help people find seating, which often requires rearranging others’ seating; they mysteriously manage to keep track of who needs change and exactly how much; and they never fail to let you know when the bus has arrived at your destination.
So, as the bus approaches and slows down, I shout out my destination to the bus-wallah and start to run alongside with potential fellow passengers. If I get a nod of assent I run faster and jump aboard the moving vehicle with the help of the bus-wallah, who gives me a hand-up and then a push to get me out of the way of the passenger coming behind me. I’m quite comfortable with boarding buses now and I still get a bit of a kick out of it. However, disembarking is a bit scarier. The bus slows down and this time I must jump from the slowly-moving vehicle, again with the help of a gentle push from the bus-wallah, so that those behind me can get off expediently and the bus can resume its speed. It always feels good to have survived yet another bus journey in Dhaka!
Below are a few photographs of buses. (Unfortunately, since Cooliris was acquired by Yahoo my lovely photo walls no longer work :(. I have replaced them with links to post-specific web-album slideshows until such time as I can find a better solution.)
Click on image below for PHOTO SLIDESHOW related to this post (14 photographs in all). Enjoy!