Subramani arrived at 9.55PM as usual 5 minutes before the departure and went ahead to check the ticket. As expected, there was a change. The Thisaiyanvillai Bus supposed to pick us up at 10PM broke down on the way and they had to arrange an alternate. This is the second time, i heard the same story for the same bus from K.P.N. Few months before, they had called me up at 8.30PM and asked me to come at 9.00PM to the boarding point. This time, they offered seats on a sleeper that was scheduled to leave at 10.00 PM. Improvement!!! Can't complain i guess :-) Boarded the bus wondering, why the Thisaiyanvillai bus breaks down every now and then or is there something fishy happening. After a few confusions with seat allocations, we were given upper berths. Sleeper bus gives you an opportunity to stretch your legs and get into sleeping position, but keeps the mind in panic state since every sharp turn gives a feeling of falling from somewhere (Thookam varum aana varathu).
Three hours later @ 1.30AM, reached Salem. 220KMs in 3 hours. Decided to set the alarm to wake up early as it looked like it may not take more than 3hrs to reach the destination. So far so good. 2hrs later, heard the driver calling for 4 passengers to shift to a new bus, 5 minutes after that learnt that bus has developed a mechanical problem. At this point, KPN one of the biggest transport corporation in South India gave its passengers only one option, shift to a different KPN bus which might pass through that route and where seats might be available. One by one passengers got down, and waited in the highway, bearing the cold weather and hoping for some KPN bus to arrive and pick them up. Amidst all the chaos, a snoring sound reverberated inside the bus. Somebody was in sound sleep. Blessed should be the one who can sleep amidst all the sound, unmindful of what was happening and not worried about the next step. Who could it be ? Vera yaaru namma Subramani thaan.
Around 5 to 10 passengers had found an alternative and around half of the crowd was still waiting. No alternative arrangements made. Spent the next one hour waiting in the cold, and hoping we would find some KPN bus with free seats. Unfortunately all that crossed were full. Few passengers could not digest the fact that they had paid exorbitant money but and left stranded in the middle of the road with no alternative arrangements and took it up with the driver and had a talk with the KPN head quarters. The only result was increase in passenger's blood pressure as both the driver and people at the head quarters remained unresponsive (pimpilika pilapi thaan). KPN transport which boasts best service and customer satisfaction neither had a spare bus nor a mechanic and no way to track which bus could accommodate us. After around 90 minutes of wait, a bus from Sharma travels had some seats left and we had to pay Rs. 250 for the remaining 1.5hrs of journey.
My roommate came in the 9.15PM KPN bus the next day and looks like his bus too broke down around the same place and the same solution was offered it seems. Seriously wonder, is this some kind of trick ? What haunts more is that the unresponsive staff.
So what next ? Though IRCTC sucks big time, and tatkal booking is near to impossible task, try to stick to train as much as possible and keep KPN as the last option.