The most exciting news in the papers today is that Mumbai will continue its love affair with BEST’s red double-decker buses. But the old Routemaster model, based on London’s iconic double-deckers, that’s been around with minor modifications since 1947 and was being scrapped, is coming as an upgraded avatar that’s now popular in UK. I have travelled by that bus. And I can’t wait for it to come here.0
The new double-decker will retain two old features. The driver’s rubber squeeze bulb horn and the conductor’s cord bell. That’s for nostalgia. Otherwise it will have automatic gears and power-operated doors. There will be separate entries to board and alight at the front and rear. And inter-deck communication systems for the conductors up and down, CCTV, GPS, wheelchair ramps.
The buses, and their indefatigable drivers and conductors, are what Mumbai is all about. I remember on the evening of March 12, 1993, after the serial blasts all but ripped out Mumbai’s heart, the double-deckers back on the roads, driving through death and destruction. Prompting Chief Minister Sharad Pawar to say, “When I see the red BEST buses running again, then I am assured the spirit of Mumbai has not been crushed.”