Monday, May 31, 2004

Cool Summer

This May has gone into the record books as the coolest summer in the city in recorded history (1962 was when the meteorological department began recording temperatures)! Average temperature in the city when summer is at its peak in India was a mere 29 degrees centigrade!

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Edifices of yore get a new lease of life

Reproducing an article from the latest issue of India Today (7 June, 2004):

Romancing The Retro

The city has lost some of its antique buildings. But makeovers give a new life and commercial meaning to other old beauties.

By Nirmala Ravindran

The 92-year-old building is abuzz with activity. Who could have imagined that what was once The Blighty's Tea Rooms and later a store that housed biblical literature could become the flagship shop of the coffee giant Barista. The grey-brown stone walls look as strong as ever and the high ceiling, criss-crossed by wooden rafters, and the well-ventilated room keep the summer heat at bay. No wonder old-timers say, "They just don't make them like these anymore."

OLD BUT FIRM: Art store Brahma (left) and restaurant Sigri were fashioned out of 150-year-old twin houses; a mansion (below) became a Neemrana hotel

While it is too late to mourn the fact that some of the best buildings in Bangalore no longer exist, and in their place stand monstrous glass-and- concrete structures, what gives hope is that some old edifices which would have gone the same way have been saved and preserved for the present thanks to adaptive architecture, or re-architecturing as it is called today. A group of architects and some sensitive clients have taken it upon themselves to preserve what is possible without waiting forever for the Karnataka Government to pass the Conservation Bill. The result? The beautiful old buildings are finding new life and commercial meaning, thanks to their architectural makeover.

"Till the Government passes the Conservation Bill, there is very little that anyone can do, except get sentimental about history and memories," says Naresh Narasimhan, principal architect of Venkataramana Architects and a very influential voice in the city. He does not mince words when he explains that builders and developers are not always the villains they are made out to be. "There is a practical side to it. The people who inherited these colonial bungalows were all inherently poor and needed the money. And to the builder, what could be greater than putting up 2,00,000 sq ft of commercial space? Are we ready to compensate the owner and buy the property from him at market value? No!"

While the suggestions to compensate the owners were many, not too many of these found takers. Narasimhan's own suggestion of following the British method of setting up a heritage fund that would purchase buildings at market rates and then open them to the public as museums or public spaces did not meet with any success. Narasimhan, incidentally, is re-architecturing the old but beautiful Maneckavelu Mansion into the Gallery of Modern Art. New structures will be added around the building to house the gallery and a garden café.

GLITZY AVATAR: An old bungalow was made into nightclub and bar Spinn
Victoria Hotel, one of Bangalore's landmark buildings, was razed to the ground last year because Motha, the then owner, could not afford to run it. A monolith in glass and concrete stands today in the place of the old colonial structure. "I have nothing against modern structures, but this is the kind of development that leads to infrastructure problems," says award-winning architect Renu Mistry. "You could be in one of these buildings and be just about anywhere in the world, which is fine. But what happens to the architectural character of the city?"

Acase in point is the family home of the owners of Ganjam Jewellers, a 90-year-old house that was not in use. "We wanted to convert it into something that would preserve our happy memories," says Umesh Ganjam. Mistry was roped in and the result is Ganjam Kalyana Mantapa, a perfect blend of the old and the new. The building is booked round the year for weddings and cultural gatherings and performances.

One of the first examples of adaptive architecture came when architect Sandeep Khosla renovated a 100-year-old building owned by Roshni Jaiswal and Jay Singh into 180 Proof, Bangalore's first high-end lounge bar. "180 set a precedent-later Barista and Spinn came to us," says Khosla.

Other examples of re-architecture are Brahma, an art store, and Sigri, a restaurant, fashioned by Mistry out of 150-year-old twin houses. Villa Pottipatti, a dilapidated mansion belonging to the Reddy family, was acquired by Francis Wacziarg of Neemrana and re-fashioned into a Neemrana hotel. As for retail experiences Mistry has just converted a 150-year-old house of the Minocher family into retail space. Another much talked about retail store is Raintree, set up in the beautiful 75-year-old family bungalow and grounds belonging to Jaya Pravindra.

While the Government continues to dilly-dally over the Conservation Bill, citizens have been lapping up the feeling of actually experiencing old buildings that have become public spaces. They and the conservation lobby continue to hope that their efforts to preserve the city's heritage will soon get an official stamp of approval.

LDA gets ambitious

The Lake Development Authority plans a bird sanctuary at the Puttenahalli Lake near Yelahanka.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

The one special thing that Bangalore really needs

The Tabloid of India once again brings together a bunch of Page 3 regulars and asks them what is the one special thing that Bangalore really needs.

Sandeep Khosla, architect (the accompanying photo is that of Manoviraj Khosla the fashion designer, thats TOI for you): Bangalore needs a beautiful plaza, a public space where people can enjoy the outdoors with a view of the street with benches to sit.

Paul Fernandes, Cartoonist: Bangalore really needs a designated day where no cars are used.

Gina Braganza, Entrepreneur: WHat Bangalore needs is a space, a theatre or an amphitheatre which can seat around 1500 people where doing theatre would be so much easier.

Bunty Peerbhoy, Ad agency head: Bangalore needs a place where you can have a terrific evening of music: rock and roll, jazz or even nostalgia music.

Long overdue

Finally, automatic platform ticket vending machines have been installed at the City Railway station.

Friday, May 28, 2004

BMP on chopping drive

With the onset of the monsoon, the BMP has embarked on a drive to chop off 300 trees which it considers likely to fall in heavy wind or rain. It will also plant 30000 saplings. By the normal survival rates of 1% that means 300 new trees. No gain, no loss.

Hardware Park suffers setback

The proposed Hardware Park near the site of the International Airport in Devanahalli has suffered a setback with Intel deciding to establish its chip fabrication plant in the Mahindra City Industrial Park in Chennai. According to a report published in the Economic Times, Intel will invest Rs 200 crores on this venture which will come up on 70 acres of land. It is not clear at this point what kind of chips Intel plans to manufacture here. It is believed that it was the pathetic state of power supply in the state that was the primary reason for Bangalore not being considered. With no other major hardware investment on the anvil, the Karnataka government was banking heavily on luring Intel to become the anchor tenant at the Bangalore park and then pitch to other investors on the strength of that. With Intel deciding to pass the city by and a new Chief Minister who says his focus will be on rural areas, this project will be one which we will not hear of for some time to come.

