Wednesday, February 19, 2014
It is a celebration that is, as far as I know, unique to Chennai. When it was begun about a dozen or so years ago, it was conceptualized as a day of gratitude. Students would felicitate the crew of the buses that brought them to college - the bus would have a garland, and would move slowly along the last couple of kilometres before reaching the college. If I remember right, the MTC also earmarked a few buses for the celebration, taking them - and their crew - out of regular service and allowing the students to use them for the special run to celebrate the 'Bus Day'. The police were also on hand to ensure that the slow-moving buses, and the students marching and dancing in front of them, did not hold up traffic too badly.
But then, things began to go out of hand. No college student likes being told what to do, so 'Bus Day' was celebrated whenever the spirit moved the students of a particular college. The celebration spread from being a one-day event to a two-week nuisance. Things got so bad that a public interest writ was filed in the Madras High Court. The Court came down heavily on it and, in 2011, banned all bus day celebrations for ever. The students, however, keep finding some excuse or the other to hijack a bus, maybe for a couple of hours.
Here is one such scene in progress, sometime towards the end of last month. 23C is the bus that has been held up. It took us about 20 minutes to get past the crowd, thanks to three or four policemen who were doing their best to minimize the general inconvenience. It was the next day I learnt that more policemen had to be called in, and they had to resort to a lathi charge to chase away the mischief makers - most of them were probably not students at all!