Wednesday, June 22, 2005

PTC, MTC and me!

Meenakshi Medicals used to be at the junction of Royapettah High Road and Lloyds Road in Royapettah, Chennai. In fact it could be still there, but it has been years since I looked. But, anyways, I am prone to digressions and before this instance proceeds along that road, let me continue.

So, yeah, right at the front of Meenakshi Medicals was a simple waist high wall of metal railing with concrete pillars a few feet apart where one, particularly a pre-schooler like me could plonk their posterior and watch the rest of the world fly past in their multiple wheeled modes of road transport. My favorite part of the day (from when i can remember, till I was around 5 or 6 years old) was when my uncle (was part of a joint family then) used to take me out to this spot in front of Meenakshi Medicals and sit down with me and point out the different cars as they went past. While I was in for the cars, he was in for the short walk and the exercise that eluded him ever since he had retired. Sometimes he even went to Meenakshi Medicals and bought the medical supplies that is so common in homes in India. Maybe he even spent some time talking to the elderly owner and his sons, who were well known to us as neighbors. But I don't remember much about that painless and innocent times.

From the time I spent there everyday, I also picked up the art of identifying models from the sounds their engines made. I also developed this quirk of comparing people's facial characteristics with front of automobiles. For example, this particular bus / truck that Telco made (the Tata 4410 D?) had a front grill which reminded me of an acquaintance who had very striking dental structure. To this day, I can't erase the mental image of the man's face when I see a Telco truck or vice versa. And that's how my love of automobiles began. But it all started with buses and specifically the (then) Pallavan Transport Corporation buses (nowadays called Metropolitan Transport Corporation) a.k.a the PTC buses!

When I was 7 yrs old, my mother moved for a couple of months to my grandmom's place in Egmore to deliver my sister. I spent those months with her at Egmore. Since a change of school is logically not possible for those few months, I traveled to my school in Royapettah in a school bus. My stop in Egmore, next to the police station was the last pickup point and the last drop off point too. And this school bus route covered North Madras (Washermanpet, Tondiarpet, Royapuram etc.) in addition to Triplicane (which is practically next door to Royapettah). I don't remember any of those names, but if u were studying first second or third standard in Adarsh Vidyalaya Branch School, opposite Swagath Hotel during 1983-85, get in touch with me!

Anyways, during this bus journey, me and some other kids on the bus developed this new game. The PTC had just then purchased a batch of chassis from Ford, yup, Ford! So, everytime we passed one of these buses, we used to add one to the existing count. Ofcourse, we were too young to comprehend that there possibly could not be 1000 Ford buses running in the roads of Madras, but we counted anyways.

I also had this private game of looking at the route boards on buses and memorising the start and end points. This game continued way beyond the birth of my sister, which coincided with our relocating to Mandaveli. Since it was middle of a school year, I just changed school buses. But my luck did not change. This bus route covered South Madras (Kodambakkam, T.Nagar, Saidapet, Kotturpuram, Adayar etc.) and my stop was the last pickup and drop off point again.

So the memorising of bus routes continued and soon I was (I think I still am) so conversant with bus routes in Madras that at the age of 8 or 9, I was playing tour guide to my relatives and cousins from out of town, when they visited (my paternal grand mother lived with us) during the summer holidays. My job was to take them to the bus stop, get them on the right bus and get off at the right stop and get them to wherever they needed to go. And their job was to take care of me on the bus. LMAO!

After a year in Mandaveli, we moved to our present home in T.Nagar. For even my father was relatively new to T.Nagar, with most of our shopping trips being confined to Mylapore and Luz corner, areas chock a bloc with stores much older than the Nallis and the Kumarans. I think I was more familiar with the area figuring in my school bus route! A couple of months before we moved, I changed schools in anticipation of our move to T.Nagar.