Footnote: Intel India President Ketan Sampat has subsequently denied the contents of the Economic Times report.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Groundwork for Metro Rail underway

Is a new era dawning for infrastructure projects in Bangalore? Even as we heard that construction of the Bangalore Mysore Expressway had taken off and the Civil Aviation Ministry was clearing the decks for the takeoff of the International Airport comes another bit of news on the infra front. The New Indian Express reports that the state government has issued an order staying the development of 247 properties which are likely to fall on the metro rail routes. Positive signs of progress on this project.

New government gives fillip to BIAL

The new Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel of the NCP is working on overdrive to ensure the Bangalore International Airport takes off soon. Immediately after taking over, he signed an order giving the Bangalore International Airport Limited to go ahead with the construction. The onus is now on the State Government to provide occupancy rights for the 4300 acres of land in Devanahalli to BIAL. Patel is also redrafting the concession agreement to the satisfaction of the Siemens-led consortium, one point begin an explicit commitment to close down the present HAL Airport. Atlast some action on this front. With a Congress-led coalition set to to take over in the State, the prospects for the international airport are looking better than ever before.

Dairy Circle flyover in troubled waters

The Dairy Circle flyover which has already missed its completion deadline is not expected to be completed before September of this year. The UP State Bridge Corporation which is building the flyover hit a water pipeline underneath the reinforcing wall. The UPSBC says if it goes ahead with the construction the structure could be weakened by water leaks later. The BDA which is in charge of overseeing the project blames the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited for shoddy groundwork, which in turn blames the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board for not providing adequate information. The BWSSB says those pipes, which supply water to Koramangala and HSR Layout were over 20 years old and it did not have maps for it! All in all, be prepared to bear with traffic diversions and chaos on that route for a few more months.

The tamasha begins

Even as a Congress-JD(S) coalition government looks set to take off, the Railway Parallel Road in Kumara Park has been made a one-way. Guess why? Because prospective Chief Ministerial candidate Dharam Singh lives there. Sheesh!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Super-sized Shopper's Stop

Yesterday saw me checking out the so-called seamless Bangalore Central mall. Managed by Pantaloon Retail, it does manage to pack in a very wide selection of brands under one roof. More than a mall, it looked like an oversized version of department stores like Shopper's Stop and Lifestyle. But much more glitzy, lots of international brands and prices catering to all kinds of customers. A Cafe Coffee Day tucked away in a cute corner with plush sofas for seating is nice. The music and book section managed by Music World and Sankars respectively suck. Both stock only fast-moving titles. Not for the discerning book or music buyer. Spread over five levels each level caters to a different segment - men, women, kids and youth ranging across apparel, beauty products, electronics, entertainment and household products. There is also a Food Bazaar for grocery shopping with an apology of a food court.

Check ou these two pictures (Photography was banned inside the store)

Pic 1
Pic 2

Mango merchants adamant

For years, wholesale Mango merchants have been using encroached land in the Palace Grounds to sell the produce during the mango season in Summer. Last year the APMC (agricultural produce marketing corporation) established the fruit market in Singasandra on Hosur Road and directed the merchants to move their from this year onwards. But the merchants refused because they found the palace grounds more convenient as most of the produce came in from the northern and western parts of the state while Hosur Road is on the South West. Citing poor infrastructure at the new market they stay put. Two days ago, the Supreme Court ordered the merchants to clear the Palace Grounds and move to the Singasandra market. But the merchants remain defiant. The police have moved in to prevent their entry into the Palace Grounds. One hopes this standoff does not result in any ugly confrontation.

HC quashes hope

The High Court has dismissed the petition filed by 109 residents of Basavanagudi against the construction of the National College Flyover stating that it was not in public interest to stop construction. The High Court admitted that it had no expertise in the matter of flyover construction and relied on data submitted by the BMP to conclude that there was an increase in traffic in that area and a flyover was required. The Court also accepted the BMP's submission that concerns about pollution and loss of green life had been taken care of. How? Doesn't the public have a right to know? Is this how our courts function? Give judgements based on data submitted by one of the parties in the dispute without having it verified by an independent third-party?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Diamond District in a spot of bother

Allegations that the Diamond District corporate and residential complex violated building norms and regulations were first made about 6 years ago. Following the conclusion of an investigation, the BMP has confirmed the allegations to be true and withdrawn the occupancy certificate to the building. What remains to be seen is if the authorities will proceed against the builder whose construction is home to some leading corporates and high-net-worth (as the bankers call them) individuals or will some moolah quietly change hands and things will go on like nothing happened.

More on the state of roads

The latest on the state of major roads in the city from the Deccan Herald, this time featuring Mysore Road. All DH needs to do is change the name of the road and publish the same article again. That pretty much sums up the situation that Bangalore's roads are in.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Water, water everywhere...

Its that time of the year when the whole city begins to resemble a swimming pool. The BMP's supposed efforts at cleaning up the city's storm-water drains haven't worked if the last three weeks are anything to go by. Read this report in The Hindu.

Rains breathe new life in to lakes

The Lake Development Authority can't hide its glee. The lakes it had restored over the past two years were lying barren thanks to the failure of rains in the last two years. The pre-monsoon showers that have hit the city over the last 3 weeks, the best in 3 decades in Bangalore, have breathed a new life into these lakes. And with the monoon on its way things can only get better. The Dodda Bommsandra, Nagavara, Vengayyanakere, Ulsoor, Sankey and Beniganahalli lakes now have sustainable water levels. The LDA is currently in the process of restoring the Jaraganahalli, Lalbagh, Yediyur, Agara and Bellandur lakes in collaboration with the BDA and BMP. Soon, the Vasanthapura, Varthur, Hosakerehalli and Jakkur lakes will also be taken up for restoration.

Falling tree kills woman

As the monsoon hit Bangalore yesterday, several trees fell across the city, one of which killed a woman travelling in an auto in Jayanagar IV Block. Who is to blame? The BSNL which dug trenches indiscriminately and weakened the roots of the tree.

