Friday, April 30, 2004

Bidding good-bye to more green life

The BMP is planning to widen the Airport Road starting from the Command Hospital junction all the way for another kilometre and half in the direction of Domlur. The BMP is negotiating with the defence authorities since its their land that lines this entire stretch of Airport Road which is adorned with Ashoka trees on one side and rain trees on the other. No prizes for guessing what's going to follow.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Bhoomi Jatre's second year

Bhoomi Jatre, the all night music, dance and film festival that began last year as a tribute to the earth will be organized this year too. Organized by the Artists Action Group at Fireflies, Dinnepalya Village, off Kanakapura Road, the festival is a celebration of the city's own musical and artistic repertoire. For details on tickets and other information read this

One-way confusion continues

The traffic police are back again at their favourite pastime. Turning all of the city's roads into one-ways in the name of scientific traffic management. I haven't come across one soul who believes that the one-way system has made things any better. Its only increased confusion and commuting times. In the latest move, the powers-that-be have fiddled with the one way system on the roads around the KR Circle-Mysore Bank Circle area. Its beyond me to figure out what the latest changes mean.

Unisys back in India

Unisys, one of the older technology companies, which had a direct presence in India till about 2000, through a tie-up with the Tatas is now back in India. Unisys will invest US$ 180 million to establish a technology centre, quite predictably, in Bangalore, and that's the reason this post is here :-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Plastic Roads

The BMP proposes to lay over 800 kms of roads in the city with plastic mixed in bitumen. Already 40 kms of such roads have been laid on Cunningham Road, Old Madras Road and the Outer Ring Road. Waste plastic is sourced from rag pickers at Rs 6 per kg and used for this purpose. These roads have been found not only to be more durable, they are also water resistant and therefore no potholes are formed. In addition non-biodegradable waste like plastic is put to use and a section of society makes a livelihood out of it as well.

Better care could have saved trees

Mr S G Neginhal, former Conservator of Forests, speaks about how better care can save road side trees in the Hindu

Food courts

More than a year ago, the BMP proposed that it would set up food courts in major localities across the city and ban the vending of food by the roadside in unhygenic conditions. According to this report in The Hindu, the BMP is yet to get the project off the ground because it cannot find suitable locations.

From controversy to green beauty

The 6 acre piece of land in one corner of the South End Circle (formerly Cauvery Circle, now TheeNamShree circle, but never mind) that was at the centre of the Revajeetu land scandal way back in the early 80s involving then Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, was lying as a waste land for over a decade. Now, it has been developed into a beautiful park with several young trees on the verge of spreading their canopies. Maintained by the Surana College that is situated close by, the park is adjacent to the new office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) which will give it ample protection from miscreants.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Skyrocketing rentals

The IT boom has meant that there has emerged a divide between the haves and have-nots even among working professionals. Thanks to this class of people being able to afford exorbitant rentals, middle-class families with incomes coming from with jobs in banks, private firms, government undertakings, factories, and teachers are increasingly finding it difficult to find decent accomodation in the city at affordable rates. Of course, economics, demand-supply theory and market forces can explain it all away, but even certain geeks have begun to shudder at the rentals in the city. Going vertical, developing new townships and importantly making downtown easily accessible from those places are some ways to ease the pressure. With several IT companies now moving to their own campuses on the outskirts, more people might also begin to live closer to them provided of course all amenities are available at a short distance from there. Read The Hindu's story on this.

Summer 2004

I am sure you have heard those stories about there never being any fans in use in Bangalore some 30 years ago and how the city's "salubrious" climate has taken a turn for the worse with AC sales booming in town. Although summer 2004 is the hottest in 5 years, meteorological data does not support a drastic increase in temperatures over the years. What has begun to make a difference perhaps is that shadow temperatures and ambient temperature which were probably much lower earlier because of lesser concrete and pollution. Anyway, read this .

Towards participative governance

A concept on the lack of which I had touched upon very briefly somewhere below. Now there is something that could take it towards becoming a reality. The Ideas for Governance Trust says it will help citizens get their ideas, for improving governance in all spheres of life, across to the administration and various civic bodies. Citizens can send in ideas related to city governance, city planning, civic assets, traffic, waste management among other things. It helps that the trust has been floated by V Ravichander, (when he is not doing this, he is the Chairman and CEO of a city based firm called Feedback Business Consulting) who is a member of both the BATF and Janaagraha, two reasonably successful attempts at involving corporates and citizenry in governance. To contribute your idea, logon to the IdeasForGov website.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Global Village

This is not about Marshal McLuhan's theory but the new IT park that has come up on Mysore Road, just 12 kilometers from Vidhana Soudha, half the distance it takes to reach Whitefield or Electronics City. Spread over 100 acres in what many would consider a less than upmarket location for an IT park, the park is actually green with a mango and coconut orchard inside it unlike the artificial landscaping and glass and chrome that dominate IT edifices in the city. Mid-sized IT services companies like Ivega and Kshema (Just acquired by Mphasis) have occupied the park for year but its first high-profile occupant Mindtree will be moving in this September. Easily accessibly from the numerous residential localities on the eastern side of Bangalore, hopefully this park will help the area emerge as a much needed counter-magnet to the chaotic west and south where the city's "IT Corridor" lies.

Musings on a magnificent mahogany

Thats not the new title of my blog, but the leadline of an article in The Hindu which is the second within a week on Akkayamma and her nurturing of the magnificent Mahogany tree which stands near Koshy's on St. Mark's Road. The story is about this 75-year old fruit seller Akkayamma who has lived for 60 years under this tree and even raised a family there. Last year, following the widening of that stretch of St. Mark's Road , the BMP directed a contractor to chop the tree off. Axe-wielding men descended on the site and brushed off Akkayamma and sunk their blades into its trunk. A distraught Akkayamma ran to Prem Koshy of Koshy's who along with friends and fellow environmentalists like former Justice Michael Saldanha, Suresh Heblikar and others rushed to the site and staved off the workmen. Forest department official Basha landed up at the spot and directed the workmen to spare the tree. Subsequently the BMP was persuaded to withdraw permission to cut the tree. Yellappa Reddy, former enviroment secretary, says that mahogany trees can live for more than 400 years and produces 500-600 litres of oxygen everyday. It not only absorbs noise but also provides shade because of a dense foliage. He adds, "One mahogany tree is equivalent to 100 air-conditioners and 200 air-coolers".