My love affair with the PTC continued. The next game that I played was to figure out how the PTC kept track of its buses with an alpha numeric code (it seems to have changed slightly now) to indicate the originating depot, the time/batch of induction of their buses. For example, LE 567 (which was a Telco bus that ran on route No.10 between T.Nagar and Parrys Corner in the first half of the 90s) was a bus that was attached to depot L (T.Nagar) and was inducted in batch E (in the early 90s perhaps?) and was No. 567 in that batch. This particular bus was driven by this very friendly driver when I used to take route no. 10 to my school. Till 2001, if you would tell me a letter, I could tell you the depot with very little error, all by corelating the start and end points with common sense that the depot has to be the one closest to either of the two locations, ofcourse with some exceptions. I quickly figured out that there is no depot denoted by the letters "Q" and "O", (at least till 2001). And I THINK there are no depots with the letter N, G and J too, though I am not so sure.

Then close to the end of my school days, one fine day, one of my friends found this "old paper store" where he could buy magazines by the weight. I did not even know that he was a auto freak till he bought a stack of auto magazines (Auto India) specifically to school. I was soon hooked on the automobile reviews and news, not to mention the coverage of the international auto shows at Tokyo, New York, Geneva etc. Of course we did not care that the magazines were at least a year old. Once we had read the magazines, the better pictures were cut out and pasted on the doors to our respective cupboards. I still did not lose my fascination with the PTC and if my mom hasn't noticed it yet, there is still a small picture of a PTC bus on a Ashok Leyland produced Cheetah model chassis stuck on my cupboard in Chennai!

When I got into engineering, my fascination towards cars made me readily join mechanical engineering at a time when computer science was slowly becoming the stream of choice. My fascination remained just that since slowly I got sidetracked into manufacturing as a primary interest, with automobile engineering being just a elective course in our final year. But every month or whenever I had a chance to get to Trichy or Thanjavur, I never got back without a copy of the latest Auto India. I got a wealth of information, not neccasarily technical, from the magazine.

And my love affair with buses continued. With our college and the hostel being right next to the Trichy-Thanjavur highway, a lot of times our days were planned on the basis of buses passing the college. There were a couple of private bus operators who were the preferred service providers for our college students - Chidambara Vilas, Mahalakshmi etc. And there was one particular operator called Deenadayalan who was a speed demon. This particular bus reputedly held the record for making the journey from our college to Trichy a full 10 minutes faster the "next fastest". Needless to say, Deenadayalan usually topped everyone's list, if we were lucky enough to get the bus to stop at our stop when it passed by!

Coming back to Chennai for good after graduating, I did not feel a need for a vehicle and felt right at home travelling by the local buses. A lot of people claim that the Chennai buses are crowded and do not deserve the encomiums thrown at them from different quarters. My view however differs.

If you know your routes, then it is still possible to get to point B from point A comfortably. You might have to spend double the money or go to point C first which is slightly off the route, but it sure is cheaper than spending money on a auto rickshaw. You might not even spend any more time (in some cases) than you would have if you had taken a direct bus, but you will certainly travel comfortably.

For example, if you wanted to go from T.Nagar to Perambur, there are no buses that started from T.Nagar. You had to get on 29B which would mostly be full by the time it reaches T.Nagar from its start point at Saidapet. So, alternatively, you could just take a bus to Saidapet and board 29B there. You also had the alternative of taking 29N which ran between Velachery and Perambur. So if you knew your routes, then Chennai has the best public transport system in India outside Mumbai. You have my word for that!


VC said...

jeez man! Mylapore, Mandaveli, Luz Corner, PTC bus routes, Swagath hotel etc. etc. You are stirring up quite a few memories here.
Swagath hotel reminds me of Pilot theatre which used to be quite decent back then.
Royapettah High Rd reminds me of Rita Ice Cream and Naidu Hall.
Me and my colony friends used to quiz each other on knowledge of bus routes.
Good post.

Me said...

adarsh vidhyalaya branch aa ...... me in Gill Adarsh .....

mm agree with u on the PTC.....i loved those buses far better than the other states......though i can say some routes clearly......i am not good at those alpha numeric codes and the depot ......

thennavan said...

