Amazing Jabalpur To Nagpur Bus Journeys

Experiencing Jabalpur to Nagpur bus journeys is something I have started enjoying, rather than getting angry & flummoxed – mainly of course due to a different types of people involved in the journey. It is said that in India, the language, the diction, the style of speaking or even addressing an individual changes every 20 kms. And Central India has a very peculiar style of speaking, which really entertains me. Of course when the travel is for family reasons, that becomes the top priority, not the style of speaking of the strangers on the road. And these are the journeys that have sometimes been entertaining, funny, sometimes been horrible, raising my blood pressure but very intriguing almost always.

For all of you uninitiated, Jabalpur is a small but beautiful town in Madhya Pradesh State in India, may be 20 % the size of Mumbai. Having stayed in Mumbai or Pune for longest time, typically my travel mode to Jabalpur is:

  1. Direct Flight from Mumbai to Jabalpur (2 Hours) and Vice Versa
  2. Flight from Mumbai / Pune to Nagpur (1 Hour) and Bus from Nagpur to Jabalpur (7-8 Hours) and vice versa
  3. Direct train from Mumbai / Pune to Jabalpur (16-18 Hours) and vice versa


Somehow, I have opted for Option No. 2 more often. And that is where the real fun lies.



Fun & Trouble-less Journeys

Things are always fine till the time you reach Nagpur. You travel by flight, which takes 1 hour & 15 minutes approx and you have already covered 70 % of your journey under 2 hours in total. So, say your early morning flight of 6.15 am, helps you reach Nagpur by 7.30 am. By the time you are out of the Airport, it is 8.00 am max. But the real journey begins once you are out of the Airport. You shall find a lot of Auto Rickshaw Drivers (ARD) coming at you. And when the people from Central India speak, they tend to prolong the last word in every sentence. So when, you & I say “I went there” very normally, they would tend to say “I went thereeeeeee”. They mean no disrespect, mind you. It’s just the way they speak.

Typically, this is how the conversation between you and the ARD will go (It will happen in Marathi or Hindi language in real time and I have translated the same in English in brackets below. I wish you could understand Marathi bcoz the real fun lies there):

ARD: Ka Bhau, kuthe jayche tumhale ? (Hello Brother, where do you need to go ?)

Shaunak: (Trying to figure out the way and how come suddenly so many drivers are approaching from all directions)

ARD: A bhauuuuuu, saanga na laukkkkkkkaaaaarrrrr, dusre cashtomar pan hayet na bav !!! (Now tell me quickly, there are other passengers too)

Shaunak: Bus Stand, Meter ni chalnar ka ? (Bus Stand, but I will prefer going by the meter)

ARD: Meter beter ka karteeeeeeey. Direc kach sangto na tumhallllllllleeeeeyyyyy, 200 rupaye hotieeeeel. Tevdhech laagte. (Why do you want to go by the meter, I will tell you upfront, charges shall be Rs. 200, nothing more, nothing less).

Shaunak: Thik aahe, chalaa. (Okay, that’s fine, let’s go)

You have reached Central Bus Stand (CBS) at 8.30 am and you are happy with the way things turned out, you feel you are going as per the plan. Now, from the Nagpur – Jabalpur leg, either you may opt for the Red Colour State Transport (ST) buses that leave from the CBS (State Transport does not operate Asiad, Volvo kind of buses on this route) or buses from the private operators. ST buses, although not at all luxurious, have an advantage, I feel, in terms of on time performance. Whether or not there are passengers, the buses ply as per their scheduled time, 99 % of the time. The drivers of these buses are on State Government payroll, with permanent jobs and they simply do not care whether the bus is full or empty. Rather, the private players are more concerned about profit maximization on each of their routes. So obviously they can even wait on the road if somebody tells them a family of 4 is coming after 10 minutes… hell with the existing passengers inside. Delays can be fairly regular. Also, the private bus won’t start till it is at least 80 % full. (They have better seating though). So, it’s upto you now how you want to go !! Because I am keen on reaching on time, with no unnecessary surprises or frustation, I choose ST. The only hitch of ST is that on this route, there are 2 buses in entire day. First at 10.30 am and the second at 10.30 pm. That’s why the early morning flight, that I stated above. Once the bus starts, you are sure that if the reaching time is 7 hours, it remains 7 hours. You are definitely going to reach your destination at the time promised. (Anybody who has experienced the ill-effects of not reaching on time, with a flight to catch for your onward journey and have got furious on multiple occasions, can truly understand why I am stressing on this point).

Thanks to Maharashtra State’s ST !

