PROJECTS / BUS LE JANNE
"Bus le janne" means "to go by bus." This project documents the conditions and experience of travelling by bus in rural Nepal.
While living in rural Nepal, I frequently rode buses while moving between work sites. I added up the time once, and over the course of two years, around 2 months of my daylight hours were spent on buses. Most of the bus rides I took lasted 4-12 hours. On a 4 hour ride, there may or may not be a bathroom break. The buses are old and run down, with steel supports jabbing through worn-thin cushions. There is no space for your knees, many seats are broken, and AC unheard of. The roads are narrow, windy and in poor condition, the near lack of shocks causing riders to toss and turn with them… At least one woman throws up on every ride I’ve been on, without exception.
I rode like any other passenger. It is unusual for a foreigner to be on these buses, because hiring a private car or taking a “tourist” bus is relatively cheap for most visitors, and obviously preferred for the basic comfort they provide. But I preferred the bus, and enjoyed how I often found the same sense of community there that I did elsewhere in Nepal. Helping lift each others bags, offering your lap to a small child when the standing crowd threatens to swallow them, holding onto a stranger in a bear hug when stuck in the standing crowd yourself - we were in this bumpy ride together.
I later learned that the poor condition of the buses was due largely to the buses being run by a local mofia system – local groups holding monopoly on certain routes, threatening violence to any competition, and thereby having little incentive to improve bus conditions for riders. An unfortunate and wasteful systems that benefited a handful at the expense of everyone else. A captive population without other viable options, people ride the buses anyway, and only complain fleetingly with a “ke garne?” - what to do?