Dessert Parlour

After coffee and fruit juices, its now the turn of desserts. Bangalore's first dessert parlour Painted Platters is exotic, says the Business Line. Read more about it here.

Post-Krishna scenario

The Economic Times examines the hypothetical situation of a post-Krishna scenario for Bangalore. My personal take on Krishna is while he has not done anything pathbreaking to save a rapidly deteriorating Bangalore, his commitment to the city's development and his numerous initiatives ranging from the BATF to giving a free hand to performing departments like the BDA, single-minded pursuit of getting the International Airport off the ground (he came real close but the Central Government is still playing party-pooper) deserve plaudits. One might argue that Bangalore by now has a conducive ecosystem for industry to thrive. But infrastructure and civic services, accountability of the authorities and transparency and participative governance have a long distance to cover. The sheer momentum that is already in place might ensure that no matter who comes to power they would have no choice but to continue the reforms. Probably, but we have the example of J H Patel who's administration single-handedly ensured Bangalore almost disappeared off the investment map of the country (it was during his tenure that Bangalore witnessed 4 hour power cuts daily and Microsoft went to Hyderabad). So, one cannot rest assured on that count.

Traffic police go hi-tech

Looks like the Simputer has found a buyer at last. From the first week of May the city's traffic police will discard their challan books and carry these indigenously built PDAs. The details of any traffic offence will be entered directly into these handhelds which will be transmitted to a server. The centrally located server will update the handhelds with the latest data. A notice and receipt will be generated on the spot and the fine will be collected right away as well. By drawing upon previous data the department will levy higher fines on habitual offenders. These machines have been sponsored by the CII.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

A home for migrants

A thought provoking article in The Hindu on how the city has become a magnet for migrant labour, of both the hi-tech and manual variety.

Power supply in city to be privatized?

The Hindu reports today that power supply (distribution) in the city is likely to be privatised after the elections are over. Apparently a major Indian player has been lobbying hard with the administration but Government sources maintain that a global tender will be called.

Odd ad this one

There is this odd ad for a new housing project on the front pge of today's The Hindu. The ad features an artist's impression of the construction, which is all of 20 floors, (see exact same picture here ) with the copy "Do your part in making Bangalore a green place to live in"; "The property that comes with 87% greenery". Huh!? Pardon me, do any of you see 87% of greenery in that picture? If you do, I must have gone colourblind.

Glimpses of a green city

Watched this movie, Freaky Chakra, belonging to the new age genre of Indian movies in English, on Star Movies. Released in 2003 the movie is about an ill-tempered young widow who gets transformed after she meets a 19-year old student. Made by a Bangalore-based ad man V K Prakash the movie is shot entirely in Bangalore. Although 90% of the movie is set in an apartment complex on Richmond Road (Rich Homes), opposite Baldwin Girls School, one gets to see visuals of green Bangalore that is eye candy. The apartment complex is ensconsed in a sea of greenery and you are likely to miss it on your left just after you descend the Richmond Road ramp of the Richmond Circle flyover. Much of the movie is shot in a bedroom that opens out into a balcony enveloped in the caressing canopy of a mammoth rain tree. There are a few sequences shot on Bangalore's roads covered in green. Surely, a sight for sore eyes. But it might not be long before one will have to turn to movies from the past to get glimpses of what was once a green city. :-((


Is the city jinxed when it comes to infrastructure projects? None of the major infrastructure projects proposed for the city have taken off. Bangalore has always been the first to propose one but has never witnessed any translate into reality

Elevated Mass Rapid Transit System - One of the few times that our administration has shown some foresight. This project was proposed long before Bangalore's roads became the nightmare they are. Status today - still on the drawing board. Proposed many years later, Hyderabad has its Multi-modal transport system, Chennai its elevated rail system and Delhi, a spanking new metro.

Bangalore Mysore Expressway - Again, proposed over a decade ago to develop Mysore as a counter magnet to Bangalore and develop industrial townships along the way, the project is boggled down in a quagmire of litigation and protests. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway that got off the ground only 5 years ago and came up on environmentally sensitive terrain is today a showpiece of India to the world. Meanwhile it takes 4 hours to cover the 140 kilometers between Bangalore and Mysore.

Bangalore International Airport - It has always been a case of so near, yet so far. Originally proposed in 1993, it was to have been India's first private international airport. 11 years down the line, although in an advanced stage of completion of the planning, we are still waiting. Hyderabad announced plans for one a full 9 years (in 2001) later but might have one in operation before us.

Another infrastructure project hangs fire

It was way back in 1993 that the idea of a mass rapid transit system for the city was proposed in the form of an Elevated Light Rail Transit System(ELRTS). Newspapers splashed artists' impressions of the futuristic system with a train running over MG Road leaving readers fascinated. Soil testing and feasibility studies were conducted and the project was pronounced to be technically feasible. Soon the Bangalore Mass Rapid Transit Limited was formed and a 5 paisa cess was imposed on automobile fuel sold in the city to partially fund the project. Things moved at a lethargic pace with a search for raising a large part of the finance. Tenders for private participation in the project were called and the project was awarded to the UB Group in 1997. Meanwhile the debate over the relative benefits of an underground or overhead transit continued. Several questions were raised about the financial viability of such a project and the UB Group got gradually disinterested. In 2002, the S M Krishna administration commissioned another round of soil testing to keep the project alive.

With the successful commissioning of the Mass Rapid Transit System in Delhi in 2003 by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) headed by the legendary railway man, E Sreedharan, Krishna quickly abandoned the languishing ELRTS project and commissioned the DMRC to perform a feasibility study for a similar system in Bangalore. The DMRC completed the study in double quick time and submitted the report to the state government. The project cost was estimated to be around Rs 4990 crores. The state government put up Rs 500 crore and forwarded the report to the Central Government for its support, sometime in early January 2004.