Bumpy ride

The road leading to the IIM in Ahmedabad is one of the best in that city. Take a look at the road leading to the one in Bangalore and then read the latest in Deccan Herald's ongoing series on the state of the city's major roads.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

A lensman's view

Two dazzling photographs of Bangalore shot by German photographer Coni Horler and published in Rave magazine. Note the representation of the colours of the Indian falg in the lighting of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose building.

Pic 1
Pic 2

A take on the Innovative Multiplex

Multiplexes as a rule dilute the cinematic experience. One goes to the theatres to experience the magic of celluloid on those gargantuan screens which one is used to seeing in the standalone theatres of yore. Unfortunately, its economics that drive the multiplex business and most screens seat about 300 odd people (Urvashi,one of the largest theatres in Bangalore can seat 450 people in just the balcony) in a small area where the screens look barely larger than about a 100 inches. It won't be long before the plasma and HDTVs reach this size.

The Innovative Multiplex has a 4-screens and being the only multiplex in the city has made it its job to cater to the well-heeled crowd and that means ridiculously expensive ticket prices and no screening movies in the vernacular. The good: comfortable seats, good sound system, a clean floor and intact cup holders, relatively not-too expensive food with several options. The bad: inadequate parking space, small screens, poor ticketing systems(In just one screening, I was witness to three incidents of two sets of people being given same ticket numbers).

Poor work mars ORR

I traversed an extensive length of the Outer Ring Road yesterday, about 25 km of it and was quite saddened to see the poor quality of road work, cracks in the road at several places and even potholes to watch out for. Imagine the consequences of encountering one when speeding at 100 kmph.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Participative governance works

In 2002, the BMP came out with a public-private partnership programme (PPP) which involved inviting corporates, insitutions, residents' associations and philanthropists to adopt the city's parks, medians, traffic islands, lakes, footpaths, boulevards and circles. This was done as the BMP was struggling for resources for the upkeep of the city's green and open spaces. Today, 11 boulevards, 82 traffic islands and circles, 5 footpaths, 65 parks and 2 lakes have been developed under this initiative. The success of the programme has pushed the BMP into awarding 244 more projects this year. Participative governance is definitely helping Bangalore reclaim its status as garden city.

Plan for a Greater Bangalore

This ad appeared in the Times Property supplement of the TOI issued by a private property developer Ittina. The ad speaks of a new township to decongest Bangalore and invites participation from organizations to develop the infrastructure of this proposed habitation slated to come up between Hosur Road and Sarjapur Road. While the time has come for the concept of a new Bangalore, a new magnet for growth that will decongest the crowded-beyond-hope environs of today, I was intrigued that a private property developer was driving such an initative. How could such a venture succeed without the Government's involvement in terms of amenities and incentives to drive people there. The choice of location was also perplexing. I took a look at the property developer's website and its motives become apparent immediately. Just look at the number of its projects under development in that area. What better way to push up their value?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

A mall for seconds

After the runaway success of its Forum Mall, the Prestige Group will soon embark on another retail project, The Forum Retail Park. But this is a mall with a difference. This will cater only to factory outlets. The company made a study of Bangalore's craze for factory outlets and discovered that there was scope for bringing together the now scattered factory outlets of different brands and products under one roof and give the customer an "international" shopping experience at bargain prices. To be built at a cost of Rs 30 crore the mall will come up on a 6 acre plot in Whitefield (thank heavens), near the International Technology Park and is expected to be operational by early 2006.

EVM tech for buses

The technology that powered the Electronic Voting Machines will soon drive handheld digital ticketing machines on KSRTC buses. After having pioneered a wildly successful distributed internet-based ticket reservation system, KSRTC is now equipping its conductors with these gadgets which will produce digital tickets. This is not only expected to put an end to the practice of conductors conning customers by reusing tickets, the organization is also expected to save money on printing and avoid wastage.

Butterfly park nearing completion

The country's first Butterfly Park, on the lines of the ones in Singapore (at Sentosa) and New York, coming up at the Bannerghatta National Park, on the outskirts of Bangalore will be up and running by the end of the year. The park will serve both as a centre of tourism and scientific study.

Another exposition centre

While the first one planned by the Karnataka Government in collaboration with the India Trade Promotion Organization at Whitefield shows no sign of taking off, the Indian Machine Tools' Manufacturers' Association is planning a permanent trade exposition centre on 38 acres of land at Peenya. We, in Bangalore, are used to see hundreds of infrastructure projects never taking off. Is this going to be any different?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Homeless increase

17% of the city's population lives in slums, says this report in the Vijay Times.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Double trouble on Double Road

Till not too recently, Double Road (Kengal Hanumanthaiah Road officially, named after the second Chief Minister of Karnataka who incidentally also initiated the construction of the Vidhana Soudha; but no one knows it by that name. Its rather amusingly called Double Road because it was Bangalore's first arterial road with a median running through it)was relatively smooth to navigate while other roads downtown were overflowing with automobiles. But the road, which is a lifeline between South Bangalore and the central business district, has also fallen prey to the affliction that is plaguing most of Bangalore. As one stands at the beginning of Double Road near Lalbagh, that end being at an incline one can see the road clogged with traffic as far as one's eyes can see. It take a good 15 minutes to pass through this 1.5 km stretch of road.

Sadly, the the problem is set to worsen with the KSRTC chosing to upgrade the Shanthinagar Bus Station into a full fledged terminus. To ease the congestion at the Kalasipalyam Bus Stand, henceforth inter-state services bound to Tamil Nadu will run from this terminus. The construction is almost nearing completion. Expect unprecedented chaos on this road in a couple of months from now. Try finding an alternative to get to the CBD. I am contemplating on taking the Bannerghatta Road-Hosur Road alternative (once the flyover at Dairy Circle is complete).

Taking stock of green life

The forest department has embarked on a tree census in the wake of large scale felling of trees in recent times. Reportedly, Bangalore has the highest per-capita trees after Gandhinagar, in the country. Given that Gandhinagar has little more than the offices of the Gujarat government and Bangalore's population is nudging 7 million, that is no small achievement.

