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Tuesday, Feb. 20
The Indiana Daily Student

arts travel

Column: Trains, buses and automobiles: an ode to public transportation

Getting around Hyderabad can be incredibly fun or incredibly frustrating, depending on the day.

Some mornings a shared auto will serendipitously appear right as I reach the main road, waiting to whisk me off to campus.

Other days an endless stream of vehicles will pass by, already packed with kids going to school and people commuting to work.

When 14 passengers have already staked out spaces for themselves in the small white vans, not even my five-foot self can manage to fit in.

Three people manage to pile on to one motorcycle or scooter. I’ve seen as many as 12 people squeeze into a direct auto, intended to seat three people plus the driver.

At night, some autos turn on flashing interior lights and blast Bollywood music to entice suckers like me.

One driver, who looked like he couldn’t be older than 18, played Justin Beiber remixes and other popular American songs from 2010 as he drove my friends and I home from dinner one evening.

Unfortunately, he was so distracted by the music that we almost drove into oncoming traffic. Entertainment is a trade-off for safe driving, I suppose.

The most economical way to get around Hyderabad, but arguably the most time-consuming and stressful, is by bus.

The 216 bus takes me the 17 kilometers from my internship in Lakdikapul to Gachibowli for only 12 rupees. At the current exchange rate, that’s 18 US cents.

It beats paying for an expensive auto, but it will likely be standing room only for part or the entire ride.

I’m always thankful for the ladies section, found at the front of every bus and in specially-designated compartments on MMTS trains.

Before coming to India, I would have scoffed at the idea of a section especially reserved for women.

At the same time, former me couldn’t have imagined how packed a Hyderabad bus can be at 6 p.m. on a Friday.

There’s something to be said about the feeling of security that comes from having a mother and her baby in your personal space instead of a male stranger.

Long rides on public transportation create opportunities for talking to locals.

Most recently, a girl around my age sat next to me and started a conversation with the usual question, “Where are you from?”

My Hindi vocabulary was too small to carry on for more than a few sentences, but she smiled and told me she likes practicing her English.

The exchange brightened an otherwise monotonous ride on a very hot, very crowded bus.

I’ll choose a nice conversation over a breezy auto ride any day.

Americans could learn a little something about ride sharing and using public transportation. Considering nearly 7 million people live in Hyderabad, the traffic isn’t so bad.

­— kmthacke@indiana.edu.

Follow travel columnist Kate Thacker on Twitter @katelynthacker.

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