Thursday, June 16, 2011

Collective Venting

Yet another ping-from-oblivion attempt to resuscitate this blog.

I have the urge to vent out my ire/frustration/desperation/anger on a lot of things. So, I will try to do it in the subsequent paragraphs in as methodical a way as the venting allows.

Roads, more roads, wide roads, jams, roads, more roads, wide roads ...
On June 5th the residents of Malleshwaram, Stella Maris School and Hasiru Usiru organised a protest against the planned road-widening in Sampige Road and Sankey Road. A quick list of tangible items that will be lost:
  • People's homes, shops, means of livelihood (for street vendors)
  • Entire building of a school
  • Trees
The arguments thrown against us before/during/after the protest:
“You want wide roads in front of your homes, but not in other places.”
If they ones (MLA's coterie) who said this had even read the pamphlet, they would've understood that we do not wide roads anywhere.

“Cars moving faster will reduce the emissions.”
A reason that was thrown from multiple people, and one that I've heard for quite some time now. It is laughable! If people want to reduce emissions, they should take public transport. The problem is that the middle class/upper middle class has become so elitist that they consider buses as something only the poor will/should go in. And they are never afraid to bring up the “democracy” card – we will buy cars and we will drive them; we have that right.

I absolutely agree. But what you don't have the right is to bloody complain about traffic congestion. The cars are the damn CAUSE of traffic congestion! If each single occupancy car was removed off the roads and brought into buses, there will be no traffic problems!

On the other hand, wider roads only encourage more private transport. And this doesn't lead to less emissions.

What about pedestrians?
In this insane urge to pander to the auto-mobile users, the majority (in terms of numbers) of the road users are ignored. In Bangalore, around 50% of daily commute happens using public transport. How will people be able to walk to/from the bus stands, if vehicles are constantly zipping by on signal-free roads.

The immediate reply to this - “We'll construct subways, sky-walks.” Sigh!
So, yesterday, when Vinay asked the MLA how the physically challenged or senior citizens would be able to climb up subways/sky-walks, he responded, “We'll build lifts!” Sigh!
We aren't able to guarantee electricity for street lights, but we'll be able to maintain these lifts?

Therein lies the basic problem. Policies, decisions, initiatives are all taken without worrying about how it will affect the most unprivileged. It's just about self-convenience.

Self-convenience (or just selfishness?)
As part of the road-widening on Sampige Road, the BBMP workers began to demolish the compound walls of Mantri Mall and Mantri Greens (an up-scale residential complex). The residents came out with sticks to beat up the workers.

Now, it's quite likely that, when talking about tribals fighting for their rights, these same residents would have spouted the usual “No one can take law in their hands. The tribals have to fight through democratic means.” And here they are (these residents) who have no compunction in beating up the workers. Talk about irony … or is it just hypocrisy?

“Democratic means”
Another buzz-phrase that is thrown around by a lot of people (especially in the online space) - “democratic means”. What this means is that people have the democratic right to protest … within certain parameters; and the parameters could vary, but the end-goal is always the same. Do not inconvenience the apathetic public.

Yes, violence can never be condoned. So, people protest on the streets. Or go on fast-unto-death protests. And both these non-violent forms are unacceptable, apparently. The former, because it “blocks” traffic, and the latter, because it is tantamount to blackmail.

So, what are people left with? Elections once every five years? Online petitions? Or, anything that doesn't affect the comfortable lives of the privileged.

Yes, self-convenience indeed holds the reins. Wonder what it will take for this grip to loosen.

Anyway, time for more protests. Life, it goes on.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NIMBY → Ningaeno?

Few incidents in the recent (actually, not so recent, as this post has been a long time in the making) past.