A rarity

I travelled by the Koramangala-Indiranagar Intermediate Ring Road after two years yesterday and the state of the road is amazing. 6 years after it was built as a quick connection between Koramangala and Indiranagar easing pressure on the Viveknagar main road and a stretch of Airport Road, the 6-lane road cutting across defence land hasn't developed a scratch. No matter what the volume of traffic the nearly 2.5 kilometer drive takes barely 5-6 minutes. In a city where roads develop potholes the night they are asphalted this one is a cause for sheer joy. Kudos to the Nagarjuna Construction Company which built it.

Beyond all imagination

The Bangalore Development Authority's tagline is "Building a Bangalore Beyond Your Dreams" (Nimma Kanasannu Meeruva Bengaloorina Nirmana). Looking at the city today, a Bangalore beyond my worst nightmares seems to be a more apt description, and its only getting worse.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Death trap

33% of road accidents in the city last year were on the Outer Ring Road. This road has become such a death trap because of indiscplined and rash drivers and the fact that the road cuts across several interactions which drivers speed across without pausing to slow down. Unlike such roads elsewhere in the world where there are grade separators at intersections to ensure free movement our ring road has none (perhaps a couple) and given that there are very few such motorable roads in our country the temptation to speed across becomes very hard to resist. But that is no excuse particularly when the outcome awaiting one is death. To alleviate the situation somewhat the Comprehensive Trauma Care Consortium is pressing into service 5 ambulances, under the Sanjeevani Ring Road Project, which will ply along the road at frequent intervals in a bid to atleast prevent those deaths which arise out of delay in medical attention.

Resurrecting a dead tree

After Karnataka Governor T N Chaturvedi asked for the pruning of trees along Cubbon Road, his son Atul Chaturvedi has blown Rs 1 lakh of public money on resurrecting a dead tree in this strange story.

In quest of an international shopping experience

Last evening I decided to treat myself to an "international shopping experience" and off I went to the Forum Mall with a friend. Even as I was half a kilometre away from the mall I could see the traffic piled up, autos and cars and two wheelers all ighting for their share of the narrow road. After a lot of struggle I made it to the entrance when I was stopped by the security guard and asked to enter from the other. Cursing him I went all the way to the checkpost junction and came in from the other side (The Adugodi/Laskar Hosur Road entrance - Someone tell me what this Laskar is, had never heard of it till Globus started calling it that when it opened a store on this road recently). As I stepped in to the mall from the parking lot I encountered a sea of people. I have never seen so many people under one roof. There must have been more than 10000 people in the mall. This even before the 11-screen multiplex has opened.

After carefully watching out not to step on somebody's feet we made our way to the Landmark bookstore. And the crowds carried in there too. Tens of people crowding around every bookshelf, reading, chatting had me saying "Excuse me" every second minute. After jostling our way through the bustling crowd we managed to make it to the billing counter only to find that each of the 8 billing counters had some 20 people in the queue. Remarked my friend, "Even K.R.Market must be less congested". It looked like all of Bangalore had decided to descend upon this mall at the same time.

Weary, we decided to check out Transit, the multi-cuisine food court. The place was filled to the brim with no seating space in sight. One counter had a brightly lit sign that said "Subway" except there were no sandwiches but only soft drinks on sale. We inched on to the counter selling south-indian fare at a 500% premium. We hastily stepped
back and found ourselves in front of 3 Amigos which vended vegetarian mexican fare. After my lucious experience with a Mexican restaurant in Ahmedabad, we decided to settle on this only to be told that they had run out of Salsa. What's Mexican food without Salsa? Too tired to go hunting again we settled on some kind of mexican roll. Fifteen minutes of hunting for a table and no free on in sight. And to think we were only two people. A family out shopping would have had a nightmare trying to find a place where everyone could eat together. We discovered one empty table that looked like somebody had had an orgy with food on it. After having persuaded a member of the cleaning staff to do the needful, to our dismay we found the mexican roll tasting like masala curry stuffed in a chappati. Cursing our luck we looked for the washroom to be told by an attendant, "We have no washroom, please use tissue paper". So, where's the tissue paper? "We are sorry, we have run out of tissue paper". And thus ended our international shopping experience, with dirty hands! So much for that, give me the Jayanagar 4th Block Shopping Complex anyday!

Love the weather

The hottest summer in 5 years thankfully turned out to be a very short one. The last two weeks have seen some splendid weather in Bangalore. Overcast, cool, light breeze, day temperatures around the low-to-mid 20s and rain towards the evening. Amazing weather. Just the weather that the city is renowned for. But the rain's gonna get heavier with the monsoon on its way.

Recent IT expansions in the city

Some companies that have announced an expansion into the city recently - Sapient (which presently has a centre in Delhi), ST Microelectronics (also in Delhi) and Patni Computers (in several places across the country).

Sunday, May 16, 2004

BATF throws in the towel

Deccan Herald discusses the possible future that awaits the BATF

The comments made by some of the BATF members about the forum having ceased to exist because S.M.Krishna is no longer Chief Minister sounds like a convenient excuse to put an end to its survival. One wonders if the BATF members all along worked out of their own committment or because of Mr. Krishna's prodding. Why is the BATF assuming that the new dispensation in the state will be negatively disposed to them? Isn't it for them to convince the new Government that they have no political affiliation and their's is solely a development agenda which should continue to receive encouragement? If the present members of the BATF took up this assignment because of their personal equation with the outgoing Chief Minister and not because of any noble intentions then they must clearly state so and make way for new members who will take over their roles. The members of the BATF will be doing the citizens of Bangalore a great disservice if they throw in the towel when there might be no fight at all! Unless such vehicles of participative governance become institutionalized there is no hope for development in this country.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Lalbagh bandstand opens

The renovated band stand at Lalbagh opened yesterday. "Fantastic" was how Jayakar Jerome of the BDA, which has been entrusted with the task of rejuvenating the 240-acre 300-yr old garden, described the word done by a 20-member team led by Soman Achary of Mavelikera in Kerala.

Bangalore Central opens

The newest mall in town, Bangalore Central (Location: on Commissariat Road, at the junction of Residency Road and M.G.Road, opposite Mayo Hall, next to ICICI Bank Towers) opened on Friday. Spread over 150,000 sq ft of space this mall is unlike any other. All though it offers the same options for shopping, food and entertainment this is a "seamless" mall, in the sense that there are no shops or no physical walls separating the different stores. A shopper can simply keep moving from one store to another without realizing it. There are over 300 brands across categories and each brand has its own billing counter. The mall is managed by Pantaloon Retail India. BTW, the mall has managed to create enough traffic chaos even before opening.