With elections being called, the project has been on the backburner and is likely to remain so for a couple of months more. After that everything depends on the nature of the new administration both at the centre and the state. There has been an apparent reluctance on the part of the NDA Government in the centre to push any major project floated by the Congress Government at the state or for which the latter could receive credit.

Road traffic in Bangalore has reached the limits and there is absolutely no scope left for widening roads and such other stop gap measures. Flyovers have shown that they do not solve the traffic congestion, only push it further down the road. With a situation where more two-wheelers than all the other metros put together ply on Bangalore's roads, a mass rapid transit system is long overdue for the city. City planning experts recommend that every city with a population of over 4 million should have an MRTS and should begin planning when the population is at 3.5 million. Bangalore today hosts 7 million people. Its high time we put one in place.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Bihar of Bangalore

In the first phase of polling on April 20th, Karnataka and Bangalore in particular recorded one of the highest incidents of violence and malpractice. Specifically the violence that rocked Hoskote taluk has lead to it being described as the Bihar of Bangalore. Murders, abductions, rapes, group clashes and riots because of political rivalry have supposedly become commonplace in Hoskote, according to a report in The Hindu.

City heading for a water crisis

While the situation on the drinking water supply has been comfortable so far, The Hindu reports that the city might be headed for a water crisis with the BWSSB having to transport water through trains to tap sources other than the Kabini reservoir where the water level is at an all time low. The city's other water sources like the Thippagonadanahalli reservoir has been dry for two years now! Bangalore consumes 1.1 tmc of water a month and apparently last year millions of litres of water meant for the city were siphoned off by farmers! his year police are patrolling the 100-km long pipeline!

Beat the heat

Another of Bangalore's home grown ventures is the Sree Ganesha Fruit Juice Centre, a chain of outlets that make fresh fruit juice and fruit milk shakes. The drinks range from ginger lime to custard apple and sapota milk shakes with the most expensive one coming at a mere Rs. 12. Started 18 years ago in the Gandhi Bazaar locality the chain now has 34 outlets spread across the city. The chain sources fruit from its own orchards in Kengeri. Naturally, a much healthier option to bottled drinks and aerated drinks. Head for the nearest outlet for a refreshing drink.

Karnataka woos Pakistanis

In a new first for any Indian state, Karnataka Tourism has issued an advertisement in the Pakistani newspaper, the Dawn, wooing Pakistanis to visit India. Featuring cricketing superstar Rahul Dravid, who hails from Bangalore and gave an impressive performance on the recently concluded cricket tour, the ad copy reads "Rahul invites you home...", "Bangalore...Rahul's home, India's garden city, Asia's technology hub...and the city that became friend and healer to little Noor Fatima...". Noor Fatima was the Pakistani girl with a congenital heart disorder who was given a new lease of life by doctors at the city's Narayana Hrudayalaya.

BMP picks up the axe

Thursday night's rain of just one hour brought down over 300 trees in the city damaging vehicles, roads, houses and disrupting traffic. That gives a glimpse of what a full-fledged monsoon might have in store. The BMP has promptly announced that it will fell over 500 "diseased" trees across the city and prune several others. Meanwhile A L Koppar of the city's met office has decided to turn an expert in botany and recommended to the BMP that all trees with canopies must be chopped and replaced with short bushy trees. The problem lies with the improper selection of trees and location where they are planted. To compound that, trees with canopies are always trimmed such that one half of the canopy is removed along a vertical plane either by the BESCOM or by an upcoming construction on which side that half falls. Consequently the centre of gravity of the trees get unsettled and becomes liable to fall at the slightest wind.

Tree felling stayed

Following moves by the Greenpeace Foundation, Environment Support Group and others the High Court has stayed the felling of the raintree in Shankarapuram. Unfortunately, like the police in Indian movies, the move came too late as 80% of the tree had been felled and judging by photographs in the newspaper the only way out now is to fell it completely.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Another global brand hits town

Tommy Hilfiger, the global apparel brand, opens its second store in the country at The Forum Mall today (the first opened in New Delhi two days ago). Tommy Hilfiger has had a sourcing office in Bangalore for some years now. The NRI Murjani family which funded Tommy Hilfiger when he started out and holds the rights for the brand in India has tied up with the Bangalore-based Arvind Fashions to manufacture and market the brand in India. Arvind has set up an exclusive apparel plant in Peenya for Tommy Hilfiger.

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day. Time to pay a visit to one of the many new bookstores in town.

Is Bangalore a superbrand?

Deccan Herald begins by asking if Bangalore enjoys the same awe as a Microsoft or GE, although it is known for its good climate and friendly people. A brand is something that conveys quality, trust, value and reputability to the consumer. If one sees Bangalore as a land of opportunity then perhaps it does. But the reality is quite farther from the truth I would say. What one expects from a city is a reasonably pleasant place to live in which provides for a reasonable means of livelihood. If you are in the Information Technology industry it might be a great place for your career growth. But the city falters on delivering even basic services to the citizen. Be it water, power, quality of air, ease of commuting, affordability of housing, the city doesn't measure up to global standards on any count. An Indian superbrand, it might be.

India's Wi-fi capital as well

Bangalore has more than half the nearly 200 hot spots in the country today according to a report in today's The Hindu. Several of them have been set up by Sify which says excitement is high but business is low. Early days yet.

Rains lash city

Thundershowers, which decided to give my locality a miss, accompanied by gusty winds lashed the city last night bringing some much needed relief from the summer heat. 120 trees came down and roads were inundated with water throwing traffic into disarray and exposing the city's fragile infrastructure yet again. The rain also brought down some stalls at the ICE Exhibition at Palace Grounds. 300 people who were visting at that time had a close call.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Infantry Road renamed

Infantry Road has been renamed Bhagwan Mahaveer Road by the city authorities. It remains to be seen if the usage will actually change. Infantry Road is one of a set of roads whose name head back to the times when Bangalore was a British Cantonment. The other roads are Artillery Road, Brigade Road and Cavalry Road (now K. Kamaraj Road). The Residency Road and Richmond Road were renamed Field Marshal Cariappa Road and General Thimmaiah Road respectively but are rarely referred to by those names.