Incident 1:
I was cycling to work, up Magadi Road. The signal turned red, and a huge line of vehicles waited. A guy in a motorbike honked to get past me. I let him so that he could wait behind a push-cart that waited along with us. We were between a bus on one side and the footpath on the other. The signal turned green, and immediately the biker next to me began honking. Incessantly. The push-cart just stood as there were a lot of vehicles in front of him. That didn't deter the biker. So I turned to him:
me: Yaakri isht horn hoditheera? [Note the respect in “yaakri” and “-theera”]
Why are you honking so much?
biker: Ningaeno? [Note the respect ... or lack of in the “-no”]
What's your problem?
[It amazed me then how just a single word could provoke me so. The amazement wasn't that surprising on hindsight.]
me: Avar yel hogthaare? Yel jaagaa idhae? Isht joraagi horn hodhrae, nam kivi-ge kashtaa agalva?
Where will he go? Where is the place? If you honk so loudly, aren't you troubling our ears?
biker: [Raises his hand to slap/beat me]
[Still amazed ...]
me: Yen kai yeththaidheeya? Yeththidhre kathrisaakbidhteeni! [So ya, I finally had to descend to the “no-respect” zone. I honestly tried not to.]
What are you raising your hands for? Raise them again, and I will chop them off!
biker: Baere yaaraadhru complain maadthaaidhaaraa?
Is anyone else complaining?
me: Aa gaadi-avaruna kaeli. Haelthaare ...
Ask that cart guy, he will tell you ...

But the cart guy had left. There were other people honking from behind us. And we went our ways. It was another 20 minutes before my anger subsided. Somewhat.

Incident 2:
Was driving the car after a 3 week break. With parents and Anitha. We were waiting at the Chord Road, Rajajinagar 1st Block signal. Thanks to the supreme holy cow Metro (not going to throw ire at this target in this post) work, signals are longer than usual. Which is good if it gives pedestrians more time to cross. Unfortunately, it's just vehicles taking more time to cross. So there were a lot of vehicles waiting on the road perpendicular to us (Wockhardt to ISKCON). The pile-up resulted in people taking the service lanes. Which is still fine. Then those bastards decided to break all possible rules (jump signals, wrong side, block traffic) and get into the main lane ... when they should have taken a left, a U-turn and then get back to the signal.

This resulted in vehicles getting blocked. People who couldn't turn left on to the road as all these people were blocking their path on the wrong side. A biker was standing across the divider. So I turned to him (I realise that most of my confrontations begin with a “I turned to him.” Maybe I should just look straight ahead. Hmm ...):
me: Yaakri wrong side-alli idheeraa? Traffic block maadthaidheera!
Why are you on the wrong side? You are blocking the traffic!
biker: Ningaeno?
(does it need translation?)
[Holy crap! Was there a school that primed these people to dole out the Ningaeno? reply?]
[I don't remember exactly how the conversation proceeded. It involved a lot of swearing. Words that my mom probably thought never existed in my mouth. And more swearing.]

After this went on for a few more minutes, and the biker actually went away ... in the right direction, my mom asked me, “Avan solradhu saridhaane? Vaera yaarumae edhum sollalle? Namma mattum edhukku sollanum?” (What he is saying is right? Is anyone else complaining? Why should we complain?) I didn't say anything. My mom continued, “Un health-dhaan spoil aagum.” Of course, she had also joined in the shouting-fest with the biker.

Later that night, Anitha, “I was really scared ... seeing you so angry!” But ya, they both know that I would do this again. And again. And, so would they.

Probably why avoiding all private transport seems to be the best option right now.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. We used to think that NIMBY was the reason for a lot of our problems (be it small-scale or large). It was a common attitude to ignore things happening as long as it was Not In My Back Yard.

So, are we now moving to an even more socio-path-apathetic state. Now, people aren't satisfied in not questioning the wrongs happening in general, but also make it a point to question the right to question. And that scares me. But doesn't deter me. Which means a lot more fights, a lot more confrontations, and a lot more stressed out days.

And moments of self-restraint when the BMTC driver decides to overtake another bus instead of giving way to an ambulance? Maybe not.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel

This saying almost always has a positive connotation. I experienced one of the exceptions today.