One more theatre to close down

Not for ever though. Rex, on Brigade Road, will shortly cease to exist in its present avatar and re-emerge as a 4-screen multiplex with multi-level parking a year or so later.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Ulsoor makes way for...

.. Halasuru. Yes, the official name for Ulsoor is now Halasuru. All signboards in the city have been changed to reflect this although there has been no official announcement. Actually, it is not a change of name but just a reversal from the anglicized name to its traditional name. There once stood a huge jackfruit orchard in the area around the Ulsoor Lake, I beg your pardon, the Halasuru lake and jackfruit being Halasina Hannu in Kannada, the place acquired the name Halasuru which later got anglicized to Ulsoor. But why this change for Ulsoor alone while there are several places in town with anglicized names, is intriguing.

Another airline touches down

A Colombo-based private airline called Serendip Airlines has launched thrice-a-week services (Boeing 737s) between Kuala Lumpur and Bangalore. After Indian Airlines and Malaysian Airlines this will be the third airline to fly direct to KL from Bangalore. Didn't realize there was so much traffic between the two cities.

What the people want

The New Indian Express on the cit(y)zens' agenda for the new government.

Goodbye Krishna!

So, yet another man dubbed a Hi-Tech Chief Minister has bitten the dust (This interview gives the impression he is not interested even if given the opportunity to be CM again). Political analysts have been quick to conclude that its the lack of development in interior Karnataka and the effect of the drought that has cost Krishna his place. However, I will not get into any of that and for the purposes of this blog, restrict myself to what this means for Bangalore.

When Krishna came in as Chief Minister in 1999, succeeding J H Patel's Janata Dal government, Karnataka had fallen off the investment map of the country after two years of lackadaisical governance. Krishna quickly worked to reposition the state as the premier destination for IT investment and staved off rising competition from the Naidu regime in Andhra Pradesh to conclusively establish Bangalore as India's IT Capital. From there on he went ahead and ushered in participative governance and set up the Bangalore Agenda Task Force to vitalize the city's infrastructure. He put in the right bureaucrats in the right place, Jayakar Jerome in the BDA and Jairaj in KSRTC, to name a couple, and gave them a free hand to implement the development agenda (today the KSRTC is the only profit-making state transport undertaking in the country and the BDA which was given up as dead today has cash surpluses in excess of Rs. 400 crores which are being poured back into the city's development. The BMP was the first city municipal corporation to move to a doubly-entry accounting system and the only one in the country to declare quarterly financial results).

He left no stone unturned to see that the International Airport project would take off. Unfortunately the machinations of the central government have been beyond his ability to fix. When it seemed that the mass rapid transit system would not take off in the avatar originally conceived he brought in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to formulate a new proposal. The Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor looks like it will finally see the light of the day. He encouraged several initiatives connected to the development of the city like Janaagraha by prodding reluctant government functionaries (like the corporation in the case of Janaagraha) to go along. Whether it was the rapid construction of flyovers at several places, completion of the outer ring road, new housing layouts, implementation of the Cauvery IV Stage water supply project, development of over 200 parks, rejuvenation of several lakes, self-assessment scheme for property tax or the improvement in the city's bus services, Krishna backed the respective organizations to the hilt. Admittedly, none of these efforts have kept pace with the galloping speed at which Bangalore is developing and have always fallen short but I would shudder to think of Bangalore's fate without these initiatives. Speaking in the context of Bangalore's development alone, while nothing that Krishna has done can be termed visionary, without a doubt he has been among the most progressive Chief Ministers this state, perhaps even this country has seen. The fact that 11 of the 16 assembly constituencies in Bangalore city elected Congress candidates (Roshan Baig nonwithstanding) is a pointer to the Bangalorean(not just me, the average denizen)'s satisfaction with Krishna's work.

Of course, Krishna is not a man without quirks. His penchant for wanting to turn all the playgrounds in the city into tennis courts or closing down arterial roads to develop gardens have been well documented. Nor a man without failures. His lack of decisive action against non-performing and corrupt ministers, total capitulation to the private college lobby in the Common Entrance Test fpr Professional College Admissions and little progress on augmenting power generation will be blots on his tenure.

What does Krishna's exit means for the city? Is it goodbye to the BATF, Janaagraha and all the corporate-government and public-government interfaces that have been built in governance? It it goodbye to the likes of Jayakar Jerome and Jairaj? The temptation to meddle around with all the good work that has been set in motion will be all too huge for any new regime that comes in. but hopefully in the interests of the city's long term future it will not undo the work that has been done or derail it but instead take it a to whole new level which will truly turn Bangalore into Singapore, a promise which Krishna was unable to deliver.

Anything but pricey

If you thought only expensive private organizations could conduct effective summer camps, check out the exemplary work done by the Department of Youth Services.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

A new concept in libraries

Libraries with a door-delivery service are not new but the Pages Library adds some innovations to the concept. Read about it here.

On bookstores again

After the Hindu and the Times of India, its the Deccan Herald's turn to comment on the new bookstores in town.

Railway station gets a wash

The railway authorities suddenly decided to give the city railway station a bath and about 200 cleaners comprising workers and volunteers descended on the station and gave everything from the track rails to the platform a good scrub. Our railway stations have a long way to go when it comes to cleanliness. If its not the bandicoots that keep scurrying along the drains in between tracks you have all kinds of unmentionables lying over the tracks. Not to mention the litter on the platforms. Read more about this cleaning drive here.

Whitefield pays a price

The havoc unchecked development causes. Deccan Herald publishes an article that buttresses some of the points I made in a post about the ring road.

Wake up, High Court!

While the High Court is on its summer vacation, the National College Circle in Basavanagudi was razed to the ground late last night to make way for the flyover. Its very strange that the court chose not issue a stay order on construction pending disposal of the public interest litigation filed against the construction of the flyover by residents of the area. Check this photograph. Courtesy of The Tabloid of India (its city coverage is still the best, though).

