Cars and bikes…

I have been driving in Bangalore for the past 5 years now. When I moved back from the US I took a 6 month break from all driving, to rinse out any nice ways of driving, took off on two-wheelers all that while and then bought a used car to drive. The plan was to use it for 5 years and then look for a new car.

5 years have come, and I don’t intend to sell my car. The usage is so minimal that I don’t really need to change it. There is a temptation to go for an electric one, but again it’s costlier than a petrol car given the cost of battery and my usage. The more you use it the better it works out. In the current market, a petrol car works best if you don’t drive to work everyday.

But my plan is to hopefully sell my car and not own a car after that. Every time I drive, I come back home nerves frayed, after enduring what can only be called traumatic experiences. People constantly cutting in, slow moving vehicles suddenly speeding up without indication just because you might be thinking that since they’re slow you might take a right some 60ft in front of them. How can anyone allow that!

Two-wheelers doing blind turns, or blind lane switches, or just plain scared in some cases and taking over a whole 10 ft side of the road by plonking themselves in the middle and not responding to anything.

And then the signals. Each one at least 2-3 minutes and not guaranteeing a move ahead on green even if you’re 2 rows behind the front. Possible that one car couldn’t get started, usually private and you have to wait it out. And after all this, you fervently hope you don’t have to deal with a traffic jam.

I have tried everything – being stoic, being Zen, playing music and closing windows and trying not to care. Except that the experience of constantly jerking slow for near misses does get to your nerves. It’s like having your reflexes on every moment for an hour or two. We are just not designed for this kind of stress. The only thing that works is to give enough time to get to your destination, but it is mostly the constant reflexive nature of driving that gets to you.

The sad part is it feels so much better to be on the Bullet. I don’t cut people off like other idiots, follow lane discipline, and try to ride the way I want others to when am driving. And it is so much more stress free. Am not sure if it is just the bike experience or the thump of the Bull that helps here, but it is overall a much better experience than driving. Of course, the kind of experiences you usually hate are life threatening when on the bike. A goods vehicle that decides it has had enough waiting and suddenly hurries across the road, or BMTC buses deciding to jump signals, those are always there. Defensive riding helps, and if you’re the one at front your side of the road, you can expect to be cut off by crossing vehicles. The main reflex intensive nature of driving is not there. On the highways though, you have to deal with farmers on Hero Splendours spitting around them, or bikes with rowdies throwing out cigarette butts (not even stubbed), but on bigger highways safe distances can be kept. A lot of temper management is called for here.

I really wish one day I can sell my car off and just manage with the bike. When it rains there are always taxis or autos. Probably manageable. I don’t know. Worth trying some time, but given my usage am already doing it more often!

Can’t say where we are headed this way, every time things get worse we get used to it and move on to the next level of worse. Seems to be our fate.

Oh well, a pointless post, I know. But hey, didn’t want my blog to open with the last one for too long.🙂

 

Whither life, whither happiness?

I left my previous post hanging, to put some more working of some thoughts from the previous few months, in fact, the previous few years. Well, time has been hard, has not been ideal. If you had made plans, this wouldn’t be what you bargained for. In cricketing terms, you were looking at a 500+ score, but suddenly realised that you were 200/5. That kind. What is one supposed to do?

During some really bad moments, I looked forward, I looked really forward, and then I looked around and it made it all the more worse. Sometimes I felt I wouldn’t be making it that far ahead, that there would be no escape from current predicaments and bad days, that these bad days would eventually consume me. I worried for my future. In fact I obsessed, yearned, longed and pleaded for my future. But the present was unmoving, I still had to deal with it. Some nights I had panic attacks. Few moments when the heart beat faster, when there was a lot of sweat. Am not new to it, and am sure quite a lot of you have experienced it at times. Then there were moments of resentfulness, when I looked at others, and thought look how they dealt with it. Why not us?!

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The 14 year reflection post

August 5th 2002. The date we started earning money. We, as in, I and 7 others who joined you-know-which Chinese company. Fresh out of college, all deferential, and trying hard to be enthusiastic. There are some who are enthusiastic, and then there are those that just aren’t. Almost to the count, not a single one of us could summon up any reasonable ounce of enthusiasm. Am not talking about the basic stuff needed to get work done, we had enough of that, and some more. Am referring to that enthusiasm that makes people bubble and jump even when they are, on closer notice standing absolutely still. Almost all of us were mostly of even temperament with a fair degree of cynicism which we tried to hide, but realised soon enough that it’s par for the course.

