Monday, August 6, 2007

bangalooroo blues...


When you look at a city, it's like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it.
It rains in Bangalore. Only when you forget to carry your umbrella. And the bus conductor asks for your ticket, just after you tossed it out of the window. Murphy was right all along.

So I had to get off the bus and take a little walk. There it was, the lush green Cubbon Park so famous for everything else but the foliage. According to the tourist brochure, Cubbon Park serves as the lungs of Bangalore as well as a popular tourist destination. Spread over 250 acres, the green park has various attractions such as the rose garden, children's play ground with toy train and several play equipments, the recently opened doll museum and an aquarium. The roads that cut across the lush green land offers an ideal place for joggers and walkers. And the trees and the bushes serve a haven for the Romoes and Juliets of this garden city.
However I have been long poisoned by urbanisation and gardens tend to give me goosebumps. So I headed for something overflowing with power, grandeur and filth: THE VIDHAN SOUDHA.
For a press student to enter the Vidhan Soudha is as difficult as morality entering into a politician’s blood. So I called a friend for somebody said once that today the world runs on contacts. Lo and behold, there I was, having fruit salad with white dhotied MLA’s. To further my excitement, I even got to enter into the assembly which was in session. They asked me to remove everything except my clothes. Sitting hundred metres away from the speaker, I wasn’t allowed to cross my legs out of respect. Nor could I make any noises whether voluntary or involuntary. I had to sneeze so I left after five minutes. The new annexe to the Vidhan Soudha called Vikas Soudha, is traditionally modern. Architecturally traditional and modern from the inside. It houses various public offices like Medical Education, Kannada and Culture, Food and Civil Supplies, Infrastructure, Ministry of Labor,etc It also has a very cheap canteen that serves the yummiest pakoras ever.

Next stop had to be the BMP – Bangalore Mahanagar Palike that is minimum rupees twelve by auto. If he charges more, it means you were taken for a ride (pun intended). So yes I found out that the Garden City has had no Mayor since November 23, 2006, after Ms Mumtaz. Now, the Administrator has been the acting Mayor.
The Members of the Legislature and the Members of the Parliament elect the Mayor annually through a general BMP election procedure. The Mayor is the candidate of the majority party, and is selected, generally, unopposed. Wondering why nobody wants to the Mayor of such a beautiful city, I ambled on for it was time to go to the Slum Clearance Board Office, which is in Church Street. This time I decided to rely on my sense of geography and walk it down. And yes, it was quite a distance. An autorickshaw ride was inevitable.
Bangalore city has more than 200 slums. Between 2002 and 2006, the HUDCO has spent Rs 170 crore on the slums. 4600 to 5000 houses are to be completed by October. The slums house immigrants from North Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. The largest slum in Bangalore is Lakshmananagar. Slum-free Bangalore: the target is to construct 34, 538 houses at a cost of 173 crores. Funding comes from the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, and would be 5,150 m long.

After all this, I had to go to the Electricity Office officially called BESCOM – Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd, and had to meet the Electrician officially called something I don’t remember. He told me something about safety policies that my mother has been telling me from the time I was five. The Company suggested steps like not touching snapped wires, not climbing electric poles, not to operate electrical switches and equipment with wet hands, and not tying animals to electric poles. It also advised people to take extra care during monsoon. I took a coffee break after this and watched pigeons answering natures’ call.

I then went and met the Executive Engineer of BWSSB (BANGALORE WATER SUPPLY AND SEWAGE BOARD). He said that there is no problem regarding water supply. But the reality I leave to the water purifier manfucturers. Do their “Aquaguards” sell?
At the BDA I had TC Kathayani tell me to research the net on BDA since she was very busy. Looks like the BDA has gone online.

After all the ‘beauracrazy’ I made my way to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sheshadripuram, who was not available. Wonder what or whom he was fighting during office hours.
Mr. Ramachandran is the inspector of the all-women’s police station (pun intended) located in Sheshadripuram. In the month of June 2007, 30 women walked in with complaints relating to dowry, sexual harassment and matrimonial problems. Cases are generally solved.

Bangalore seems to have more vehicles than Homo sapiens and so I set about to enquire about the parking system in the city. The city cannot manage multi-level parking because the number of vehicles has increased drastically from 3 lakhs in 1984 to about 30 lakhs presently. There were 3390 accidents May 2007, of which 352 were fatal. Hosur and Old-Madras roads are the most-accident prone areas. I can’t afford a car but I decided to be more careful while crossing roads after this.
Then to see something I will never be able to afford, I went to do a story on the Golf Course. Like the people who play, the facts that confronted me were also rather boring. They use ‘treated recycled water’ (almost the same stuff cold drinks are made of) and refuse to divulge any more information. Around 8 lakh liters of water is used per day. Hadn’t the BWSSB said there is an acute shortage of water?

This entire assignment was food for thought. And it left my stomach hungry and dry. Avoided all national food chains and headed for bisibelabhaat and filter coffee; the kannada way.