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Adopt a Lake

Bangalore at the turn of the 20th century was home to more than 200 lakes. Today, barely 6 or 7 of them survive. And some of them owe it to the Lake Development Authority constituted by the outgoing S M Krishna administration. While the BATF has had only limited success with its "Adopt a Park" scheme, the LDA is going ahead with an "Adopt a Lake" scheme. Avani Kumar Varma, CEO of the LDA talks about it in the Bangalore Times. Well, anything if it will help sustain and rejuvenate the city's lakes.

Lessons for better driving

Here is a much needed initiative to train drivers how to drive. By that, I mean how to drive by adhering to the rules. Even the most educated of us violate road rules all the time. Hope this will help ease the choas on Bangalore's roads even a bit.

Its Car Free Day again

For the second year in running, 'Air' the voluntary organization that promotes cycling is organizing Car Free Day, on May 23. The objective is to sensitize Bangalore's citizens to its deteriorating environment, road discipline and promote cycling as a fun, free and fast form of transport. The organizers say that the idea is not to remove cars off the road but to promote cars as a clean and healthy alternative mode of transport (anyone who values his life will not heed this suggestion on Bangalore's roads). For more details check

The idea of periodically making parts of the city free from motorized traffic for an entire day is a much needed. The idea itself has been experimented with by former Commissioner of Police, H T Sangliana. Say, if MG Road and its surroundings are banned to traffic for the second Sunday every month and some other area on some other Sunday, by rotation, it would make shopping so much more a pleasurable experience. Parking for vehicles could be provided at some ground at a walkable distance. Imagine walking down the middle of M G Road and getting a breath of fresh air. That will be the day!

Krishna's move questioned

A petition in the High Court has alleged that SM Krishna inaugurated the Vikasa Soudha 6 months before completion because he was publicity hungry and wanted his name on the plaque as he might not have been Chief Minister when the building was completed. The petitioner has even offered to bear the costs of removing the plaque!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

More infra projects on the back burner

A report from the Times of India reproduced:

Work still to commence on Biotech Park; plot yet to be identified for Hardware Park

Bangalore: Two of Bangalore’s high-profile projects, the hardware park and the biotechnology park, seem to be in a limbo. The state government has acquired 75 acres of land near Electronic City for setting up the biotech park, but work is yet to commence there, and the land for the hardware park is yet to be identified.

Though January 1 was the deadline for commencing work on the hardware park, the project hasn’t taken off. Officials say the task force set up for the purpose could not meet during the last two months due to elections.

The Hardware Task Force on its part has identified land in five different locations on the outskirts of Bangalore. The entire blue-print and logistics plans are drawn out though. “However, we are yet to decide on a piece of land which would be over 1,000 acres,” IT&BT Minister D.B. Inamdar said.

The project cost is pretty steep. According to Feedback Strategic, a Delhibased market research firm which conducted the due diligence, the project requires an investment of Rs 750 crore. Meanwhile, the Biotech Park is slated to cost Rs 100 crore. Under the budgetary provision, IT&BT department is allowed to borrow Rs 300 crore from agencies like HUDCO towards infrastructure development. The investment for the Biotech Park will come from this allotted fund. However, the sources of funds for the Hardware Park are not clear yet. “It’s too early now to give details about the source of funds for the Hardware Park. Getting funds may not be difficult. Right now we are talking to various companies to come and invest in the park,” Inamdar said.

From the day the construction starts, the Biotech Park is scheduled to be ready in 12-14 months. Institutions, such as the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) and the Centre for Human Genetics, are expected to be slotted into the park. There is no such deadline in sight for the Hardware Park. Meanwhile, the Karnataka Hardware Consortium and the Penang Electronic Consortium have signed a MoU to jointly develop hardware products for the global market. The question is whether the project will be completed before tectonic changes shift priorities globally. Officials exude confidence that the projects would gain good speed once the elections are over. But the catch lies in the last salvo by Inamdar: “The state and Centre need to take various policy decisions regarding export\import, taxation and excise issues.”

Park view

C . Narayanaswamy ( secretary general , ( JD - S ) : We are not opposed to setting up technology parks for the development of the industry. But, it should not be at the cost of farmers.

S . Suresh Kumar ( BJP spokesperson ) : The idea of biotech park and hardware park won’t be given up. We will rather nurture these projects to build a stronger and prosperous Karnataka.

D . B . Inamdar ( IT & BT minister ) : Work on both the projects would gain speed once the new government is in place. The state and central governments need to take various policy decisions regarding export\import, taxation and excise issues.

Education system overhaul

In a bid to make classroom learning more interesting, the Department of Education, Government of Karnataka has overhauled the education system for standards I to IX in the state. Starting this academic year, schools will follow a trimester system and performance will be measured only in terms of grades. Music, dance, drama and yoga would be an integral part of the curriculum. I am a little skeptical that this system will work. By the looks of it, private schools don't appear to be bound to follow this system. In Government schools, when even basic education is not imparted properly, how can any one hope for a well-rounded curriculum being implemented?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Hosur Road revisited

An article in the Deccan Herald echoes a lot of what I said in an earlier post. Read it here.

BMIC takes off

The looooooong delayed Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor, in simple terms , the 6-lane expressway, the first privately funded one in the country, between Bangalore and Mysore has finally taken off. Without any of the fanfare normally associated with such projects work has quietly begun at both ends. Although the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise, the company that is executing the project attributes the low profile to the electoral code of conduct, its perhaps a good thing for the successful completion of the project that it does maintain a low profile and does not attempt to raise the hackles of too many people. When complete the distance will be reduced by 28 km and commute time will be only be 70 mins!


What's with this new trend in school names? Eagle Ridge Prep School? Greenwood High? Is it to give a semblance of continuity to NRI-returns? Give me a break!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

What was the ring road built for?

