Thursday 30 April 2015

Bangalore will always be home

City planning to me for the longest time meant people with some knowledge and ability to apply their mind planning for the betterment of the city. 

In the past decade or so, the way our city has changed for the worse, being plundered and taken apart bit by bit has made me wonder what the hell planners were doing? Every single problem has increased in such unbelievable proportions that it feels like it has reached a point of no return. Traffic, garbage, disappearing lakes and lung spaces, pollution - yes the population has increased, of course it will and there are more generations coming after us and that is why it is called planning! 

Then I think, it is city planning. The word planning in our city’s case seems to be subjective. Planning on how to make a handful of people prosperous? It does not say “city - betterment - planning” or “Bangalore Development For All Authority” anywhere does it. It is sad to think that public in a city of 10 million does not have a voice and the sounds made by some are mere squeaks.

That being said, I know for sure that our family and that of many many others will simply not throw up our hands and go with the flow. We will still do unheard of things like follow rules and unthinkable things like standing up for our rights. Not going with the flow does take a lot of energy out of simple living but that is the least we can do. We will keep squeaking!!

Monday 1 December 2014

Memories that no cussing, cursing or bullying will take away!

Trying to keep my blog alive!!

I am a two wheeler rider. By definition, two wheeler riders are a set of people cussed at, cursed and bullied every single second somewhere in the city. Whether they deserve it or not, whether the same can be said about other road users or not, is not the point. This is about me. I am a good citizen who is very clear on the fact that traffic rules are not subjective. I use all modes of transport to commute. I am a pedestrian, use public transport, haggle with the auto drivers and am a passenger in our family car. If there is a pecking order by size, number, sound, emission, you name it - I have been through it all. Darwin is in my memory everyday when I take the bike out to go drop / pick up my younger one to and from school 2.5km.

Not all my bike instances are frustrating or nerve wrecking. Even today, more than 20 years of riding, some bike related memories can make me laugh out loud. I have tried very hard not to punctuate all lines with a smiley.

In school I used to ride with my sister on a TVS 50. The uphill on Mysore Road opposite the satellite bus stop somehow seemed steeper in those days, the TVS would almost grind to a halt and I would get off and start running to the top of the hill while my sister in her well starched and ironed Bengal cotton saree pedalled her way up.

The college section is a treasure trove of memories. It was still a TVS, but a TVS XL this time, another sister was done with it and it was mine. Didn't bother naming it though. For a long time I didn't even know the number plate because I knew where it was parked but friends who needed to borrow it would call me names. I once found green insulation tape, tried making my bike look cool, failed so miserably that I informed everyone that it was done for bike identification purposes. Every time it rained, my bike would protest so I never stopped and kept going, drenched to the bone but many times have pulled over long enough to call my mom from a PCO to ask her to turn on the geyser.

Biker sisters -
Reshma - she knew exactly which Liberty shoe she needed to buy because she needed the extra grip to supplement her Luna brakes. We have bike pooled for years, all the last minute cramming and knowledge exchange on the bike is what helped us get a degree.

Aparna - nevermind the bike she had. If you saw her posture on the bike, you would only think she was in a chariot and she was THE queen.

Aravinda - I tried so much to convert her into a biker ....... till she missed a flag pole and an old lady sitting on the footpath. I was an adrenalin junkie and could keep going but she gave up.

Nandini - forget the speed the bike was moving at, watching Nandu move was the fun part. Nandu and Leena had this thing of embarrassing me, they'd be yodelling on their bike riding alongside mine till I turned off at golf course

Rekha Daga - I could not only hear Rekha's narrations at the back but I could also imagine her gesticulations. Her sister once asked me if I could see the expressions and hand movements behind my back.

Rekha Pillai - I never would think riding a bike was such serious business. We would ask her to relax and give us her brilliant smile.

Georgie - my faithful pillion. It was like my bike had its own juke box when we were on the bike. She would take care of all the swearing and swear words when she was with me.

When I began work, my bike meant much more. It helped me discover the city! Whether it was field work, going to schools or government offices, exploring all roads and figuring out peaceful routes was all me and my bike. I remember road and areas in the city because I have been there on my bike. On foot, crossing roads does stop my heart momentarily, so I do hold the hand of the closest person. To my colleagues it was something they joked about, how someone on a 100cc geared bike rode with confidence and needed a hand to cross roads.

When I set off every morning to drop the little one off and as we start moving I say "hold on tight" he goes "you know she's a little bit dangerous", this makes me grin the most. I am not dangerous, I am a defensive rider but I will stand my ground.

I cannot help the false sense of entitlement motorists may feel on roads, but after seconds of being wronged and losing my temper, I now pick one bike memory, relax and continue about my business on my bike.  

Monday 3 March 2014

Lok Sabha Elections 2014 - An opportunity to pick the right lawmakers!

Why? But .... Why? I don't understand .... why not? Why should? Why can't? ..... these are not the "whys" I hear from my kids but the "whys" that I wonder about on day to day dealings that begin every time I read the paper, step out of home or even just chat with a random person.

Working on urban issues has just made these "whys" more specific in nature and has made me a find-outer! Initially I was pretty embarrassed my knowledge about civic duties and responsibilities of an individual / elected representative / establishment / service agencies / judiciary was so poor. Then told myself, it's not expected of one to remember everything one learnt in class 8 civics, felt better and continued on my journey of being a find-outer.