Just a stone's throw from where we live and I have been to Meenakshi's several times. Your account brought back fond memories. Another thing, have blogrolled you :-)

preethi said...

oi sooper memory!

Harish said...

yebbaaaa! ungalukku semma memory, aNTi!!

LE 567-na idhaan artham-a? naan edho andha bus kulla 567 elli irukumo nenachaen :)

anantha said...

Harish: Seladhu appadiye manasu la achu maari padhinjidum. Seladhu immediate a marandhudum. And for all you know, I might be wrong. Idhu ellame, ennoda thoughts la right nu pattadhu....My uncle used to take me there almost every day for a couple of hours. And when my sister was of similar age, he used to take her to T.Nagar bus stand and sit down in a bus till it is ready to leave. Then they'd get out and sit in another bus. So much that, years later, seeing my uncle and my sister together, some bus conductors used to actually come and enquire if my sister was that kid that they had seen with my uncle.

Preethi: Danks.. actually bus nu sonna odane, onnoda T.Nagar bus stand conductor dosth pathi ezhudha marandhutten. btw, this is the Preethi i know, right?

Thennavan: Thanx Mukund. Where did u live in Royapettah? Till 1985, We used to live in Gangaiamman Kovil Street, incidentally a few houses away from where the infamous Sivarasan was based, much later in 1990-91.

Me: Gill Adarsh a :O Till when and which batch?

VC: Rita Ice Cream....hmmm.. I only remember the bottling plant for those old desi colas/soft drinks near Swagath Hotel.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, never had any problems with the bus service. I don't know why people complain about it. Inspite of being badly maintained, as a whole it is the best means to get around in Madras In fact the whole of Tamilnadu. fairly reliable.

Instead of waiting for one bus to take you from point A to B, I would always switch buses to reach B quickly. its much better than waiting for hours at the terminus or bus stop.

being in detroit, atleast now i know the worth of PTC.


Hawkeye said...


sooper post. i spent couple'a years in alamelu manga puram.. so luz etc is like home. the kesava perumal temple. pani puri in front of diplomat bar near luz... wow! u have done quite a lot of research.. very good!

rajesh said...

Super daa..Liked the write-up..!
I lived in Mandeveli for 5 years da..studied in st-johns!
I jus wish I get a chance once again in life to spend time in those areas!

Me said...

83-97 lkg-12th

Swapna said...

Great post....I used to do this thing of memorising bus routes and numbers too....And as rightly said, anyday I would prefer taking the P/MTC to auto....Also semma analysis on the depot and codes...HOTY
My first stint was taking 4E from Kotturpuram to Adyar, and then went on to the greatest 29C or 23C from Besant nagar to Perambur....then went on changing almost 2 to 3 buses to go to college..PP51 being a favorite...
Wow...MTC rocks....

visithra said...

Interesting post :)

Indian buses fascinate me - how they move at breakneck speed slanted 20 degrees ;p

Nithya Swaminathan said...

Lovely write up...:) Great trip down memory lane..:)

Agree with you on the public transport system in Chennai... For the size of the city, the connectivity thru PTC is amazing... Dont know about other cities, but Bangalore sucks in comparison!:(

IBH said...

Lovely write up Anti....reallve madras le 12B ( adhu enga area bus route) le poitu vandha maidri iruku :) missing it though!
but defly the connectivity is too good..but I was not quite happy abt the frequency and the numberof people on the bus...veyile it is tough!

anantha said...

IBH: Danks...Abt 12B, Pondy Bazaar la bus kku wait pannina, 12B dhaan jaasthi varum! Andha crowd a avoid panna dhaan, I used to take connecting buses.

Nithya: Thanx, I have not travelled much around India. So matha cities pathi I don't know much. I don't think any city can beat Mumbai in terms of public transport, but other than that, from what people told me, Chennai rocks!