Normally, ring roads are built to keep heavy traffic out of the city and allow you to traverse across the city without having to wade through it. And they don't have numerous intersections and are characterised by exits and flyovers so that traffic can ply uninterrupted. But like all things even ring roads have been customized for India. Given the plethora of constructions ranging from malls and multiplexes to apartments and corporate campuses that are coming up off the outer ring road, particularly alongside the Hosur Road - Airport Road stretch, I wonder if the Outer Ring Road (ORR) was built only to drive up property prices in those parts of town. Soon all kinds of sundry constructions will crop up. Private property developers have acquired huge tracts of agricultural land and are constructing gargantuan housing complexes. All these are approachable only through narrow mud roads. With the town planning authorities playing no part in these developments what happens, if and when these get filled with 5000 people each and 1000 cars all trying to maneuver these narrow lanes? Who will build the interior roads, pavements, storm-water drains etc? Already, the service road in front of the Innovative Multiplex is being used for parking! This ring road is choc-a-block with city traffic trying to fight for road space with the inter-state juggernauts. And the construction is just starting. A year down the lane, the ORR is going to resemble any overcrowded city road. Thankfully, Jayakar Jerome and his team at the BDA are thinking about a peripheral ring road already. But do our town planning authorities even know the fundamentals of town planning?

A new Kempegowda Tower

The BMP proposes to construct another Kempegowda Tower at a cost of Rs. 25 lakhs in front of its headquarters on N R Road. Can't this money be put to better use?

Shetty's Health City

Celebrity doctor Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty now plans a Health City which will come up on 20 acres of land adjoining his, now popular in Pakistan, Narayana Hrudayalaya. The Health City, among others, will have neurological, opthalmic and orthopaedic care centres.

Puttana Theatre may be revived

The Puttana theatre may see light again. The BMP has promised to consider all options to renovate and reopen the theatre while the KFCC has also come forward to run it.


The rain tree near the Shankar Mutt is gone. Read this for a complete take on what happened.

Tree helpline

Since August 2003, the Forest Department's Bangalore (urban) division has withdrawn the carte-blanche given to city authorities like the BMP to fell trees, on a complaint filed by ESG or the Environment Support Group, an NGO. The ESG runs a tree helpline (even the forest department runs one, based out of the Aranya Bhavan, but, not surprisingly, they never respond to complaints) where citizens can call in to complain of any illegal tree-felling. Read this for information on what the rules about tree felling are and the next time you see a tree being felled, even if it is on private land, do not hesitate to question the perpetrators and call the tree helpline at 26534364.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Pay and park malpractice continues

The Pay and Park scheme was supposed to be one of the progressive developments in the city, earmarking parking areas and ensuring revenues went into the coffers of the corporation. Two years ago, a scam was unearthed where the private contractors who were managing the lots printed fake coupons and charged amounts higher than was mandated. Initially the authorities took no note of it, but after opposition parties threatened to create a hue and cry the licenses of the erring contractors were promptly cancelled and the BMP said it would run the pay and park lots itself. Today malpractices continue unchecked. The BMP-installed boards with details of the location, category and parking charges have conveniently disappeared. There is no way of telling if the person manning the lot is the authorised person since he carries no identity card nor wears a uniform. And these crooks no longer print fake coupons but instead, if at all, dispense coupons of A category locations in B category locations and collect a higher fee.

Concrete jungle or.....?

Check these two semi-aerial pictures of M.G.Road and Ulsoor that I shot. Still a green jungle, eh? :-)

Pic 1
Pic 2

Concrete monstrosity threatens Sankey Lake

This concrete monstrosity is to come up on the banks of the Sankey Lake. Read more here.

Easing traffic flow

Anyone who has been a little observant when driving on Bangalore's roads would realize that BMTC buses always stop 5 feet away from the kerb at bus stands blocking the entire road and autorickshaws crowd around bus stands forcing the buses to stop haphazardly. A 50 feet stretch on either size of a bus stand should be a no parking zone and BMTC buses must be instructed to stop within 2 feet of the kerb. I feel this would ease up traffic flow by no small measure. Of course, enforcement remains a problem.


...a billboard on the back of a BMTC bus featuring an advertisement for a new nursery school. The name? Not Little Petals or Eagle Ridge Prep School. It is "Ajji Mane".

At last...

...someone has raked up the closure of Devaraj Urs Road from Gopala Gowda Circle to Basaveshwara Circle so that our beloved politicians can move securely from one Soudha to another. The Hindu has published a special forum on this issue featuring reactions from several readers. And the verdict is unanimous, "Reopen the road". I am not expecting an insensitive, callous, disconnected Government to take note. Will the High Court treat this as a PIL?

Friday, May 07, 2004

After parks, playgrounds...

After some praiseworthy work in developing and renovating parks in the city, the BMP has now turned its attention to playgrounds. It has put forth a Rs. 100 million proposal to develop 154 playgrounds in the city, of a total of 700 identified. These playgrounds, between themselves, will cater to virtually every kind of sport ranging from cricket, basketball, throw ball to kho-kho, kabaddi, tennis, athletics, football, indoor sports, badminton etc. Other amenities like changing rooms, toilets, litter bins, drinking water, floodlights and jogging tracks would also be provided. The periphery would be lined with green cover. Good move, BMP.

Airport debate

The proposed Bangalore International Airport at Devanahalli has been on the cards for so long now that each one of the three major parties in Karnataka, the Congress, BJP and the JD(S) have been involved in it someway or the other. On the eve of election results, the Times of India engages H M Revanna, the Civil Aviation minister in the outgoing Congress Minister, Ananth Kumar, former BJP Union Civil Aviation Minister and Suryanarayana of the JD (S) in a debate on what each of their parties would do to expedite construction of the airport if they come to power. Read it .here

Changes to building bylaws

The BMP has notified, in the gazette, changes to building bylaws that will come into effect from June 4th. Among the most notable changes are that all public and semi-public buildings will have to provide ease of access to physically handicapped people and that all buildings will have to plant trees and employ rain harvesting methods. Like always in India, making laws is easy, enforcing them is another story.


A spanking new fleet of BMTC buses labelled 'Parisara Vahini 2004'. The BMTC isn't telling yet why they have been named so. If these buses are supposed to be environment friendly - guzzle less gas and emit less smoke - one would expect BMTC to have gone to town about it. Or is it just someone's fancy?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The traffic nightmare

I spent all of 20 minutes in trying to cover a 300m distance from the Bangalore Club on Residency Road to beyond the Olympic Sports junction of Double Road. The sheer volume of traffic is mind-numbing. A sea of bikes, scooters and cars with buses and autos thrown in. Add to this indisciplined drivers who have little regards for signals, lane discipline or any other traffic regulations. The air is full of noxious fumes. This, at an intersection where traffic congestion is supposed to have eased after a flyover was constructed. Must be a lot worse in other parts of the city. Makes me wonder if Bangalore is heading in the right direction. Most parts of downtown Bangalore are too narrow for any widening of roads or building more flyovers (if flyovers are the right solution in the first place). Are we adopting a piecemeal approach in trying to solve the problem? Would a mass rapid transit system help? How would you discourage people from using their own means of transport given the convenience? Should the city centre be decongested? If so, how? By giving incentives to move to the outskirts of the city through tax holidays, cheaper land and so on? Wonder how some of the South East Asian countries with similar population densities have managed the issue. Are our civic authorities looking for any long term answers?

