When kindness is in the driver’s seat

ANUSHA SELVAMANI

For the last four-and-a-half years that he’s been an SBS Transit bus captain, Prasad Gnanapragasam has seen his fair share of passengers – from the arrogant and abusive to the meek and kind-hearted.

So when he was abused recently by an elderly man who boarded the bus and sat down without paying the fare, Mr Prasad, 39, knew how to calmly deal with the situation.

The man, in his 80s, had apparently boarded the bus and refused to tap his card to make payment. When the bus captain reminded him about paying the fare, the older man allegedly yelled back: “So what? Call the police, you stupid man!”

He continued berating Mr Prasad, who all throughout, simply smiled and stayed calm, without replying. He then took out his own money and paid for the man’s fare.

After a few stops, the elderly man pressed the bell to alight, but he could not stand up and shouted for help.

Mr Prasad jumped out from his driver’s seat, lifted the man up and guided him down from the bus. He made sure the man was fine before he drove off.

The story was relayed to online news site Stomp by a passenger, Ms Sharon, who had also highlighted another incident that involved herself and Mr Prasad from two years ago.

That time, she had boarded a service 852 bus without her wallet. Mr Prasad gave her $10, not just for her fare, but also in case she needed money for the rest of the day.

Lauding the bus captain for his compassion and extraordinary service, Sharon had said at the time: “This handsome driver never fails to smile and greet every passenger, young or old, regardless of race, rich or poor. It really makes my day.”

Speaking to tabla! Mr Prasad, a former ambulance driver, said working as a bus driver is no easy feat. “You need to have endurance to deal with different people on a daily basis.”

Referring to the incident with the elderly man, he said: “I felt that there was no point in talking back to the uncle as at the end of the day we are strangers. I also felt that the safety of the other passengers on board was very important and that made me stay calm.” 

There are, of course, instances of kind passengers who, in recognising Mr Prasad’s efforts, buy him breakfast and fruits. “There was one time my passenger brought me mangoes from his trip to Thailand,” Mr Prasad said.

The bus captain, who has a seven-year-old daughter, left his job as an ambulance driver after just over a year to spend more time with his family.

While he primarily operates bus service 852, which goes from Yishun to Bukit Batok, Mr Prasad also drives feeder services 803 and 805.

“He never fails to smile and greet every passenger, young or old, regardless of race... it really makes my day.”
Bus passenger Sharon
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