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The Omnibus Tales

Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 18/03/2022

Here’s wishing all the readers a very Happy Holi!!

Screen grab from Miss Mary (1957)

Life has undergone a sea change in the last one week. A number of activities have resumed in their pre-COVID avatar; schools too have re-opened. Ever since offline school (as we prefer to call it now!) has recommenced, every morning is a struggle. It is almost like catching an early morning flight. The only objective in the morning is to get to the school bus stop on time.

As I was waiting (for the school bus to arrive), in the morning, with my daughter at the bus stop, my thoughts began to wander. The Rafi/Dev Anand song Gori Zara Hans De Tu, from Asli Naqli was playing in my head. Except that instead of the school girl who was fretting in the song, it was me sulking, having to get up before the Sun, after a good two years. The school bus driver was no Dev Anand, to regale with his magic.

I started going down the memory lane. Fortunately, since my school for a good part of my school life, was at walking distance, I never had to catch a bus. Thus, there was no dependence or waiting involved. As I reached secondary school, I moved to a new city where I took the city bus instead of a dedicated school bus. Commuting by a city bus in a metro was of course a totally different ball game. The bulging school bag was cursed by other passengers who only viewed it as an impediment. But, commuting by the city bus was a great learning experience too. It helped to appreciate the trials and tribulations of the common man. It helped to develop empathy.

I speak of times when there was no internet. There was no way you could track the bus. The frequency of the bus too was pretty pathetic. That meant waiting at the bus stop for quite some time. Finding the usual suspects at the bus stop was a great relief. It was indicative of the fact that the bus I usually took had not left. Commuters at the bus stop would tacitly acknowledge each other’s presence; a meaningful conversation with a co-passenger waiting for the same bus was however very rare. An occasional joy was boarding a double-decker bus. There was a thrill in looking out of the bus window from a considerable height after climbing the spiral staircase. Those were the innocent joys of growing up.

As I entered college and became more worldly wise, it dawned upon me that the bus stop was a great rendezvous for love birds. The city bus stop was one public place where not many eyebrows were raised if a girl and boy got talking, provided, of course, there was no public display of affection. I remember how while waiting at the bus stop to go to the University, I would see a boy and a girl regularly. Buses would come and go but they would still keep sitting, enjoying a never ending tête-à-tête. Years later when I bumped into the same boy – now a well settled man – we immediately recognised each other. The girl at the bus stop had become his better half!! That is how important a role the city bus and the bus stop can play in one’s life!

It is a fact that as we get upwardly mobile, many of us stop using public transport – especially the city bus. A city bus ride is neatly tucked away in our memories. How many of us have taken our children on a city bus ride, just to make them fathom how a majority of the population commutes?

The city bus too has changed, for the better, with time. I remember how the shift from diesel to CNG led to a huge protest in Delhi. The bus operators were up in arms. Now, we have moved a step further with environment-friendly electric buses plying on the roads, sporting swanky tickers. There are electronic ticket issuing machines used by the conductors. Apps have been launched to track the bus location. All in all there is an attempt to make the daily commute more comfortable.

Films and the City Bus Ride

Having described my own experiences on the city bus, it is time to move on to how Hindi cinema has depicted the city bus ride. Many a Dev Anand starrer had sequences shot at the city bus stop or in the bus.

Screen Grabs from CID (1956) where Dev Anand travels on the bus with Shakila after waiting at the bus stop. Their destination is the same, but Shakila is ignorant of this. The extremely popular and loveable song Leke Pehla Pehla Pyaar is what follows this bus ride.

Screen grabs from Teen Deviyan (1965) where the opening credits roll out as Nanda, followed by Dev Anand, board the same city bus and sit on the same seat. Again, their destination is the same but both are ignorant of this fact.

Screen grabs from Funtoosh (1956) where Dev Anand is in a double decker city bus with Sheila Ramani. He sticks his head out to irritate Sheila’s father (K.N.Singh) and her suitor (actor ??) who are searching for him madly, driving round the whole city.

