Published: 19th May 2021
This 27-year-old is a know-it-all when it comes to the public transport of Hyderabad. Here's how it happened
Sai Ratna Chaitanya Gurugubelli is our new favourite person to follow on Twitter for a very good reason. And if you have fond memories of travelling across the city by bus, you will follow him too
For Sai Ratna Chaitanya Gurugubelli, 1K/229 is not just a bus that took him from his school in BN Reddy Nagar to Dilsukhnagar, it's an emotion. Because it is while travelling on this bus that the 27-year-old fell in love with buses themselves. For someone who was introverted, the journey always mattered more than the destination. Despite living in other cities, like Visakhapatnam, Chennai and Bengaluru, where he continued to be a patron of public transport, his affinity for TSRTC (Telangana State Road Transport Corporation) buses continued to grow. He graduated with a BArch degree from Sri Venkateshwara College of Architecture (SVCA) in 2015 and along with this, his hobby of bus-observing also had the opportunity to grow. With Hyderabad Urban Labs, a think tank, he started mapping the bus stops of Hyderabad. He had the good fortune of working with two more think tanks — as a Research Associate in Transport Training at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), Chennai, and as a Consultant with WRI India, a position he continues to hold. With this, he took a one-way ticket into the field of transport advocacy and research.
"Initially, all my knowledge was operational and came from the news. But after working with Hyderabad Urban Labs, I met union leaders and conductors, including female conductors. That's when I started thinking deeply about public transport and how important it is to society," recalls Sai Ratna. All this knowledge particularly came to good use during the TSRTC strike in 2019 where he became an important resource person for many journalists. He continues to be a treasure trove of knowledge when it comes to the buses of Hyderabad and shares these nuggets of information on Twitter quite often. Needless to say, this writer is one of his followers.
Sai Ratna | (Pic: Sai Ratna Chaitanya Gurugubelli)
Just before the current lockdown was announced, Sai Ratna started experimenting with ride-along videos, where he boards a bus, takes the window seat (he detests aisle seats!) and just shoots the road ahead. These are available on his YouTube channel, Gurugubelli Sai Ratna Chaitanya, for all of us to see and reminisce. We particularly love the Ride Along 5K video because of its beautiful view of Hyderabad's iconic Tank Bund. Speaking about the lockdown and public transport, the youngster says, "TSRTC is going to lose a lot of money. The buses used to clock nine lakh kilometres before the lockdown which came down to eight with the night curfew and now, the number is at one lakh." The employees have been requesting the state government to declare them as frontline workers as well. He goes on to add, "Things have to get much worse before they can get better for the public transport of our state."
Sai Ratna sees his career panning out in Hyderabad, in the field of transport advocacy and research, and he strongly feels that with the right institutional backing, he can achieve a lot more. For now, he is enjoying the journey that this field is taking him on.
Insider view | (Pic: Sai Ratna Chaitanya Gurugubelli)
All that you did not know about buses of the City of Nizams
- All the buses have the letter 'Z' in their registration number and this has been the case since their inception in the 1930s. Rumour has it that it's a tribute to the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan's mother Amat-uz-Zahra Begum
- The bus 47L takes one along of the coolest routes and show different parts of the city, right from Secunderabad Junction and Clock Tower to Film Nagar
- Bus number 7 is the only route that has retained its number from before independence. It goes from Aramghar to Secunderabad via Tank Bund
- Until the 80s, all bus depots had their own signs. Ranigunj had a crown on top of it while Musheerabad had two minars
- For the last six years, there have been no new buses added to the fleet in Hyderabad
For more on him check out twitter.com/CityOrdinary or cityordinary.wordpress.com