Well, 14 years since I passed out of college. If I were Rama, I’d be returning home after defeating Ravana, memories of those days when I was booted out fading in the distance. Of course, given the nature of the adventures in the forests, am sure it would take some effort summoning up those days of adolescent joie de vivre.

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Climate schlimate

Am I a global-warming denier? For sure am not. I do believe and know for sure that the shit is real, and we are doomed. I did think that I might be insulated from those changes. Neither because of privilege or nor because I live in a country not likely to be affected(I don’t). But I expected the changes to kick in only towards the latter half of the century, and I should have comfortably kicked the bucket well before that. Turns out I am wrong. I am seeing, reading about, and feeling the changes in some cases already. And the full brunt might have to be borne as I age. How that will affect my savings/investments after I retire will need to seen. It doesn’t seem to be good news.

Now, are you a denier? I can safely say that if you have been following this blog and are reading about this, and haven’t gotten into a fight with me, you most likely are not. Almost all the people I interact with aren’t, mostly because I stay away from a certain kind of people. But this isn’t a poll to find out who is, or isn’t, a denier. Am going to assume you are not.

It isn’t easy being a denier if you keep even a semi-open mind. I remember when Modi first became PM and there was an interaction with students. “What do you think of global warming?”, someone asked. “Climate change? Is this terminology correct? The reality is this that in our family, some people are old … They say this time the weather is colder. And, people’s ability to bear cold becomes less,” he said. But then his manifesto already included tackling climate change. His steps and talk after this have all been about a non-denier. Not that that means actions have been in the proper direction. But am not going to talk politics here.

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Abachurina Post Office and Tabarana Kathe

At the very beginning, in a 3 page preface, KP Poornachandra Tejaswi starts with a methodical takedown of the Navya school of literature. Among the reasons, the main ones are that it has become stale, dominated by academicians and professors with no scope for others to enter, and that it has failed to address the life of the common man living in villages. With that, he starts off marking a separate territory that he calls ‘protest literature’ along the lines of Ram Manohar Lohia.

The ones I’ve read by him tend to be light, even while addressing critical environmental issues. I expected satire, dark humour. There is very little of that.

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Abachurina Post Office, the first story, starts off about Bobanna who’s a ‘temporary’ post master for a temporary post office. He doesn’t maintain much discretion with the mail, conducting open sit-togethers to write and read letters for the illiterate. Other posts are put in a kind of bulletin board where anyone can take a look and pass on the message to the intended. Things turn bad when he sneaks off a post card with a nude picture meant for his boss and he just can’t resist doing the wrong thing, read perverted thing, whenever the opportunity presents itself. Things turn really bad when a letter to someone about his daughter makes it to the ‘bulletin board’ and becomes the talk of the town. There’s so much to see here – Bobanna’s desperation, his mother-in-law’s control, the gradual breakdown of his family. This is almost RKN territory, but a lot darker, about how these innocent small town/village guys aren’t that innocent after all. Continue reading “Abachurina Post Office and Tabarana Kathe”

A conveyor belt of books

I signed up, yet again, for the Goodreads Reading Challenge. The goal is to get to 40 books this year. The goal is set by you, so you can set 100 if you want. 40 is a good number that I set because I know I can get past it. And I’ll also be able to do some decent reading. A 500 pager that takes 3 weeks won’t daunt me as much as if I had set the goal to, say, 60.

As we enter the second half of the year, I noticed that I had gotten to 21, in a canter. I took more than 3 weeks reading ‘The Cunning Man’, working my way back to time reading a book after bouts of illness all across the house. But I buttressed that with smaller books like a short story collection by Kalki and finishing off the last few pages of A.K. Ramanujan’s “Folktalkes from India”. The number is the goal.

I sit down and try to remember what all I read, and it isn’t easy. Books seem to come one after the other, making their marks while being read, but getting finished, and then you move on to the next one. It feels like a conveyor belt. But that is one risk that you do run when you read quite a bit, no? Some will stick longer, some not so much even if you really enjoyed reading them.