Visithra: Adhu mattun illa. 20 degree slant la, how does the bus make a right turn? When all the forces of physics pull it to the left ;)

Swapna: Ya, i used to love travelling in the bus. Adhu vum, I used to look for the seat close to the driver right next to the engine! I love the smell of diesel and you get a ton of info talking to the drivers, particularly if you are a regular on the route.

Me: Do you know Harsha (batch of 1996)? Last i heard he was in Hindustan! He's one of the few people I remember from my days at Branch School. I last met him at a inter-school culturals in early 1996. Btw, I was in Adarsh Senior Secondary School in T.Nagar from 3rd to XII and passed out in 1996.

Raaapi: Thanx da. I never knew that you read my posts ;)

Bharath: Research ellam jaasthi illa. Like I said, I used to make a beeline for the long seat right next to the driver and note everything that he did. Seriously I have not asked anybody if what I said is right. I just put two and two together.

Varun: Yup.. It is fairly reliable, if you know how to use it! For example I know people who will wait for a particular bus, when they could have taken another that takes them to a point a few minutes away from where they need to actually go and they'd complain. If only they knew :p

All: Actually there are a lot of other interesting incidents that I have experienced on Chennai buses! Including an eventful bus ride from Anna Nagar to Nungambakkam (en route to T.Nagar) in a nearly empty bus with a group of gals directing a lot of comments / remarks at me, in lieu of my cap and coolers! With a smile, I turned around (obvsly to "look" at the gals) and the conductor tells me "Thambi, ippo puriyudha? Neenga pasanga gumbala sendhu panradha dhaan indha pullainga pannudhunga"! I had to agree and couldn't help but laugh with him.

Sunil said...

I lived close to Meenakshi Medicals myself, during my engg college days (when I was thrown into the world that is Chennai).....stayed on lloyds road right opposite "Amma's" HQ!

PTC is indeed amongst the better public transport systems I've been on (in terms of efficiency). The only REALLY annoying fact is that often a series of the same number buses come at the same time. This is especially true for the 1 series (Thiruvanmayur to whereever, which I used to catch from Royapettah to go to Adayar). You wait for 20 minutes, and then THREE of the buses show up together!

Me said...

the name sounds familiar but have to see him....i think we played hockey together in ymca...not sure aNTi....

rajesh said...

i read them all..
the verbose ones get a different treatment though :)

also..abt commenting...Am pretty sure 70% of ur anonymous comments(read as galeeju) came from me.
wow..thats a strong statement..But what the heck.

anantha said...

Raapi: I just got back after lunch. Full stomach la thitta vekkadha! :p Nee dhaan enna snob nu solli comment panniniya ? :O Ondikki Ondi...k...vaada...Chey Shan baashai pesa vechitiya da DOG! LMAO...

Me: Oh ok....

Sunil: Amma's Hq, hehe.... vantage point! And ya, on scheduling issues, the MTC loses a point. But u know what, whereever unions have a strong voice, workers are gonna work on their schedules rather than the organizations. And i dont know if its ever going to be possible to change that part about the MTC :(

tilotamma said...

aNTi said...

Btw, Aside... I am not sure whether the mag was out in 1985. Post 1987, I think it was. I was probably only 10 plus then, but Aside was one of the early mags i used to thumb through...

Anti _ I bet you have forgotten all about this comment on my site/
I just checked with Abraham Eraly. Apparently this mag was published between 1977 -1996.

Just for the record.....

anantha said...

Tilo: No, I did not forget about that comment :) There are a few magazines that I miss from my childhood. Aside is definitely one of them, cos it has been the only Chennai specific magazine that i have seen so far :(
Back then, I was one of those precocious kids that read everything in sight, sometimes without knowing what I was reading. My cousin used to work for Indian Bank and he had this office lending library thing where he used to get the latest mags home and I think I was the only person at home who atleast thumbed through *every* magazine he brought home, provided it was in English! However it is sad that I don't remember half of what I read about!

Chakra Sampath said...

Very well done mate... I remember the Deenadayalan bus in Trichy-Tanjore route... its one of my fav. too!