AMD comes to Bangalore

One of the very few technology companies without an engineering/development centre in India, AMD, has finally decided to set up one and where else, but in Bangalore. The company will initially invest US$ 5 million to set up its India Engineering Centre which will design future generations of AMD microprocessors according to AMD India head Ajay Marathe. Intel's design team in Bangalore is already working on designing its next generation of Centrino mobile processors.

Need for a permanent exhibition complex and concert venue

Bangalore is sorely in need of a permanent venue for expositions and concerts. The Palace Grounds is an apology of a venue for hosting leading international artistes and lacks amenities of any sort. In 2000, the ITPO or India Trade Promotion Organization, which runs the Pragati Maidan complex in New Delhi put forth a proposal to build exhibition complexes in Chennai and Bangalore in collaboration with the respective state governments. The Tamil Nadu state government granted 25 acres of land near the airport while the Karnataka government allocated 50 acres of land in the Export Promotion Industrial Park in Whitefield. While the TNTPO Centre promptly came up two years later there is no sign of the one in Bangalore. Even the Andhra Pradesh government has gone ahead and established a modern exposition centre, HITEX, all by itself, in Hyderabad. DNA Networks, the company that brings most of the international artistes to Bangalore spoke about establishing a permanent concert venue near Yelahanka some years ago. One hasn't heard anything on that one either ever since.

Palace Gardens: Only a dream?

The long standing state government proposal to convert the Bangalore Palace into a museum and the rest of the over 660-acre Palace Grounds in the heart of the city into Palace Gardens is unlikely to be realized with the interminable property dispute, between the state and the descendants of the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore,in the Supreme Court. The grounds are in shambles with several encroachments including an amusement park, a bowling alley, a school, an automobile workshop and sundry other things. The grounds also play host to several exhibitions and expositions round the year and also host all the concerts featuring international artistes like Roger Waters, Bryan Adams, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Elton John and more recently Enrique Eglesias. One hopes that the authorities clear the grounds of all the encroachments and dedicate a part of the land for exhibitions, as Bangalore sorely lacks a permanent trade fair complex, and the rest is safeguarded as much needed lungspace for the city.

Lifestyle stores expand

Bangalore's first lifestyle store was the K Raheja promoted Shoppers Stop on Magrath Road, way back in 1998. It was followed by the eponymous Lifestyle, run by the Dubai based Lifestyle group, near Shoolay Circle and the homegrown Kemp Fort on Airport Road. The UK-based Littlewoods on Commercial Street was acquired by the Tatas and became Westside. Westside recently opened a second store in the Forum Mall in Koramangala. The Bombay Store on M G Road and Cinnamon on Commercial Street are two other stores. The Rajan Raheja promoted Globus entered the city only recently and quickly opened two stores, one on Hosur Road near the Madiwala checkpost junction and another opposite Lifestyle at one end of Richmond Road. Shoppers Stop will soon open its second store in Mantri Commerce on Bannerghatta Road.

Several new parks for the city

The city's municipal body, Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, under its Janodyanavana scheme, has developed and renovated more than 100 public parks and gardens in the last year in a belated attempt to justify Bangalore's tag of Garden City. While the move is certainly welcome, the flip side of the story is that several of the newer parks are little more than showcases of landscaping with extensive lawns with mexican grass, concrete jogging tracks, colourful shrubs, pebble and rock gardens and artificial water streams. Where are the saplings and trees? Krishna has also spoken of establishing a Park Authority for the city whose sole responsibility will be overseeing the development and maintenance of the city's major parks and gardens like Lalbagh, Cubbon Park and the forthcoming Freedom Park.

Cool Joint continues to draw in the crowds

Cool Joint, the tiny snack parlour, located at the intersection of 11th Main Road and 30th cross in Jayanagar 4th Block, opposite the Vijaya Junior College continues to draw in the crowds. The outlet which serves up exotic varities of ice creams, milk shakes and juices at unbelievably low prices continues to draw in huge crowds every evening, 8 years after it first opened.

The sorry state of Lalbagh

Dropping in on a surprise visit after a sumptuous breakfast at MTR, one fine morning last October, Chief Minister S M Krishna was aghast at the condition of Bangalore's famed Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. The Horticultural Ministry which oversees the upkeep of Lalbagh was sufficiently chastised and the Bangalore Development Authority was roped in to overhaul the gardens, spread over 240 acres, under the direct supervision of its dynamic chief Jayakar Jerome. The BDA quickly got down to work and restored the Lalbagh Glass House in time for the Republic Day Flower Show. Right now the BDA is busy reviving the lake which had all but disappeared under a thick carpet of hyacinth thriving on sewage flowing in uncontrolled into the lake. The sewage treatment plant which has come up where the nursery stood near the Ashoka Pillar end was commissioned only two days ago. I paid a visit to Lalbagh after two years the same morning. It resembles a huge mix of a construction site and a garbage dump. There are no signboards to indicate that the garden is under renovation. There are piles of trash everywhere. Atleast the parts immediately around the Glass House were well maintained before the BDA marched in. Now even those parts have fallen on bad times. Lawns are either overgrown or dried up. Much of the submerged pond on the right side when one enters from the Siddapura gate has been filled and raised. Wonder what the BDA has in mind. The submerged pond with lotuses and lilies could have been cleaned up as such. Long trenches have been dug up all across the garden making one wonder if its being wired up with OFC. A huge dredging machine is in the process of cleaning up the lake. Several tenements housing the workers involved in the revival have sprung up at several places in the garden. In the Glass House itself, its only the roof that has glass now, the walls have been stripped off the glass slab and left open. As if that wasn't enough, ugly stone plaques recording the "contribution" of everyone from S M Krishna and his acolytes to Jayakar Jerome and Nandan Nilekani have sprung up on four sides of the glass house. In an unhealthy sign, huge amounts of concrete are being added to the garden while there is little sign of any saplings having been planted. There are no trash cans in sight. Several rest rooms with huge Sintex tanks on top are coming up all over the garden. Wish the BDA would be a little transparent and share with the public what it has in mind for this 300 year old garden.

