BOOKING THE RIGHT BUS
The incidents happened on 20.08.2016.
It was a tough decision on the part of my friends and mine. Which bus to book to avoid the dusty sweaty heat of the summer morning and at the same time not having to deal with the hawking bus dalals on the streets of Dharmatala (Esplanade) Bus Stand? The government run buses came to mind. Although we have been aware of the high price of air-conditioned buses (above Rs. 300/- one way) we were ready to risk it in exchange of the blissful comfort in the sultry weather, where we didn’t have to worry about anything except the juicy gossip-chatting we would start once we were settled on it. Let me tell you, for travel enthusiasts like us who were just starting to spread our wings a little, booking a bus with everyone is itself a short adventure. Moreover, we were in the middle of our semester exams in college and have fixed the dates of travel as three days succeeding the final exam. So we didn’t have a moment to lose!
On the day of the last theory paper, we embarked from college to Esplanade via the Metro Rail and got out through Gate No. 7 on the southern side of the Esplanade Metro Station. It was because it said over the banner of the gate: SBSTC Bus Terminus (full-fledged Govt. bus service). Long name: South Bengal State Transport Co-operation. To our knowledge, there were three government backed bus services running from here: SBSTC, Surface Transport, and Calcutta Tramways (CTC). Thankfully, all the three counters were there side by side after a 2 minute straight walk from the Metro Gate. If you’re confused (and you definitely will be if you’re a first timer) about the direction, just ask and don’t waste time fumbling over Google Maps. It’s how you find places in Calcutta. A tip to keep in mind.
The SBSTC bus counter was bustling and too much crowded. One look, and we knew that if we wanted to reach home before sunset today, this won’t do. The next clinical examinations at college was the day after tomorrow, so time is of the essence! What to do? We looked back and saw an AC bus which frankly wasn’t much to look at. The fare was undoubtedly high (Rs. 330/-) with two times of departure for Digha: 7.45 AM and 8.15 Am.
So our eyes turned to the next counters. And their respective AC buses. Thankfully, the CTC air-conditioned Volvo bus caught our attention. It was the genuine albeit smaller Volvo structure, not the fake ones running around in hundreds around the city. You can see it in the image featured on this page at the top. Slowly but surely, we agreed silently in its favour. After all, the best comfort was what we were looking for after a month long arduous torture called examinations. The bus to Digha had its depot at Barasat ( a busy town 1.5 hours from Calcutta) from where it came and went to, with a pit stop at Esplanade. Two of our mates were from Barasat, so it was their favourable choice too.
There was only one AC bus in the morning to Digha: 8.45 Am from Esplanade (left Barasat at 7.10 AM). And the return bus from Digha was also singular: 11.30 AM. The timing wasn’t too difficult, and the fare was lower (Rs. 300/- from Esplanade, Rs. 330/- from Barasat). Little did we know that for 8 seats, we were damn lucky. There were just 8 left one after another and I was muttering a silent prayer, to have come here just at the right time. There was practically no queue in front and we talked with the person at the counter for a long time, clearing our doubts. From what one of my Barasat friends said, it was a newer bus service, so demands weren’t high.
They booked our seats online in front of us. We gave the money and received the tickets.
The following are the bus timings, both AC and non-AC for CTC line, from Barasat to Digha and vice-versa. The AC bus to Digha makes a stop in front of the bus counter so you can get on from Esplanade. However, the AC return bus doesn’t pass through the bus terminus. It’s best if you embark at a place of your convenience since it passes along the famous tourist destinations in the Maidan area and Esplanade. For example, we Calcuttans were about to return home via Metro Rail after getting off the bus, so when it was heading north after rounding Esplanade, we got off at Chadni Chowk Metro Entrance. Easy-peasy. Or just ask the bus conductor, which we were foolish enough not to do. Our bad!
The online booking site was not up when we went there for tickets, but now it is. Have a quick look here.
I hope you have no problem understanding the gist of it all. Happy to share the simple small yet enjoyable experience. You can read more on this trip under this category.
My friends whom I shared this amazing experience with:
Rajib Sardar, Dipayan Biswas, Joydeep Barman, Promita Barua, Sudipto Mondal, Suman Ganguly, Arkaprava Roy.