Basu Chatterjee’s movies of the 1970s, which told stories of middle class couples trying to gain a toehold as well as find love in the urban setting, often had scenes and songs shot at the bus stop/city bus. Chhoti Si Baat (1976) had a significant number of scenes shot at the bus stop. In fact, love at first sight happens at the bus stop. It is here that the lead pair always meet and then take the same bus to work. It is here that the competitor appears on his two wheeler to get the better of the hero. It is also the bus stop that is used by B.R.Chopra, the producer of this film, to promote another film – Zameer (1975) – that he produced. Who says there was less marketing and promotion of films in the 1970s? It was perhaps just understated.

In a post on the city bus ride, this delightful song – Na Jaane Kyun – from Chhoti Si Baat, which was composed by Salil Chowdhury and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, falls in place, perfectly. With lyrics penned by Yogesh, this is perhaps one of the best songs of reminiscence.

The other iconic song that must be listed here is Kali Ghodi Dwar Khadi from Sai Paranjpye directed Chasm-e-Baddoor. In this song which is based on Raag Kaafi, Deepti Naval walks to the bus stop and waits there for the bus after finishing her Hindustani vocal music class. She cannot get over the song that she has just learnt and is mentally rehearsing it at the bus stop, much to the amusement of the others waiting there. And then the hero – Farooq Sheikh – appears out of the blue with the kali ghodi which in this case is his motor bike. After some deliberation, she becomes the pillion rider. It is almost as though the groom has got the bride to sit on the ghodi!! The passengers at the bus stop look quite smug as they witness this scene. Indu Jain’s lyrics, Raj Kamal’s music and the voices of Haimanti Shukla and Yesudas, all of them commingle to make this an enjoyable song. The picturisation is also perfect with almost each line enacted very beautifully on screen. There is a certain simplicity in the way it is shot, which makes the song loveable.

One must also not discount the fact that many a film song was penned on a bus ticket by the lyricist who found it very handy when inspiration struck. One song that was penned behind the BEST bus ticket was Hansne Ki Chaah Ne Kitna Mujhe Rulaaya Hain from Aavishkaar (1973). Kapil Kumar, the lyricist, was travelling by bus to Bandra when he wrote the poem, Hansne ki chaah ne, on the back of bus tickets strewn all around. When he recited it to Basu Bhattacharya, the director of the film, he told him that it was a good poem and should be recorded.  Kapil Kumar is a lyricist who did not get his due. This song is sung melancholically by Manna Dey. Bitter sweet memories of the lead couple are flashed with this song playing in the background, as the opening credits roll out. Kanu Roy, an underrated music director, has composed minimalist but melodious music. The lyrics of the song are worth mentioning here.

Hansne ki chhaah ne kitna mujhe rulaaya hain
koi hamdard nahin, dard mera saaya hain

dil to uljha hi raha zindagi ki baaton mein
saansen chalti hain kabhi kabhi raaton mein

kisi ki aah par taaron ko pyaar aaya hain
koi hamdard nahin dard mera saaya hai

sapne chhalte hi rahe roz nai raahon se
koi phislaa hain abhi abhi baahon se

kiski ye aahatein ye kaun muskuraaya hain
koi hamdard nahin, dard mera saaya hain

hansne ki chhaah ne kitna mujhe rulaaya hain

S.H.Bihari who frequently travelled by the city bus, also wrote songs behind bus tickets. He would absentmindedly leave these in his pockets. His wife would find these tickets when his clothes were taken for washing and would hand them over to him. This proves beyond doubt that creativity is spontaneous.

With this ends my post on bus tales. I am sure regular readers of my posts will notice that this post is different from my usual song posts. This post was one which could just not be limited to ten songs as there were quite a few aspects that were beyond songs. Which city bus tale would you want to share?