A landmark construction

The Hebbal interchange that has come up at the intersection of the Outer Ring Road and NH 7 near the Hebbal lake must be a first of its kind in India. Constructed by the BDA, this multi-looped flyover allows traffic from any direction to head in any other at the intersection uninterrupted. Lying on the route that leads to the, if it ever happens, international airport at Devanahalli, this landmark will serve Bangalore for a long time to come.

Bangalore Trivia 1: This was a lake once

The Karnataka Golf Course, off Airport Road, stands on the Challaghatta Lake. The Bangalore Bus Stand or the Subhash Nagar Bus Stand popularly known as the Majestic Bus Stand stands on the Dharmambudhi Tank built by Kempegowda. The National Games Complex in Ejipura stands on the Koramangala Lake. The Kanteerava Sports Complex once used to be the Sampangi Lake. The host of concrete edifices that lie between Queen's Circle and Cantonment Railway Station like the Guru Nanak Bhavan, Badminton Stadium etc have been developed over what was once Miller's Tank.

Good job LDA

The Lake Development Authority constituted by the S M Krishna Government in 2002 has done an admirable job. Set up to rejuvenate water bodies in a city which at the turn of the 20th century had over 200 lakes, but left with only 15 surviving ones now, the authority has already restored the Hebbal, Vasanthapura, Sankey, Ulsoor lakes and is working on the Yediyur Lake and Kempambudhi Tank. The BDA has also revived the Beniganahalli Lake and work is in progress at the Agara Lake. Its mandate, initially restricted to the Bangalore Metropolitan Region, has now been extended to the whole of Karnataka state.

Open air cafes

The open air cafes of Barista (in front of Barton Court) and Coffee Day (in front of The Bombay Store) on M.G.Road are a huge hit with the youth crowd. With a nice view of M G Road facing the boulevard on the opposite side and a pleasant breeze blowing atleast 10 months in a year, the experience is enchanting. Much like the bistros of Paris. Two things to complain about: the price of the coffee and the pollution in the air.

The Darshini phenomenon

When it first opened some 15 years ago, Upahara Darshini on DVG Road in Basavanagudi, probably sparked off a phenomenon in the restaurant business that has remained unique to Bangalore to this day. The new class of self-service restaurants serving delicious south-indian cuisine, fresh from the oven or tawa, with hitherto unseen standards of cleanliness, all served at prices that didn't make a dent in one's pocket, exploded across the city. To this day, the phenomenon has endured. The most expensive item on the menu in Adigas, one of the chains of Darshinis around town is just Rs. 12/- A plate of idli and vada with sambar and coconut chutney washed down with a glass of filter coffee is the best way to begin your day. Hygienic food at such rockbottom prices are a god send for a city with a huge working and floating population. By investing in minimal real estate, manpower (its all self-service) these restaurants have managed to keep their costs low and customers smiling. Interestingly this phenomenon does not seem to have replicated itself in other cities, even in South India.

Commercialization of residential localities

Although not a planned city, Bangalore could once boast of atleast impeccably planned localities like Jayanagar with broad tree lined avenues, shopping arcade, parks and gardens, playgrounds and other amenities. All that is changing fast. With building bye-laws given a go-by, unbridled commercialization has meant shopping complexes have sprouted bang in the midst of residences bringing along with them traffic, parking problems and making a huge nuisance of themselves. Add to it soaring property values and most residents are selling out and moving to apartments or outside the city. And more commercial space springs up on their land ruining what was once closest to paradise on earth. 11th Main Road (Sri Aurobindo Marg), Geetha Colony, 15th Cross (Madhavan Park Circle to South End Circle) in Jayanagar are all stark examples of a Bangalore transformed from a pensioner's paradise to a polluted, congested nightmare.

Tree saved from the axe

Residents of Shankara Puram in Basavanagudi saved a huge rain tree from the axe near the Shankar Mutt yesterday, reports The Hindu. The 60-year old rain tree stands on a piece of land that was originally meant for a park. The Mutt acquired it as part of its complex some years ago and has now sold the land for Rs. 10 million to a private individual who wishes to build a house there. Terming the sale of the land as illegal, resident Col. S S Rajan, who along with his family did a repeat of the Appiko movement to save the tree, vows to go to court to save the tree. However, one branch of the tree was still chopped off under police protection.

BMP promotes itself

Election time or whatever induced it, BMP has plastered town with stylish billboard ads that pats itself for the development of Bangalore. With taglines like "Bangalore - Its good to be here" and "India's city of the future. Managed by BMP" the BMP seems quite in tune with modern day media aesthetics. See some of the ads below.

Ad 1
Ad 2

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

International airport stays jinxed

While the international airlines come pouring in, the Bangalore International Airport at Devanahalli, which seemed like it had finally crossed all the hurdles ranging from the closure of defence airfields to the fee payable to the government, back in January, has hit an air pocket again. The BIAL has returned the draft concession agreement sent by the Central Government because of its ambiguous wording regarding closure of civil services from the existing HAL airport. As this is necessary for the financial viability of the new airport the BIAL has refused to go ahead without a firm commitment to end all civil services from the HAL airport. With elections underway at both the state and the centre, expect no progress on this till the latter half of the year atleast.

