Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hopping In and Out of Delhi

It started as a mistake. All I wanted was to go to the National Gallery of Modern Art to attend an exhibition that I was planning to attend since the past 2 weeks. Being part of the location-based services industry and having armed myself with a companion as supportive as Little Talk (oops...I wanted to write a review of this newest addition to my gadget family. Shall do it soon.), it was quite natural to explore more of my city that I haven't had the time to explore in detail. So there I was at the bus stop on Parliament Street waiting for just another bus that can drop me off outside the India Gate circle. I intentionally avoided boarding the Metro despite having a smart card for wanting to be dropped off on a closer location saving the long walking time from Central Secretariat.

Enter the Purple Giant
Suddenly it emerged from a blanket of the Sunday morning fog, the purple bus. I know that this is a new concept and works better than the older version of DTC's Dilli Darshan, and the bus looks hospitable and cozy. After chasing it all the way to the other end of Jantar Mantar (After a 2-3 year gap, it is a little uneasy for me to chase buses now, though it has helped me to be fit all these years) the driver finally stopped and opened the door. The young lady at the conductor seat walked up to the door and ushered me in with a smile. I am told that this bus is a sightseeing bus, it covers 18 key destinations in Delhi, and that the boarding pass for a day would cost me Rupees 300 (approximately US $7).

The staff was friendly
For a moment I thought if it is actually worth the cost. Well, I decided to take a chance now that I was already in. As per my experience with the DTC, the first action of managing to hop on a giant is to rush to the conductor and secure a ticket. I made no difference here as well since I had more than one bad experience of paying up fines due to the conducotr's follies. Here the conductor (I would learn later that she is a Guest Relations Executive, and not a conductor as in the usual green giants) actually made me sit somewhere, walked in to my seat with a bag, sat with me and explained the route of journey, gave me a brochure with a route map and a  the bus time table and explained how the HoHo (hop on hop off) system works before asking about the ticket. That was indeed friendly, especially given that you are on a bus (that too a sarkaari bus) and not on SpiceJet or Kingfisher. Though I have spoken at length on various events about customer delight, this was one of the rare experiences where I felt delighted as a customer. I'll write about that in the other blog.

The journey was informative
The Guest Relations Executive on board has a pretty good idea about what s/he is explaining her guests on board. I don't expect them to be passionate about history or architecture (I am very particular on a few such matters though I do my own research before actually making my travel) but for a commoner the trip is quite informative. Even a non-active local like me, would raise eyebrows when she said "The erstwhile Connaught Place comprises 2 concentric circles renamed officially as Rajiv Chowk (we already know) and Indira Chowk after the two late Prime Ministers of India." Maybe I didn't pay much attention to the old signboards, but the new ones are flashier, largeer and scream out their place names visually louder.

Changes I like to see

Paying up Rs. 300 for a week's trip is great indeed. Locals like me trying to save working days can use two consecutive weekends to explore their city. Though it was a nice experience, there are some features I would like to see improvements on:

  • On-board snacks: Since several areas including Raj Ghat, the Museums, India Gate, etc. do not have any eatery around. I couldn't have lunch or snacks since it was an effort trying to save time on visits or wasting time on bus-stops. The time gap for buses is 30 mins, so you can't walk out too far to try a quick lunch. And the bus picks you up only at the bus stop only (adventurers beware!). Given the matter that most buses ply with near-vacant occupancy in these areas, it would be delightful to provide some snacks at an affordable rate.
  • Cheaper water: It would be worthwhile for DTC to follow the best-practice of providing free water bottles (200/250 ml) to guests on board. This can be provided along with the boarding pass, and the bus can charge people for each subsequent bottle and make the effort profitable.
  • Better language: I want to appear too nosy here like a teacher of English grammar, but it would be meaningful not  to make comments like "This tomb belongs to Hazrat Nizamuddin Ouliya" (I'm sure HNO was no Tutun Khamun to  acquire the land and get the tomb created before his own eyes). After paying up 300 bucks for the service, this is not what I want to hear from a host. Not sure what international guests would say.

The bottom-line

Overall it was an effort worthwhile and despite being a local, I enjoyed the sightseeing experience I never did before in any city of my residence. I would like to rate it 4 on a scale of 5. Good effort, madam Chief Minister!

Have you lived in Delhi or plan to visit here? I am curious to know about your sightseeing experience in your city of residence as well as others. Do please make your comments in the box below.

Up Next: LittleTalk - Talking All the Way

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