Disclaimer claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from Daily Motion, YouTube and other platforms only to make the post audio visual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

10 thoughts on “The Omnibus Tales

  1. My childhood experiences with city buses are very similar to yours. When we first came to Delhi, school was close enough to walk. While I continued in that school for the next 7 years, my sister passed out the next year, and then it got boring for me to walk 2 km to school on my own! So I began to take a public transport bus, and that was good in some ways, but bad too. I hated the long waits – I remember waiting half an hour or more, even though there were several buses between school and home – and I hated the crowds. But one vivid film-related memory I have is of sitting in an almost empty bus on a very misty winter morning, and someone at the back was whistling Yeh shaam mastaani, and doing it really, really well!


  2. I studied in a place where people had to take a bus to travel to another village. This was 1945 1952.No petrol . Coal was the fuel.
    We went bare foot. Being a sandy place we had to run and stop under a tree shade.
    Then there was a team that would descend in announced to vaccinate against small pox. Some children would just try to escape. My younger brother was a stickler for rules. He would grab them and deposit them back in the hall. We had lot of fun. There was no electricity .No question of burning midnight oil.
    From there to Baroda. 1952-1954 .A beautiful city. I used to roam about on a cycle. Movies were a taboo. But my father insisted that I should take elders to see a movie Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. I did buy the tickets perhaps for s wrong show. It was dishum dishum. I got a mouthful
    Then to Bombay 1954 .
    Got used to commuting. Bombay to Mumbai
    Pyaasa Waheeda Rehman and Jonny Walker ( He was a bus conductor In real life ) . Kishore Kumar and Madhubala Chalti ka Naam Gadi My all time favourite.
    Anitha has introduced many movies most of which I have not seen except Chotisi Bath.
    Thank you Anitha garu


    1. Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences, Uncle! You have added a perspective of an earlier generation. I am so happy you mentioned Johny Walker starting off as a bus conductor. I missed out this aspect. Rajnikanth is another star who started off as a bus conductor.


  3. Being a Bombayite or rather Mumbaikar, one is too familiar with the city buses, more known as the BEST buses.

    Local bus transport is very well-organized here, being second to the local trains.

    As a child, I used to always find ride in the double decker bus quite fascinating.
    So, I has taken my daughter specially to CST and Mantralaya area so that she can ride in a double decker and enjoy the experience.

    Here’s a popular song from the film Shaan (1980), picturized on a double decker BEST bus.

    Ranveer-Anushka’s bus scene from Band Baja Baraat


    1. Thanks a lot for the song and scene that you added, Dr.Deshpande! Your experience on the BEST bus is perhaps one that our generation would perfectly relate to. It is so nice to hear that your daughter too has got on to the bus.


  4. Good memories and good songs both! I grew up in an extremely isolated place without any buses and far from the train. I remember getting to go on a trip to “the big city” (Denver) as a little child where my parents, also both country people, struggling to figure out the bus system. First you had to find a bus to take you to one of the main terminals, where the schedules and maps were posted, and then to the central terminal, where you could actually buy tickets. We relied a lot on local people who were willing to give us advice–and on a bus driver carrying us to the central terminal for free in the understanding that we would buy the tickets once we got there. I’m grateful that I have Google Maps and the like to help me out these days!

    A recent film that used the daily bus commute as a setting was “Gully Boy.” I think that it opened showing Alia and Ranveer getting on the same bus and being annoyed with one another, as you might when you are in a rush in the morning and easily upset about somebody else getting in your way. As the scene progressed, it gradually became clear that they were not strangers, but in fact took the same route together every day and were just stiff with one another because of a recent falling-out. Hopefully I’m not misremembering given that I only saw the film once.


    1. Thanks for sharing your memories, Shelomit! A perspective from another country does widen the horizon. I guess the culture of city bus travel also varies from country to country. As regards Gully Boy, well, I have not watched it but after you mentioned it, I did see that bit and it is differently shot.


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