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End of June

June is not expected to be a great month. Unlike popular perception, it isn’t wet and gloomy usually; among wet months, it ranks below May. It’s windy as the Monsoons sweep through. This brings in a lot of dust and garbage from all over. I like the winds, coming as they usually are after a hot summer, and sometimes a rainy and stormy May. I like the weather in general. It is usually sunny with puffy clouds and lots of winds. Later in the day, you get windswept clouds. Early on in the month, it gets cloudy, and rains to show that the Monsoons are here.

This year has been crazy. You wake up to cloudy weather. Some days even drizzly weather. You watch those clouds hanging by all day. And then in the evening, they let go and it’s the usual chaos. You wake up again the next morning, hoping that all those rains would’ve cleaned things up, but no, it’s the same charade all over again. It feels like October. You’d think it’s nice to have these bountiful rains, except that KRS and other important dams have barely registered anything. Pretty much, all these rains fall on concrete and roads, and not adding up to any value. And you have flooded roads and a potential water shortage. Maybe I should put in a rainwater harvesting thing. But the area we have is pretty small, not sure how useful it will be.

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The part that gets me is how things are turning out for me this month. All cycling has been advanced to the morning, when am also needed at home. This means waking up crazy early, and pedalling out, hoping to return as early as possible and then deal with things.

By evening, the mood is generally off. Not too many people like a house that is dark at 4 PM. And then it starts drizzling and raining. An entire evening’s worth of cheer is gone. I like rains, mind you, except that I like them when they should be raining. Supposed to be dry and windy, and it’s raining means that when it should be raining heavier, it probably might not.

img_2892Oh well, sometimes I wonder if this is just a phase for me, and the weather is something I am railing against for not helping. A bit of sunny love would be nice though, but what does one do?

June is pretty much over. It’ll be July now. Supposed to be wetter than June, but not as much as August. I only hope for a break, something that I can catch my breath in, before I have to run again, cos God knows when I’ll get to stop again. But I feel hopeful at times when I realise I’ve been through all this with Amma’s health in 2012, then again in 2013, hitting a nadir in 2014 and getting back to some semblance of something in 2015. 2016, I feel hope with, but it might just turn out to be worse than 2014. The signs are all there.

But there isn’t much to do but fight. And fight we will. What else is there to do?

Update:

So it isn’t just perception. Bangalore has received more than 170mm of rainfall so far in June, while the average is around 89mm. Source: The Hindu.

Blank VI

He flashed a light from a hand-held gadget on my forehead. The device beeped after a few seconds. He looked at the number on the screen of it, gave a satisfied giggle and showed me the number. 37.6°C it said. “Did you see? Did you see?” He seemed to ask. 101° F, he translated for us. Paracetamols and Antibiotics. 2 500mg doses per day of the later. Won’t that be too much? No, at your age you can. (?!!)

“If it is caused by an infection, these will take care of it. If not, it would be viral, then you just have to wait it out. If the temperature becomes too high, wash your whole body with a towel dipped in room temperature water. Then stand under a fan on low to dry your body and wear something light after that.” I translated it to: I might not know what ails you or how to cure you, but I know pneumonia, so might as well give you that and fix it. I asked my father when he returned. NaaDaan method, he said(Country wisdom). Used to cure colds also. “Some people say it works.” Thus began 2 days of enduring fever that shot up, and kept going down, before staying in the 98s.

Continue reading “Blank VI”

Mane katti nodu – Bangalore style

A step by step guide to house construction in Bangalore.

