Thiruvananthapuram — Kerala got an unlikely social media star this week, in the form of a government-owned bus after one of its numerous fans got it back to its original bus station when the authorities moved it to a different location.
The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation-owned bus that carries the number RSC 140 that used to ply on the Erattupetta-Kattappana route, straddling Kottayam and Idukki districts, was the hot favourite of dozens of regular passengers. So, when it was suddenly shifted to the Aluva bus station, about 80km away, regular commuters were not amused.
However, it took a diehard female fan to take the initiative to pressurise the officials to return the bus to its original station, Erattupetta.
The fan, who is yet to be identified, called up the Aluva bus depot and told the official who picked up the phone, “That bus was our heart. Why was it relocated to Aluva? Is there such a shortage of buses in Aluva?”
On the other end of the phone was an inspector attached to the Aluva bus depot, C.T. Johnny, who was stunned by the unusual customer complaint. The caller, who only identified herself as a college student, went on: “That was our regular bus and we all loved it. The passengers are heart-broken that it has been moved out of Erattupetta. We are all hardcore fans of that bus and of KSRTC,” she continued.
When the audio of the conversation between the caller and the KSRTC official who patiently listened to the strange request and pacified her went viral on social media, the matter came to the notice of the higher authorities of KSRTC. By then, the bus had been moved further north to Kannur.
The top management then decided to return the bus to the Erattupetta depot, with the bonus of ‘Chanku’ (slang for heart in Malayalam) written on the front of the bus. The bus started plying the Erattupetta-Kattapana route again on Friday.
During the conversation, Johnny had asked the complainant, “Isn’t it enough that we offer a substitute bus for the one shifted from there?” To that, the female fan retorted, “Who wants a substitute? You can change the conductor or driver of the bus, but don’t change that bus.”
She was worried that the authorities would put the bus out of commission, and pleaded that the bus not be “killed”. She also told Johnny that she would send a complaint to the KSRTC managing director, Tomin J. Thachankary.
In the end, it all ended well for the bus’ fans in Erattupetta who got their favourite vehicle back, and also for Johnny who was given official recognition by the top management for the commendable manner in which he handled the rather bizarre customer complaint.