Horrible But Still Enjoyable Jabalpur to Nagpur Bus Journeys

Pain is experienced on your return leg i.e. from Jabalpur to Nagpur bus route. I am a first hand witness of this, multiple times and today, I just don’t understand how to deal with this issue. So I try to take it as an experience and hope that the time passes off fast and that I reach Nagpur ASAP. One of the factors is, may be because my relatives in MP have always lived that way (traveling in private coaches etc everywhere) that they feel that, that is the best possible option, not the ST. So, they invariably book ticket for me for Nagpur by any of these private coaches. And then I got a flight to, say Pune in between 8.30 to 9.30 pm. That’s normally how I do it.

Because there are private buses plying on this route every 30 minutes, on the spot reservation is possible. Look at how care-free the attitude is of the man booking your tickets, at any of the reservation desks along the road-side. The ticket booking officer does not belong to any one particular transporter, he books tickets for all private players depending upon the route of travel, and he is in constant touch with all of them through his mobile (the conversation now is in Hindi, which I have again translated in English too):

Do note I have deliberately booked the last flight from Nagpur to Pune, which is at around 9.30 pm. Calculating backwards, I need to reach Nagpur Airport by 8.30 pm. This means my bus needs to drop me in Nagpur by at least 7.30 pm and I also assume that I will find some place to eat some snacks and then take an Auto / Taxi, that will take 30 minutes in traffic conditions for dropping me off at the airport. My booking of the last flight means I have still been very cautious that things can go wrong at any time 🙂

Shaunak: Bhaiya, Nagpur jaana hai, ticket milegi kya ? Kitne baje ki bus hai ? (Hello, I wish to go to Nagpur now, can I get an instant ticket ? At what time is the bus ?)

Ticket Booking Officer (TBO): Milegi na, 300 rupaye lagenge, agali bus 10.30 ki hai (Yes tickets are available, 300 Rupees, the next bus is at 10.30 am)

Shaunak: Thik hai, de do. par abhi 10.15 hue hai, aur mujhe 7 baje tak Nagpur pahuchna hai. Pahunch jaayegi na ? (Oh that’s fine, but I need to reach Nagpur by 7 pm, will the bus reach by that time ?)

TBO(Looking at the money & in a very confident & high volumn) ha ha pahunch jaayegi, pakka, likh lo merese. 250 kms toh hai, saade cheh ghante mein pakka (Yes sure, it will reach, you take it in writing from me, it’s only 250 kms, 250 kms mean 6 1/2 hours for sure)

Even though he said 6 1/2 hours, I shall still keep buffer of an hour, because I know they can lie, so as to not miss one customer & lose their business.

TBO: Aur agar nahi pahuchi, toh main toh idhar hi hu, main hu na, tension kaayko lete ? (And if it doesn’t reach, then I am here itself, I am here, don’t worry)

Shaunak 🙁  ?????? Idhar hu matlab ? abhi bus nagpur agar raat ko 10 baje pahuchi, toh main firse Jabalpur aau kya, tumse jawaab maangne ? (What do you mean by you are here ? If the bus reaches at 10 O clock, do you expect me to come back & then confront you on the reason of delay ?)

TBO: (No reaction)

Anyway, so you take the ticket and wait adjacent to the road, there is no seating arrangement. The time of bus’ arrival is 10.30 am at your stop and if it is the summer season in Central India, even 9.30 can get really hot. The bus arrives on 10.50 am. Already 20 minutes late. The driver takes forever to park it sideways and another 10 minutes are gone. If the passenger count is not great, he won’t mind stopping for another 15 minutes. It’s 11.15 am now. You left from relative’s residence at 10.00 am. Approx 1 & half hours gone, and where are you ? Still in Jabalpur, merely 10 minutes from the same residence !!

At 11.15 am, the bus leaves. 30 kms into the journey and 1 hour’s gone. It’s 12.15  pm now. So you re-calculate. 220 kms left, it’s 12.15 pm now and if you have to reach by 7.30 pm, 7 hours are left. So, 220 /7 =  32 kms per hour appox, so almost the same speed. Okay, we are going fine. Oh no ! Where is the provision for stoppage in between ? And this is a big time we are talking about ! Unlike other buses, these private players can stop in between for long, if the bus is not full. This gets you thinking, your blood pressure is slowly rising.

The bus continues on its journey for another 2 hours, it’s 2.10 pm and then it halts at a small village called Seoni. Seoni is at the equi-distance from Nagpur & Jabalpur. It’s the center point. After about 10 minutes of halting and you being virtually hungry (low quality oily but hot food and it’s hot out there in the sun, such that you just don’t feel like eating anything), you also realize & calculate the remaining time & distance. But this time, at 2.20 pm, you are not really worrying. You thank God that the past 2 hours, the bus didn’t malfunction and it didn’t stop anywhere and ran @ 50 kms per hour approx, which is great as per it’s standard. Equi-distance means you have already crossed 125 kms in under 4 hours. Ideally the next 125 kms should again take 4 hours  too. So, by 6.30 pm, you are looking at reaching Nagpur. Pretty okay, I would say.