I was getting back from work on Nanda Talkies Road. Ya ya, the same road for which we in Hasiru Usiru had a lot of protests to prevent if from being butchered by the behemoth Metro. So at the beginning of the road, I wondered for the millionth time on the tree cover. The dip in temperature as you enter the road is astounding. Light seldom permeates through the thick tree cover. It is literally like a tunnel. And as I kept going on the road, I could see faint snatches of the light. Closer. Closer. And then, out of nowhere was the source of the light ... absolute barrenness!

Half of one of the umpteen Lakshman Rao Parks had been decimated. Enclosed within the shining green (ah the goddamn irony) Namma Metro barricades. It was a painful reminder of our failed protests.

Fruitless or Toothless?

On the days of the Lalbagh and Metro protests, we would have a plea of hope from Boda. It was very simple, “Each one of us should get ten more people” and the increased numbers will help the cause. Every protest, all we provided (and received) was a slap in the face! We managed to get 300 people for ONE protest. That's it.

Why was that? Apathy? Cynicism? Disagreement?

Disagreement might have been the main reason. And that is fair enough. People didn't agree with our cause. With our arguments against the Metro. Against the tree-felling. Fair enough. What hurt was the percentage of “agreers” who actually turned up. Even if 1% of them had gotten out of their seats and showed up, things could have been different. Maybe.

Shut the @#$% up!

There is this overwhelming urge in me to scream at the next person who says he is saddened by Bangalore's loss of green cover. If that person couldn't turn up and be one of the faces/voices for our cause ...

Never mind. I do not want to continue the post in this manner. I will just end it with ANOTHER request for people to turn up for the next protest. Tentatively on the 24th of October.

See you all there.



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bearded days ...

I know what you are thinking. You expect me to write a post talking about how it's been a long time since I visited this part of the woods, blah blah ... well, that is true. But nope, I am not going to talk about all that. Instead, just like a Michael Bay movie, let me jump right to the action.

So this morning I was walking from the Mambalam station in Chennai to my aunt-uncle's house. It was 5 in the morning. Barely a furlong (it was shorter than a furlong ... but I like to use the word since I have no clue how far/near it is) from the house, a policeman stops me ... and this conversation unfolds:
Policeman: Hey, where are you coming from?
Me: From Bangalore. Now I am walking from Mambalam station.
P: Come here, show me what's in your bag.
I open my bag and show him what's there.
P: What do you do?
M: I am a software engineer.
P: You don't look like one. You look like a terrorist ... like Osama Bin Laden.
I keep quiet.
P: Show me your ID card.
I show him.
P: See (pointing at a clean-shaven version of me) ... this is how you should be. What can't you be?
M: I am sporting a beard for style ...
P: But anybody who is a terrorist has a beard ... don't you know that?
M: Not true. I can show you photos of terrorists without a beard.
P: No way.

At which point, I decide that 5 in the morning isn't a good time to get into an argument. I just smile and walk home.

And after the “action” comes the rumination. I remembered Rajjo telling me about the time he visited Lincoln Memorial (or was it the White House?) with an unshaven look and everybody kept staring at him. So, we've reached that stage finally. We had probably reached that stage quite some time back; it just caught up with me now.

So what do I plan on doing? I needed 2 seconds to decide ... I've found a solid enough reason to keep the beard now. It's my own crusade of sniffing out the bigots of society.

On a slightly related note, later in the day, I was at the client office and needed to use the rest-room. I go to the end of the corridor and see doors – Ladies, Managers, Gents. And no I am not trying to channel Dilbert-isms here. I was genuinely shocked to see this. Do managers pee nectar? What sort of company even comes up with such practices? Again, there are probably a thousand companies in the world that practise such “discrimination”, it's just my first time.

I am really pissed.
(and not the managerial kind!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Save Lalbagh: Explore Alternatives for Metro

Please read the petition and sign it. Thanks.

Here is the link.