Guevara G said...

I never undertood why all 12B's together ALWAYS !!! even NOW

Ram said...

Anti.. one of the best blog posts I have ever read! Believe me, maybe the compliment does not mean much to you, but this post means a lot to me. I can readily identify with this, since I pretty much did the same thing with bus routes and license plate numbers. It was really a love affair as you have accurately written. It was so much fun tracking the changes (after each election) from 1V to A1 to 1J and so on!!!

I had spent 1983-90 in Kuwait, where there were hardly any buses that we used for transportation. So, coming back to Chennai in 1990 and having to commute everyday by PTC was a wonderful change! You have inspired my memories about this and I have write about it sometime for sure, but I really can't match the excellence of this post!! Outstanding!!

anantha said...

Ram: Thank you :) The compliment *does* mean a lot to me. Because, if not anything else, at least it re-affirms the fact that I am not alone :D. Please do come back and do comment! Ya, From V and VV to J and JJ! Now its just a yellow board denoting those LSS buses, right? Some of them have been converted to D and H services. God, this reminds me that its almost 2.5 yrs since I went home... *sigh*

Guevara: Hmmmm... good question. (*puts his thinking cap on*)
I think the route has a lot to do with it. Come to think of it, the congestion in the the Eldams road section possibly causes the this phenomenon, by bunching up services!

Chakra: Deenadayalan used to pass by my college (Shanmugha/Sastra) about a few minutes before our lunch break. In our first year, the sound of the bus's unique sounding silencer was the sign for all of us to close our books/notebooks loudly and rub the soles of our footwear on the cement floor of the class to get the teacher's attention ;) But I think the bus owner had some kinda rule that it should not stop in front of my college. Cos it used to stop very rarely! And that was also the bus that i had my closest brush with death so far, when I spent the five minute ride from college to Vallam late one evening hanging to the bus with the tip of my fingers, screaming atleast a couple of times that I was gonna fall, making one of my friends who had a better foothold, put an arm around me! That's probably the last time I spent on the footboard (in the highway that is!)! It was a scary experience considering the speed the driver drove usually!

Anonymous said...

LE567 --- L is for T Nagar, currently they use TN. E is the 5th series, the first one started with A. LA, LB ... etc. E series started back in 1982. The first one being DE1 (Vadapalani depot). Interestingly lastone is with Vadapalani as well DE999. As of now MTC chennai is nearing in 999's in H series. N- Thondiarpet, G - KK nagar depots

Anonymous said...

hi i read this article ananda told that there are no depots with i , u and q it is right here i give the list of depots
A tondiarpet 1(TD)
B adayar(AD)
C ayanavaram(AY)
D vadapalani(VP)
E ambattur(AM)
F madhavaram(MV)
G KK nagar(KN)
H anna nagar(AN)
I nil
J mandaveli(MN)
K alandur(AL)
K ennore(EN)
L tnagar(TN)
M saidapet(SP)
N thiruvotriyur(TV)
O tambaram(TA)
P basin bridge then transfered to
vyasrapadi (VY)
Q nil
R tiruvanmiyur(TR)
S perambur (PR)
T tondiarpet 2(TW)
V ponnamalle(PE)now (PM)
W crompet(CR)
X avadi(AV)
Y iyapantangal(IY)
Z ponamalle2 (PM) now joined together
wef from jun 97 single codes were converted to double codes given in brackets.there are two depots formed recently they are
centraldepot(CD) and basin bridge(BB).

by dilip

Anonymous said...

DEI Bajji.........How you doing buddy??? This is Sundar from Adarsh... your quiz mate !!!!!

I am in London these days..and married!!!!!... send me a mail on

Anonymous said...

I read your message it was good am prasath stidied in Adarsh vidyalaya branch school and am also your batch mail id is

Anonymous said...

hi anantha

iam really puzzled to learn tht u have gone to trichy in 10 minutes frm college?????

how ru
how is life
keep in touch

BE batch mate