  1. Start with a Bhoomi Pooja. Make sure you smirk at your future neighbours when greeting them. They have only an inkling of what’s going to hit them the next 2 years, and some hope it won’t be that bad. They have no idea!
  2. Send out the borewell truck on a Sunday morning. If not Sunday morning, then Sunday evening to go all the way into the night. Your site might get Cauvery water, and might not get permission to dig a borewell. But ‘permission’ is for suckers. Cover up only the adjacent building. Rest of them should necessarily drown in the dust.
  3. Cut all trees in the vicinity. Threaten any tree-hugging neighbours. Let them take photos though; they can’t do much with it. But be careful with the trees in front of their houses. You’ll only build with parking space for 3 cars, and when you buy your 4th car, you need some shade to park under. Again, “Permission is for suckers”. No one will give permission anyway. Worst case scenario, the BBMP fine is only Rs. 1000.
  4. Get a plan approved. Remember to leave a lot of space around the building in the plan you submit. Of course, only suckers leave any space around! You paid Rs. 6000 per sq ft, don’t waste an inch of it! BBMP won’t inspect, when they do, you can always “negotiate”. And remember, no one shows the top-most floor that you plan to rent out in the approval plan.
  5. Unleash construction workers, and their extended families. Take over half the road for their cabins, which won’t have toilets of course. How can they use the same sanitation pipe as yours? Chee chee! Let them find an empty site nearby to do their jobs, the same place they dump their garbage.
  6. Dump all your concrete bricks, sand and cement stuff on the road. You can take up half the road or even the whole of it. Your workers are inured to passers-by shouting at them, and know how to turn a deaf ear.
  7. Make sure all work, however noisy, especially the noisy work, starts at sunrise. You can’t waste an inkling of light! And not an inkling of the streetlamp light either. Make sure the workers don’t rest till 11 PM. If the neighbours think your roof is curing and there’ll be some respite, go have someone bang the boards holding them at 5 AM, and again at 11 PM. Don’t they know who’s building a house?!
  8. If your neighbours complain, don’t talk to them. Let the contractor deal with them. He has a standard line for them “You also built a house”. The equivalent of “we contractors are all alike” or the biblical “let the one without sin cast the first stone”. If you are caught alone with no contractor, smirk (see step 1) and promise to deal with it immediately. And go home. Anyway, who talks to neighbours these days!
  9. Cover up your storm water drain with granite slabs. You can use that to park more cars. Except that you won’t, what are neighbours’ trees for(See ‘3’ above)! The drain should be clear so that you can point to neighbours when clearing it. But no water can now enter it. When you clean your cars all that water should go down the road. People can trace the water source and see your shiny, freshly washed cars. If you’re looking for a place to put the stuff from your drain, the drain in front of the neighbour’s site is a good place.
  10. When you cut the road for sanitation or water, remember to place it after your gate, on the side you are less likely to take. One easy thumb rule: If you take right from the gate to go to work and the mall, dig on the left.  This will ensure you don’t have to spend the Rs. 500 on cement to close it up properly. Some mud will do the trick, cars passing by can level it up until the next rains. If you take both directions equally, just cement part of the road, the parts that you use. Can save Rs. 250.
  11. Make sure your carpenters and tile-layers are all from other states, ideally not even Hindi-speaking. This way they won’t have a home to go to, and can work from 6 AM to 11 PM, 7 days a week, usually for a pittance. Bonus: Neighbours can’t complain because of language barriers.
  12. Make sure you use a lot of granite. The more you put up, the more your status in society. People need to look at your house and admire all that granite. You did not cut down all those trees for nothing!
  13. Given that drains are all blocked, you might want to construct a few feet higher than ground. But then your cars would need a longer ramp. Takeover 5 ft from the road for your ramp. Don’t worry, it might be the best part of the road. Keep some rocks or show-plant pots on the sides to prevent people from using it though.
  14. Make sure there are no airy openings to the outside. You will anyway need an AC. You know how hot Bangalore is becoming these days. Leave some windowish glass openings for light. But LED lights can make it look like daylight these days, so windows are really just fancy archaic things.
  15. Throw a big fat house warming and invite all neighbours. Smirk(see point ‘1’ above) and say sorry for all that trouble over the past 2 years. Two years that might have left them with some form of PTSD for the rest of their lives.

Your modern Bangalore matchbox is ready.

The metro commute after 3 weeks

It’s been 3 weeks now of using the Metro for my commute. I resisted writing about it until the dust settles and some routine is established. And a routine is now established. It has been an interesting, and somewhat, tiring 3 weeks. It is not easy going from a sedentary, get in, sit down in a van near home and get out only at work, and vice-versa commute to a lot of walking. It will take some time for the body to get used to this. And it will be good to get all that walking done. There used to be a lot of that before the cab happened, and will take some time getting back to that.

The Metro itself:


This is the best part of the commute. Yes, the trains are crowded. Sometimes you have to stand, but it gets there fast and it isn’t stressful. My brain is still not used to getting to another part of the city that fast on weekdays! By the time you get within 4 kms of home, you’re supposed to have sat through multiple jams, not just breeze like clockwork. It’s just insane!