I'm not a professor in political science or a part of the establishment, I am just another citizen. I spent my entire life in this city and like old folks say, I've seen it change - geographically, physically, spatially, technologically, you get the drift. The city has come a long way, not because of any government but because cities also progressively evolve. I have stood in queues to fill water from tankers, to pay bills, to get wrong bills rectified, to get my bus pass attested by school, to trade in coins at a bank for some crisp notes, to register post letters, for my LL and then my DL and in the process learnt queue discipline, patience and never had to resort to speed-money. I have complained to the police as a pre teen when my dog went missing (called back when he came home a couple of days later), ran from one police station to another as a teen after an auto driver made away with my sister's suitcase, a few years later chased the cops to file a FIR after my house was ransacked and fought with the constable who asked me for tea money after walking around in circles in my just-ransacked-home and as recently as a couple of years ago, stood by my husband as he fought a case against the traffic police. I have had my fair share of the system. At every election since I could vote, I’d step out with the family and go vote, no questions asked, it was a done thing, almost like a habit and even if I jokingly asked anyone who they voted for they’d seriously say “secret ballot”. It did take me a couple of elections to understand the enormity of the responsibility on each citizen to make the government “of the citizens” function “for the citizens”.

It is difficult to motivate people into doing something they really have lost hope in. I wonder if facts will do the work? Here is an article I in Citizen Matters on the election the RIGHT MPs to the Lok Sabha 2014. Yes I am hopelessly hopeful that “my country will awake”.

Monday 29 April 2013

Being a part of the solution, one solution at a time ......

If there is a problem it makes more sense if you are involved in the solution. You know you are trying no matter how complex the solution is ....... 

The list is endless if we sit down and jot our troubles, especially those with our city. When we so vociferously demand our rights I feel a key citizen responsibility is to vote in the right people. There may not be information on every single candidate of every single constituency but there is a lot more information out there than previous elections, choosing by eliminating all the crooks is a good point to start at. 

I shared my personal views on why I feel every individual matters in this write up - 

Overall, the outcome may not be very different from earlier but it will be interesting to note if there were any close shaves or surprise victories ...... something that is a positive indication that a small change is beginning.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Running for IKSHA - This time it's for the parents

A chronic sniffle that my child has is enough cause for me to be worried. Many a time, during emergencies, even with all the conveniences I have I'm at a loss of sorts wondering what to do. 

The other day I was reading the health progress reports of our Iksha kids - it is a known fact that they all come from families living on a hand to mouth existence - what stood out most was, no matter what their circumstances  the parents ensured that the kids were in hospital as directed by the doctor for their treatment, many a time forgoing their daily wages for a couple of days and making arrangements for their other kids to be taken care of. In a condition like retinoblastoma, it is extremely critical that the kids come for treatment on time. 

I have had the chance to meet a couple of mothers with their kids at the hospital, they are aware that the cost of treatment is huge and their main responsibility is helping the child get better - you see it in their attitude, despite the unimaginable hardships they face, they are cheerful and treat the kids normally and encourage the kids to get better. 

I now understand more than before how every rupee I raise from donors like you is critical to these parents being "parents". I dedicate my run this year to THE PARENTS of the kids supported by Iksha foundation. 

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Step it up!

My classmates from Pondy Univ will laugh their heads off if I told them I could name a few birds. Ornithology and any ecological study to do with birds was something I kept away from in those days. I felt strongly about insulting our fair feathered friends by calling them a wrong name, spotting them and figuring out who they exactly were was (is) such a challenge for me, I'd rather be happily immersed in all the garbage projects.  

Years later a son comes along and for whatever reason (can even be peer pressure) wanted to know if the bird he spotted was the bird he thought it was. He'd flip through my bird book and show me something and tell me why he thought what he spotted was that particular bird. Now, I tried "I'm a biologist but don't know EVERYTHING let me check and get back to you" line many times, but then the fear that his wrong assumptions being worse than no assumptions prodded me into learning a few names to begin with. I realised if I had to keep up with him I had to step it up and singing "....he'll know much more than I'll ever know..." won't do! So this October when we went to my parents place, bird watching was our main activity. With a little help from the great SAs bird book, my siblings and Dr M B Krishna, I managed to identify and show Nishanth a whole new bird world. And the good part is we had a Karan walking behind us asking if it was a pum-headed-pakeet or a dongo and the older sibling would take pains and pride in explaining to him what bird. 

Sometimes you just have to step outside your comfort zone if that difference has to be made ..... I am still trying .... 

Sunday 28 October 2012

Green Info to reduce your carbon footprint

I am a believer that civic and environmental awareness is critical if one wants to see change at a community level or city level. It is not like every one who is aware will do the right thing but even is a small percent did, it would matter. 

This blog is wholly a SHARING EXERCISE of information that is already out there - The Green Life by Latha Anantharaman, a series of 10 articles featured in The Hindu.  

The names of the articles itself will give you a sense of the topic :) ..... the articles have a little (or a lot) of 'this' and 'thats' that we can internalise in our day to day routine / life to make a BIG difference.

1. How to Trash That -

2. It's all about easy composting -

3. A Thriftier Kitchen -

4. Hole In The Bucket -

5. More Power to you -

6. There Will Be Mud -

7. The Minus Touch -

8. Shop Talk - 

9. Drive to Change - 

10. Travelling Light -