The Quintessential Carrier of Current

OK, that was a PJ – the answer of course, is a Conductor. Take any first time Chennai visitor for a tour around the city and the first question they’ll ask you is “Why is it that a seat is reserved for the Conductor?”. They refer to the Conductors of the Metropolitan State Transport Corp. Buses. This oddity is uncommon in any other state of India. Or, for that matter, in other city transport buses. (In Salem, it was even more unique – there were two Conductors for a single bus) And the answer to that question, unfortunately, seems to involve complicated physics and Deep Thought.

For yet-to-visit Chennai folks, to provide a pictorial idea, I’ll say that this seat is near the rear end of the bus, cozily situated to provide a view of the entire bus. And the Conductors are happy about it. Many of them, on seeing you, offer you a seat. But that notion shouldn’t be mistaken for chivalry. Not just because they extend this act to other fellow, but also because he wishes to have a word with that bloke in the front who was intending to travel ticketless. If not, it is merely to strech his legs which have become stiff as a result of that 60 km journey.

It could be because the government took pity on them and provided the seat. Nah, if so, they’d have done it to all the city transport buses. It could be because of the roads that aren’t great and it’s a bumpy ride most of the times. Nah, that is the case for every other city. It could be because of the balance of the bus is affected when someone stands. Huh? MTC buses defy gravity, friction, inertia, etc. [told you there was complicated physics involved]. There couldn’t be sufficient place for a fly to squeeze through, there would be atleast a dozen people hanging on to the footboard, yet it would perfectly stay on balance. Apparently there is a conspiracy theory Rolls Royce offered to buy this patented secret behind the balance, but our guys refused ;)

The answer, hence is unknown. There is another conspiracy theory that only 1% of the World’s total population know the answer.

5 Comments so far

  1. Lavanya (unregistered) on April 1st, 2006 @ 11:59 am

    Ha ha! Nice one. So we still do not know the answer do we? :( For a minute, I thought that the mystery was finally over.

  2. rads (unregistered) on April 1st, 2006 @ 6:33 pm

    ah, nice one. Perhaps once upon a time, buses ran nice and empty and so the conductor for his service to the public deserved a seat. Now it really has become a non-issue.
    On occasion Ive notice a kind one donate his seat to an elderly person or a pregnant lady when they’d get mauled otherwise by the crowds.

  3. Varun (unregistered) on April 2nd, 2006 @ 4:02 pm

    Nice one but I can’t say its unique. I guess writer hasn’t travelled much in buses outside chennai. I can mention only few examples from what I have seen a seat reserved for conductors.
    In Rajasthan Roadways, there is always a seat reserved for conductor, just near by the door. It will be small (single) and due to rare use (most of the buses run half empty that conductor can sit anywhere and some are so crowded that conductor spend his most of the time on the bus roof).
    In UP roadways, they also have a seat reserved for roadways employees (mainly conductor only), but again here, people often are so rude that if conductor is not that much willing to argue or fight, he has to let go his seat.
    Harayan roadways has the most similarity, as conductors of Chennai and Haryana share some shouting genes. Conductor there grab the seat just next to the door and are really polite enough to throw away any passenger out of the bus, if he or she tries to grab that space. Mostly, nobody dares to do that as conductor’s shouting is enough threatening.
    New mumbai local buses don’t have this system but in old times, I remember there were used to separate conductor seats.
    :)) issues, if you think its unique to Chennai, find something else, there are plenty :)

  4. Krithiga (unregistered) on April 2nd, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

    Varun: Oh, yeah, you are right, but people do ask “Why is it that Conductors have a seat” almost everytime you take them out for a ride in the bus. Those were people who have visited North India. And you are right about the “there are plenty” part.

  5. Krithiga (unregistered) on April 2nd, 2006 @ 7:01 pm

    Rads: Plausible. Yes.

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