What Riding On the BEST Bus in An Age of Uber Taught Me


What Riding On the BEST Bus in An Age of Uber Taught Me

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty


or the past 10 days, my commute to work has taken place in the comfy confines of an air-conditioned cab, which shows up on demand and if I’m lucky, it even allows me to watch TV on a tiny screen. I hate it. I hate it not because Uber and Ola seem to be dead-set on burning a hole in my already-empty wallet, but because the convenience I experience only reminds me of what I’m missing — my usual commute in the big red machine, Mumbai’s BEST bus.

I’ve been a regular BEST passenger for years now, but recently, the longest strike in BEST’s history meant the unmistakable red buses have been off the road for the past 10 days. Though the service might have deteriorated over the years, the BEST remains a lifeline for lakhs of commuters each day, and like me, they’ve been hit hard by the strike. In a city where most of the residents can scarcely afford a private vehicle, the BEST is not only an important mode of transport, but also a hub of community and a source of entertainment.