It’s 2.40 pm and the bus hasn’t moved from Seoni. The driver is nowhere to be found. So, you take the onus and start asking anybody & everybody near the bus. Somebody then tells you that the drivers exchange their buses here at Seoni and the next bus & it’s driver (of Nagpur to Seoni leg) hasn’t come yet. “Oh Fantastic ! So, when is he suppose to come ?” He is just on his way, 5 minutes. Yeah, and I remembered the news on the Air India Cabin Crew from Delhi who blatantly didn’t report on time and came after 2 hours of the flight departure time (as was reported in papers). Finally, the driver came and I thought, now we will leave. But in vain. Can you believe if I say that the bus was actually there at Seoni till about 3.15 pm ??? 1 hour & 5 minutes invested at Seoni, for not more than 5 passengers extra !! (For a minute I thought, I’ll pay for these 5 passengers, what could be the fare, Rs. 500 ???? But please, now don’t stop anywhere !)

The idiosyncrasies didn’t end there. After about 10 minutes that the bus left Seoni, there came another jolt for me, when I saw a local policeman waving his hand and stopping the bus. He had 19 laborers (males & females both), whom he wanted to take to a small place called Mansar, some 80 kms ahead. The bus apparently had no space and all seats were full. He forced the bus driver to accommodate them. The conductor then began counting the passengers, in order to tell the policeman that the bus was full. The policeman didn’t relent of course and forced the 19 labourers enter the bus. Typically if you notice in the bus journeys, the first few passengers, who board the bus that has no empty seats, tend to stand right in the middle of the aisle or near the door and don’t prefer moving forward. Due to this, the passengers at the back, who are waiting to board, get stuck, causing delay. My another observation is that I see a lot of male passengers who, when they stand next to a female passenger, just don’t change their position. They try their best to stick to that space, no matter how much the problem in front or back. Either they enjoy the slight touches & get aroused or they try to lean themselves on the females and don’t want to let go of this position by moving away. No need to elaborate the intention here, I guess (Perverts) ! I just don’t realize how some people don’t get this logic. And I was so furious then. On seeing that people aren’t moving forward, the policeman then tries to make some labourers alight, boards the bus himself, does some pushing & shoving here & there, goes to the first labourer, slaps him hard and asks him to move forward. Again goes down, labourers get in and then all these are made to sit on the aisle. The bus is now overloaded heavily, a total of 85 passengers against the capacity of 66. Add to it, the size of the windows is small, which means air entering the bus only partially. The humidity and odour have increased and it is hell. At least 10 times post this, the bus was stopped for loo and thirst and all sorts of reasons. People also don’t go at once. When one passenger finishes his nature’s call, the other one pops up. WTF were you doing so long ? Didn’t you realize your upset stomach 5 minutes ago ? Then, alighting is also a painful experience on this route that I found out. When the bus halts at the bus-stop, people then tend to adjust, take out their luggage from seat underneath, pick up & come all the way from the back and take forever to alight. Why not be ready with all your stuff, 2 minutes prior to reaching your alighting point, so as to not waste any more time ? 🙁

And it’s not the first time this sort of travel happened to me. As far as in 2007 when I was coming back same route Jabalpur to Nagpur, a mentally unstable female on the road, shabbily half-dressed, who might not have taken a bath since may be 10 years, pelted a stone on the windshield while the bus was in motion and then the driver halted for over 45 minutes or so, not for repairing the glass but for finding the mad woman on the road and then people wanted to beat her for what she did. Then one intelligent fellow suggested that this woman needs to be taken to Police Station !! Can you imagine this ? I had kept 9 hours buffer for this journey and had booked Indian Airlines flight from Nagpur to Mumbai, that was scheduled at 8.30 pm. But I know my pain when I was about to reach Nagpur, was frantically looking at the watch and was so so so very angry on everybody, I knew on alighting that bus that I have missed my flight for sure. I thank God that the flight got late by 35 minutes and I was allowed to board. It seemed that the people of that region or on that route didn’t have any urgency of reaching their destination and had lots of time at their disposal. And like an idiot I was inside the bus, experiencing my first travel encounter in this part of the world. And it happens every time, some thing or the other !
I said earlier that I look forward to such Jabalpur to Nagpur bus journeys. When the place & route of travel is such that weird instances are bound to happen, you can’t help but positively take all that comes. Or if there is no hurry, say in case of Nagpur to Jabalpur journey, I think I will enjoy it & can laugh off the delay, because I know that even if I am a little late, it’s okay. But when it is the other way round & there is an onward flight to catch, I certainly would not like to see, meet and tolerate such mad people. 
** Photos are taken from the internet, for illustration and graphic purposes only

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