Chennai buses: Those were the days when…

I studied at the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition in the dim and distant past. When the bus service in Chennai was Pallavan Transport Corporation, or as more fondly referred to, ‘PTC’. The buses weren’t green in those days, they were red and yellow! And they were very much a part of most student’s lives, as they were mine. I lived in T Nagar, and the ‘Catering College’, as the college was popularly known, was in Taramani, right at the back of the Central Polytechnic on today’s IT Corridor. In those days, of course, the IT Corridor was an uneven, badly pot holed road that meandered along the banks of the Buckingham Canal to the village of Taramani.

One caught the 9 or 10 from Thirumalaipillai Road to the T Nagar bus stand, then a bus to Adyar, then the lone single erratic service to college- if it turned up! More often than not, we walked. If one was lucky, one caught 47A from Thirumallaipillai Road and traveled smugly up to Madhya Kailash (which didn’t exist then, the stop was called the ‘Regional Labour Institute’, or the ‘Kendriya Vidyalaya’ stop, depending on the direction), then on to college if the Taramani bus turned up. Most evenings we walked all the way to the Adyar bus terminus and caught a bus back home. So they were a phenomenal influence in our lives as you can imagine. So when the college was having a cultural evening, and a bunch of students were asked to put on various kinds of performances, they delved into what was within their scope of experience, and what others could relate to, for something entertaining.

To begin with, when you study hotel management, one of the subjects is ‘House keeping’. Yes, it is house keeping as it is commonly understood, but on a huge scale, complete with all the paraphernalia for it such as buckets, mops, brooms- the works. We also had ‘Restaurant & Counter Service’ which was basically to do with Food & beverage Service in restaurants with the right kind of crockery and cutlery. So access to these materials, plus the daily experience of the PTC bus to college were married with the song writing and musical abilities of a talented few to come up with the original song ‘PTC bus man!’ The ‘band’ took to the stage at the appointed time with upturned buckets for drums, and a spoon against a glass for the right note at points that were bereft of any other music to lead on to the next stanza!

The song was awesome and brought the house down. I don’t remember all the stanzas, but I do remember the chorus. It went, ‘PTC bus, man! Red-and-yellow bus, man. “Munnae po-pa, munnae po-pa! (ting, tingy ting ting of spoon on glass with everything else silent) Ticeketa konjon kettu vaangu”!’ (Drum entry leading to the full music backing) The latter part is, of course, what the conductors used to call out in the crowded buses during rush hour to ensure that everyone had bought a ticket! Students were singing this song for months afterwards, not only in the college, but on the buses themselves. So much so, that some thirty years later, I can still remember the chorus! Those were good days and I remember them fondly.

And guess one of the things that made those days in college such an indelible experience? The PTC bus man!

3 Comments so far

  1. ramki (unregistered) on July 7th, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

    When/Which year does this “Writeup” refer to? If i am right, it should be late 70s… that was when the red buses ruled the roost… that was also when Saidapet marked end of the city (in south) and Adyar was a emerging suburb.

  2. Madhusudanan (unregistered) on July 7th, 2007 @ 2:10 pm

    No..i guess it was inthe mid 90’s, when PTC had this Red and yellow colored buses.Just watch Kadhal Desam movie, it was released in 1996 and you could spot those Red/Yello colored buses.

  3. SUNIL (unregistered) on July 24th, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

    David is talking about the original PTC fleet that was changed to Green in the early 80’s. There are still red and Yellow buses in the MTC fleet albeit new ones. Those old buses on the roads of Madras evoke a sense of nostalgia… watch the B/W tanil films of yesteryears; there is one movie song in which comedian Nagesh is the bus conductor.(sorry.. I don’t remember the movie).

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