There are issues though:

  1. The frequency is…odd. For some reason they believe that in Bangalore more people commute between 12 PM and 3 PM, per train, than between 7:30 and 8 AM. They run once every 15 minutes until 8 AM, and every 10 mins after. It’s just…odd. Even though is isn’t technically peak hour when leaving, you do end up in peak hour traffic on Old Madras Road. And makes for very crowded trains in the morning. And if you miss one, the wait is pretty long for the next one.
    Even the evening trains are crowded. They do run trains every 7-8 minutes on weekends, hopefully regular weekday users can also be shown some love.
  2. The stations are somewhat hourglass shaped. To climb up, you start from a bottom side, climb up to the middle regions, then again diverge out and then get back to the centre. Makes for a lot of walking. But when you’re cutting too close to a train, it isn’t easy. But I guess that goes with a 3 tier system.
  3. Trains are massive refrigerators. This is kind of expected. Anyone who’s used BMTC Volvos will know that the only way AC services are deployed here is at high intensity. Who doesn’t like a nice cold box to travel in?

But yes, the frequency apart, rest is just nit-picking from my side. The Metro is the best thing to happen to Bangalore in a long time. And hopefully they’ll fix the frequency issue soon.

BMTC:

There wasn’t much good being expected here, but I was surprised that they seemed to pull up their socks and get some feeder services into play. With BMTC though, you really need to use a service to know how it works. And it’s not that good.

  1. A feeder should be aligned with some timing. If your metro is going to leave at 7:30 AM, ideally you target 7:25 AM so that you drop off people and pick up those who arrive by that train. But no, they run on independent schedules and even end up making you wait close to 15 mins. I almost missed a train because the driver was busy telling the conductor his life story and brought the bus down to a crawl on a road where the rest of the traffic was zipping at 70!
    From Byappanahalli, almost always the bus would’ve left a few minutes back! This means those in the previous train would’ve waited 10 mins for this bus to leave. But the feeders seem aligned at SV road, so that might be the route to take. But strangely, the conductor has to make entries near Byappanahalli. So you get in at SV road, the bus starts. Then stops at BYPL and waits while the conductor sorts out issues with the “entry” making there for some 5 minutes. I just don’t get it.
  2. While going, the biggest problem is the bus stop location. For Attiguppe, the station is exactly between 2 stops. Buses are willing to stop at the 2 different Chandra layout stops set 50m apart but not here. People getting down vs people getting in matters. But some drivers are nice enough to drop off people near the station, most aren’t. I did raise some requests on twitter and on their website. Not sure if anything is being done there. If you’re reading this, and use Attiguppe station, please file requests at mybmtc.com. They can at least have a “Request Stop” there.
  3. Topography of West Bangalore plays its part. Buses are fast on flat terrains. On slopes they either struggle to pull, or they have to keep one leg on the brakes to prevent it getting too much momentum. This means that getting past Chandra Layout which is almost a valley is a bit annoying.

The key is alignment of the two services here. If the train frequency is raised to once every 10 minutes, this wouldn’t rankle as much.

Traffic:

Sadly, traffic still plays a part on my return journey to get to the station. Just this Thursday there was a massive jam to get to KR Puram railway station. This meant that I missed 2 trains and took the 5 PM one, which was crazily crowded. And mind you this was just a traffic jam to cross some 500m. All caused because the timing on the traffic signal was too short. I wanted to get down and walk, but it had rained and the service road near B Narayanapura is now a functional landfill. You don’t want to walk near that!

Oh well, it is an interesting ride home. But if the traffic doesn’t play truant I am usually home in just over 1:30 hours. Considering that I leave by 4 PM, am home soon after 5:30 PM. Mornings am at work by 8:45 AM, no matter which bus I choose. Apparently, the tin factory pileup normalises all traffic. It’s around the same time that all the company cabs get in. I do manage to do a fair bit of reading on the train both ways, so am not complaining. And I don’t have to deal with traffic for the most part.

I did see a guy carrying a foldable cycle. They do allow that. So maybe that’s something to think of? There is ample parking at Mysuru Road station, a surprisingly humongous amount of parking to be honest. That could be another option, but the bigger problems are on the BYPL side, and I really want to be using buses to do the commuting. This can be a backup.

(Got cross-posted here.)