More international airlines fly in

As Bangalore's ascendance in the global pantheon of cities continues, more and more international airlines are now flying in direct to Bangalore. Apart from desi Air India which flies to New York, London and Perth, Lufthansa flies 5 days a week to Frankfurt, Malaysian Airlines to Kuala Lumpur, Srilankan Airlines to Colombo, Royal Nepal Airlines to Kathmandu, Singapore Airlines daily to Singapore. Gulf Air has started a weekly srvice this month and Thai Airlines will fly direct to Bangkok from next week. Emirates and British Airways are in the queue to get in. Bangalore airport must be close to collapsing under the weight of handling all these additional services.

Improved signage

With the BATF stepping in and help add a little style to some of the mundane things, the signage in town has certainly improved by leaps and bounds. Now we not just have signs where they should be but they are a pleasant sight too. From signs at traffic junctions to bus stands, be it in the aesthetics or the readability, the improvement is quite worthy of applause.

Mexican restaurant?

I am not much of an eat-outer and its always an embarrassment when a visitor questions me about good places to eat in town. But I was wondering if there is a good Mexican restaurant in town. Tomatoes, a Mexican restaurant in Ahmedabad is a wildly popular one and the cuisine is absolutely scrumptious. I still can't forget the nachos and tacos. Which also leads me to the following question. With the Indian palate clearly inclined towards spicy food and Mexican cuisine being a palatable example of one, whats keeping Yum! Restaurants from bringing Taco Bell to India? BTW, I must mention that the restaurant above serves only vegetarian mexican cuisine.

I am a mall too

Not to be left behind, some smaller property developments are being touted as malls too while they are little more than glorified shopping arcades. Notable ones include Purva Mall on Church Street, Imperial Mall on Residency Road and Prestige Penta on Brigade Road. Meanwhile some of Bangalore's earlier "malls" Prestige 5th Avenue and Mota Royal Arcade, both on Brigade Road continue to survive, but for how much longer remains to be seen.

New age malls

Unlike many Indian cities, Bangalore has always had a central shopping area in every residential locality with a BDA shopping complex catering to most needs of shoppers from daily groceries to apparel and lifestyle shopping. The Jayanagar Shopping Complex probably being the most successful of its kind with the Koramangala and Indiranagar BDA complexes being reasonably popular too. With yuppie culture setting in, new age malls of the Western variety which serve as a one stop shop where a family can do everything from shopping for the biggest brands, eat out at the choicest of restaurants and catch a movie in a plush multiplex or the youth can simply hang out, play electronic games, go bowling and the like (consequently the name Family Entertainment Centres or FECs) have arrived in India. All this with ample parking space and central air-conditioning too! Family Mart promoted by Bangalore's own M S Ramaiah Group opened on Kanakapura Road last year. Not quite a full-fledged FEC with no multiplex the place is apparently doing reasonably well. The first true-blue western style mall The Forum, promoted by Bangalore's largest property developer, The Prestige Group, had a soft launch this month. Spread over a humongous 650,000 sq ft of space with 300,000 sq ft of that reserved for parking (over 1000 cars), this is one of India's largest malls. The mall has been designed in the USA by leading retailing experts. Some of the stores at the mall are Westside for lifestyle shopping, the Landmark bookstore, Fabmall for grocery shopping, KFC, Cafe Coffee Day, Nike etc. The Mall will soon play host to South India's first McDonald's outlet and India's second Tommy Hilfiger store. India's largest multiplex managed by PVR will also open here. The mall will also have a bowling alley and a multi-cuisine food court. Some of the other malls under development are Sigma Mall on Cunningham Road spread over 200,000 sq ft (anchor tenant being Fun Republic), Star Mall (400,000 sq ft) on Magrath Road, Pantaloon's Bangalore Central at the Embassy Victoria on Residency Road, GESCO Lido Centre on Swami Vivekananda Road (Trinity Circle) and Garuda Mall on Bellary Road.

While the onset of the mall culture is a welcome one as it provides additional avenues for entertainment and shopping, a clear negative fallout is the havoc they play with traffic. With hordes of people converging on these malls at once, the traffic situation becomes unmanageable leading to endless traffic jams and chaos. The mushrooming of malls leading to a total breakdown of traffic in Gurgaon is an example of this. The situation is more worrisome for Bangalore as most of these malls are coming up in areas already congested with traffic. Be it the checkpost junction in Koramangala (Forum), Cunningham Road (Sigma), Residency Road (Bangalore Central) or Trinity Junction (GESCO Lido), all these places are among those with the highest traffic density in town and with the arrival of these malls, things are only heading one way - towards unqualified disaster. The concept of town planning as usual exists only on paper and the authorities while granting permissions to these projects do not seem to have considered the impact on the traffic around these malls.

Although atleast one of these malls seem to have been generous with the parking space, I am skeptical of it being adequate on weekends. Then parking will start overflowing on to the roads around only worsening the congestion.

Pollution hits new high

The quality of air seems to be deteriorating by the day. Now, the air smells foul even in residential areas and in downtown one cannot walk around without a hand over your nose. Most of Bangalore's air pollution, in fact all, owes its origin to automobile exhaust. Friends who have visited Delhi say that ever since CNG was introduced as the fuel for automobiles, thanks to a Supreme Court order, the quality of ambient air has improved by leaps and bounds in what was once India's most polluted city. Why not extend this benefit to other cities too?

Between music stores and book stores

While most big bookstores stock an extensive collection of music and movies these days, having seen a fair sample of such stores, I feel that stand alone music chains like Planet M and Music World are miles ahead in their range. And they had better be, considering that's their business.

