Viewpoint – Mrs. Sheila Dikshit’s Blueline Blues

Here’s why Delhi Chief Minister would rather walk than board a city bus.

[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi; picture by Mukesh Aggarwal]

Mrs. Sheila Dikshit is no Marie Antoinette. In the recent commuting crisis following a spate of fatal traffic accidents when many private bus operators pulled back their services for fear of challans, she never said, “Let Delhiwallas have Maybachs.” Instead, her words were, “…I would prefer to walk than board a Blueline bus.”

This makes us think if our sophisticated Chief Minister has ever traveled in a DTC bus. Is she familiar with the nervous thrill of running after a Blueline? Has she ever screamed at the driver, busy racing with another bus, when he failed to stop at her stand? Has Mrs. Dikshit ever been pinched by a lustful admirer?

We wonder if Mrs. Dikshit ever had a car-owning boss who could never understand why she was always late reaching at work even though she claimed to have started from home an hour earlier than him. But what does the lady know? She would rather walk than board a Blueline!

We feel Mrs. Dikshit, who speaks convent-school English and wear fabindia sarees, has never really suffered Delhi in its daily buses. Yet she is aware how horrible the rides could be and that is why she would rather walk than take a bus. But suppose she lives in Khichdipur and her office is in Nehru Place? Could she walk all those miles? Even if she could, won’t she reach only by the end of a working day? In that case, wouldn’t she be fired? But these are improbable considerations for a Very Important Person like Mrs. Dikshit.

We rather suppose Madame Chief Minister must always be traveling in an entourage of air-conditioned cars. She must be used to the aam-aadmi traffic being blocked to make a free way for her. In such exalted circumstances how could she understand the frustration when one’s over-stuffed bus gets stuck in a red light that refuses to go green, particularly during the summers?

Has Mrs. Dikshit ever felt the sticky wetness of the fellow commuter’s sweat as it drips down on one’s own arm? Did she ever have to survive the mango-pickle stink of the evening commuters? We think not. Yet Mrs. Dikshit has wisely concluded that it is better to walk than to travel in a Blueline.

We also wonder if Mrs. Dikshit ever broke her elbow-bone while attempting to jump out of a moving bus that would only slow down, but not stop, at her stand. Has she, consequently, experienced the humiliation of lying on all four on a busy highway and later having to spend a fortune to get the arm in order, fractured for no fault of hers? We believe not. Yet Mrs. Dikshit was smart enough to realize it is better to walk than to board a Blueline.

The hard truth is that no Delhiwalla, rich or poor, should ever compromise his dignity by commuting in these cattle cars. But many hard-working people in this city are slaves to various forces of helplessness: no car, no driver, or no driving skills. Even then no one deserve such terrible commuting nightmares.

We ask why the number of buses can’t be increased. Why can’t seats be padded? Why can’t safety rules be strictly enforced? Why can’t air-conditioners be installed in selected Bluelines?

But does Mrs. Dikshit have the motivation? After all, she would rather walk than board a Blueline.