The bookstore boom

The arrival of lifestyle bookstores like Crossword and Landmark into town has sparked off a debate between supporters of traditional bookstores and the new age ones with snazzy interiors, cafes and stuff. Most of the leading bookstores around the country now have a presence in Bangalore. Kolkata's The Oxford Bookstore opened an outlet in the Leela Galleria on Airport Road last year. Mumbai's Strand has had an extensive and popular store in Manipal Centre for a few years now. The only nationwide bookstore chain Crossword came late but came big with its largest outlet spread over 20,000 sq ft at ACR Towers on Residency Road opposite the Taj Gateway Hotel. Chennai's impressive Landmark opened recently at the Forum Mall in Koramangala and is spread over 50,000 sq ft and claims to be India's largest bookstore although a good 30,000 square foot of that space is devoted to retailing merchandise ranging from watches to mobile phones and music and stationery. Having paid a visit to both Crossword and Landmark last week I must conclude that while there is little to differentiate between most big bookstores these days, Landmark seems to have the edge atleast in the books department. It stocks some titles that I haven't seen in other stores and has a stupendous collection of superhero comics imported from the US. Its only quirk seems to be in its insistence that customers enter only at the lower level and exit at the upper level. Apparently Landmark is bringing its famed quiz to town this year. That will be something to watch out for! Chennai's other big homegrown bookstore Odyssey is also rumoured to be considering an expansion into Bangalore. What was that about reading going out of fashion?

Corner House magic endures

Two visits in two days and the Corner House magic remains :-) Some of the most delectable ice-creams in the city. Their outlet in Jayanagar 4th block was recently shut down. Although quite expensive, their outlets are always overflowing with customers. Wonder why they haven't expanded beyond their outlets in Jayanagar 9th Block, Residency Road, Airport Road and Airlines Hotel on State Bank of India Road.

Fifth building at ITPL takes off

Construction of the fifth block, Inventor, at the International Technology Park in Whitefield has commenced. After initial hiccups, ITPL has turned out to be a resounding success and quite the showpiece for Bangalore that it was intended to be.

Office space boom

The addition of IT office space continues unabated in the city. A lot of the expansion is now happening in the IT Corridor (Whitefield-Sarjapur-Electronics City), Bannerghatta Road and now C V Raman Nagar. Motorola and iFlex Solutions recently opened their own campuses in C V Raman Nagar while Texas Instruments is due to move into its, soon. IGate and SAP Labs launched their campuses in Whitefield a little earlier. Intel, Hughes, Subex Systems' campuses on the Outer Ring Road in Sarjapur are nearing completion. Chennai based Cognizant Technology Solutions has announced that it will be setting up a campus in the city. Meanwhile private property developers continue to pile on ready-to-occupy office space within the city. Recently Oracle moved into two new buildings within the city, Mantri Commerce on Bannerghatta Road and Prestige Lexington Towers in Koramangala, occupying over 200,000 sq ft of space in all. Hewlett Packard has been virtually devouring office space in the city gobbling up nearly 500,000 sq ft of office space spread across Prestige Emerald on State Bank of India Road, Brigade Hulkul on Lavelle Road, Prestige Al-Kareem on Cunningham Road, Salarpuria Arena on Hosur Road and Embassy Icon on Infantry Road. Intel has expanded into Prestige Solitaire on Brunton Road. Meanwhile Embassy has launched the only campus of its kind within the city the Embassy Golf Links Business Park skirting the KGA Golf Course in Challaghatta which houses build-to-suit facilities of IBM, Microsoft, ANZ IT, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, The Carlyle Group. Dell has moved into 500,000 sq ft of space in Divyasree Greens on the Koramangala-Indiranagar intermediate ring road. The UB Group's land at the intersection of Vittal Mallya Road and St. Mark's Road, where the High Court struck down plans to build a 15 storey building on a public interest litigation, has seen the development of the Prestige UB Plaza which has been occupied by Thomson Electronics. Macromedia, Adaptec and Trilogy have occupied Salarpuria Infinity on Bannerghatta Road while the gargantuan IBC Knowledge Park is nearing completion on the adjoining land. Storage major EMC has leased 150000 sq ft of space in Subramanya Arcade Phase II on the same road. Phase I houses the corporate headquarters of IBM India. The only player who is avoiding the overcrowded South and Eastern parts of the city is Mindtree which is establishing the Mindtree West Campus at the Global Village on Mysore Road, promoted by the V G Siddhartha (of Coffee Day fame) -promoted Global Technology Ventures-funded Tanglin Development.

Accenture has occupied the entire 150000 sq. ft. of space in the I Phase of IBC Knowledge Park while LSI Logic, Verisign and Aztec Software have also moved into Salarpuria Infinity.

The auto menace

There used to be a time when one could safely gloat to visitors to town that Bangalore autodrivers were very honest and unlike their counterparts in Chennai would never take commuters for a ride. All that has changed and how! With the influx of a huge population (all geeks) who can't speak a word of the local language, auto drivers have become like a pack of vultures waiting, usually outside IT offices or pubs and cinemas, to pounce on unsuspecting customers. It is now not uncommon to hear them demand double fare from 8 PM itself, although they are permitted to charge a maximum of only 1 1/2 times the metered fare from 10 PM to 6 AM. With unknowing, flush-with-money geeks ready to part with anything that is demanded rather than haggle in a lingo that's lesser known to them than Greek or Latin, it is the Bangalorean who is taking a beating with autodrivers refusing to ply them as per the meter. And they offer to take you only to destinations that they want to go to! And threats of reporting them to the police don't work at all. Its high time this wayward brigade was hauled up. As if that wasn't enough the auto unions have been staunchly refusing to shift to digital meters which are difficult to tamper and a CNG fuel system. While rigged meters are fortunately not such a common phenomenon yet, the latter would do a world of difference to the city's pollution. Autos are the primary cause of Bangalore's foul air. With adulterated fuel being the norm rather than the exception in the city's autos most of the vile exhaust that permeate the city's atmosphere emanate from these 3-wheeled speed demons.

Juggernauts plying through the city

One wonders why trucks are allowed to ply through the city in day time even after the outer ring road has been completed. Bangalore must be the only city in the country where these juggernauts are allowed to ride roughshod through our narrow roads in peak hour traffic with all other kinds of diminutive automobiles trying to save their skins as well as beat rush hour. Most other metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai have a ban on truck traffic passing through the town in peak hours. Its only between 10 PM and 6 AM that they are allowed through the city. With there being no end in sight for the miserable condition of the city's traffic one hopes that the trucks atleast will be kept out.

The National College flyover

In another of its inexplicable decisions, the BMP decided to build a flyover at the National College circle in Basavanagudi leaving residents aghast. While experts recommend that flyovers be built only at intersections that see more than 8000 vehicles passing at peak time, this one saw only 5000 at the worst of times. The disruption that the flyover would cause in a predominantly residential area and one of Bangalore's greenest, shrouded firmly in greenery was tremendous. Residents petitioned the BMP and the Chief Minister, both of who, not surprisingly turned a blind eye. The circle was dismantled and construction commenced. It is another of our democracy's quirks that while the residents of the area strongly oppose the development, the powers that be have decided to go ahead with it regardless. Environmentalists and citizens led morchas and dharnas and even threatened to boycott the election, all to no avail. Construction continues unabated. Even the High Court was petitioned. For some strange reason, the HC has chosen not even to stay construction while the petition is being heard and has conveniently postponed the verdict till after the Judges return from their summer vacation, by which time most of the damage would have been done.

Empty roads at last

April 20. Election Day in Bangalore. I am making my way from home to M G Road, 7 kms away, at 8 PM. Dreading the traffic as I set out, I was pleasantly surprised to see empty roads at that time after ages and reached my destination in 10 minutes flat. If only all times were like that.

The weather belies expectations

Even as I am typing this, downcast skies and humid weather which raised expectations of showers that might provide relief from the blistering summer (Bangalore's hottest in 5 years) turned out to be only a brief drizzle :-(

A Thuglaqian decision

The decision of Chief Minister (soon-to-be-erstwhile?) S M Krishna to permanently shut down the Devaraj Urs Road (Race Course Road) running from Gopala Gowda Circle to Basaveshwara Circle to traffic so that a garden can be developed, linking Vidhana Soudha and the yet-under-construction-but-inaugurated-in-a-hurry south block, Vikasa Soudha, is as Thuglaqian a decision as any can be. Shutting down one of the widest roads in Bangalore carrying a heavy stream of traffic heading towards the Seshadripuram, Malleshwaram areas is suicidal for the city's traffic management. Things have now become far more chaotic and roundabout for traffic plying in that direction. Its a pity that none of the activist types have raised legal hurdles to this decision.

Goodbye single-screen theatres

Interestingly, even before the multiplexes have started functioning several theatres in downtown Bangalore seem to have shut shop. Imperial, Opera, Blumoon and Bludiamond went down in the first wave of commercialization that hit Bangalore in the early-90s. Galaxy, which used to be the poshest of theatres once upon a time, has been shut for a couple of years now. Lido shut shop recently. Only a rickety Plaza, Symphony and Rex continue to stand. The Shanti theatre near South End Circle has also disappeared. I feel there remains a definite appeal for single screen theatres with large screens but these theatres need to reinvent themselves and provide a better ambience for movie-goers.

Here come the multiplexes

Finally, the multiplex boom hits Bangalore as well after sweeping through Delhi, Mumbai, Gurgaon and even less tony places like Baroda and Jaipur. The Innovative Multiplex with 4 screens has already been in operation on the Outer Ring Road in Marathahalli for a year or so now. Now, a whole host of multiplexes that are part of Malls or FECs (Family Entertainment Centres) are getting off the ground. First to throw its doors open (around the first week of June) will be PVR in The Forum Mall, Koramangala, managed by Priya Village Roadshow, the firm that pioneered multiplexes in India. With 11 screens, it will be the largest multiplex in India. Soon to follow will be the Zee Group's Essel Entertainment-promoted Fun Republic with 4 screens in Sigma Mall on Cunningham Road. Also nearing completion is the INOX Multiplex in Star Mall opposite Shopper's Stop on Magrath Road. Lido theatre which was pulled down last year will soon see a 4-screen multiplex in the GESCO Lido Centre, a mall coming up on the same land.

The Cubbon Road controversy

The Governor of Karnataka state, T N Chaturvedi of all people kicked up a row when he requested the BMP to trim the trees that line the VVIP thoroughfare, Cubbon Road (a sight for sore eyes in good times, both sides lined by huge rain trees casting a protective shadow over the road and the median lined with Ashoka trees), in the interest of "VIP Security" as the canopies were apparently obstructing motorists' view. The BMP was only too glad to oblige. Along came the butchers and promptly chopped entire trees off. Thankfully the public cried foul and the media went to town and another 240 trees were spared of a similar plight.

Trees continue to fall and be felled

The unabated attack on green life continues. One has lost count of the number of trees that has fallen prey to flyover construction, road widening, vaastu and because someone found the tree on the pavement in front of his house shedding too many leaves in his compound. Some 20 odd trees seem to have made way for an auditorium complex in the Sacred Hearts Girl's High School campus near Asirvadam Circle on Residency Road. A whole copse of them for another commercial complex, Prestige Richmond, on the stretch of road between Richmond Circle and the junction of Langford Road and Double Road. The widening of the Viveknagar Main Road running from Airport Road (near the Command Hospital) to Ejipura has seen another bunch of them part their way from this erstwhile green city of mine. And these are only the instances that I have personally observed in the last week or so. A comprehensive list can fill a blog on its own.

The Railway Station

Looks like the Okalipuram entrance to the Railway Station is going to remain makeshift forever. Although several trains depart from platforms 6 to 10 these days, the amenities continue to be non-existent and navigating your vehicle through that entrance continues to be a nightmare. No pre-paid auto/taxi facilities are available, no restrooms, and the shelters that cover the platform are far narrower exposing passengers to the vagaries of nature which seems to be nudging the limits at both ends in Bangalore in recent years. In comparison the Chennai railway station, now equipped with Wi-fi, no less, is extremely passenger-friendly. And one can no-longer crib about step-motherly treatment by the Southern Railway either, Bangalore now falling under the South Western Railway headquartered in Hubli.


Having been born and bred in the City of Boiled Beans (Bendakalooru aka Bangalore aka Bengalooru in local lingo), home sweet home has always been a truism. I am now back in town after a two-year absence and this is my attempt to capture the sights, sounds and smells as I see Bangalore today and going forward.