The Cottage Cafe

There is competition for the Coffee Days and Baristas in town. The Central Cottage Industries Emporium which markets and retails handicrafts has launched the Cottage Cafe below its outlet (in the Ajantha Hotel Complex,next to ING Vysya Bank and opposite HSBC/Mittal Towers). Similar in some ways to other cafes with its mochas and cappuchinos, this cafe has also serves exotic varities of teas, including herbal ones. The decor is in tune with the the rest of the cottage emporium and is dotted with all kinds of figurines. Prices range from 15 to 60 Rs. Try the elaichi flavoured coffee.

Monday, May 03, 2004

A report on the Indiranagar 100-ft road

In the Deccan Herald.

Hospital boom

Bangalore has historically been a laggard when it came to healthcare facilities. Its Chennai that was known for its super-speciality hospitals. But ever since the Narayana Hrudayalaya treated Baby Noor Fatima of Pakistan, Bangalore's hospitals have come into focus. Bangalore today has several super-speciality hospitals like the Manipal Hospital, Mallya Hospital, Wockhardt, Narayana Hrudayalaya, HOSMAT and Sagar Apollo, not to mention the gargantuan Satya Sai Insitute of Higher Medical Sciences run by the Puttaparthi Sai Baba. Today there are 70000 beds as opposed to 3500, 20 years ago. Now the city is aiming at the global market with the USP of world class medical services at a fraction of the cost in line with the rising phenomenon of health tourism. On the anvil are more high-end hospitals like the Wockhardt health city on Bannerghatta Road which will have 5 super-speciality hospitals catering to different areas, the MS Ramaiah multi-speciality hospital and the Asian Heart Foundation's cardiac care facility. One question though, how of many of these are affordable to the common man?

How green will be 'silicon valley'

Quite typically Times of India. A bunch of Page-3 types debate what Bangalore should be like in 2020. Build on its green heritage or be a "racing, thriving, city with a soul that appeals to the young". Since when did the two become mutually exclusive? Couldn't find a online version of the article on Check out Page 2 of the print edition or the epaper edition.

Will Jayakar Jerome follow Krishna out?

H S Balram, former resident editor of the Bangalore edition of the Times of India says "Ask not what Jayakar Jerome is doing, ask what he is not doing" Undoubtedly SM Krishna's most trusted lieutenant when it comes to the city's development, Jerome has time and again proven his credentials. From rescuing the Bangalore Development Authority from depths of obscurity and making it so cash rich that the organization pours money all too willingly into building flyovers all across the city to developing parks, removing encroachments, restoring lakes, and even building the out-patient department of the Victoria Hospital, this exemplary IAS officer has time and again justified the faith and freedom that Krishna has entrusted in him. One might accuse him of overzealousness but even his worst enemy cannot accuse him of not giving his everything for the city's cause. But he is so closely identified with Krishna, that if Krishna loses office Jerome will almost surely follow suit. Will it be Bangalore's loss?

Doing a London

Close on the heels of the CM yearning for a Big Ben-like clock tower near the Vidhana Soudha, the Tourism Department has outlined its plans for developing a Central Tourism District which it hopes will become a hotspot for global tourists trotting through closely located monuments and destinations, like in London. The Vidhana Soudha will be the focal point and encompass the High Court, Planetarium, Dancing Fountain (LRDE Park aka Indira Priyadarshini Park), Venkatappa Art Gallery, Vishweshwaraiah Technological Museum, Cubbon Park, Freedom Park and the Raj Bhavan. The department feels that except for putting up peripheral infrastructure like toilets, eateries and creating seating facilities not much expenditure needs to be incurred whereas the potential for revenues are huge. Domestic tourist inflows into Karnataka grew 50% in 2003 while foriegn tourist inflows grew 40%.

Parks turn dump yards

An article in Vijay Times about parks in Jayanagar turning into dump yards for debris.

It was once a sign of progress...

Long before Prime Minister Vajpayee ascended the throne and announced his grand National Highway Development Programme, Bangalore had such a road, one of the then handful ones in India that came anywhere close to being worthy of being described as "international standard roads". The 50 kilometre stretch of Hosur Road that runs from the Central Silk Board junction to the Tamil Nadu border, near Hosur town. Hosur Road is the thoroughfare that leads to the 800-acre Electronics City, home to some of India's leading IT companies, notably the Infosys City campus which is now a must visit for every head of state visiting India. Back in the mid-90s, it was a different story. The road was a narrow stretch of potholes filled with trucks, inter-state buses, bullock carts and geeks rushing to work. Quite a sorry sight indeed. Commuting the 18-km distance from the city to Electronics City took two hours. The IT honchos protested. Newspaper articles bemoaned how lack of infrastructure would impede development. The Government turned a blind eye. Sometime in 1997, when Bangalore was just about gaining some international visibility, some leading IT CEOs including the likes of Narayanamurthy and Azim Premji led a novel protest by sweeping the Hosur Road with brooms all day to draw the attention of the administration. The act made it to international publications like Time, Newsweek and Wired. And the Govt. swung into action. It wrangled a loan from the Asian Development Bank and came up with a plan of converting the entire road into a 4 lane highway. By 1999, Hosur Road was an impressive sight, a sight that warmed the cockles of many a Bangalorean's heart. A 4 lane highway with each lane of 30-feet width, smooth as a baby's bottom, service roads lining the entire stretch neatly separated from the main road by concrete separators, barely any intersections on the way. Commute times were reduced to 30 minutes as cars zipped across the road. Surely this was a sign of the progress that the city was making.

2004. Layers of sand line the side of the roads effectively reducing motorable width by 30%. The median has been illegally cut open at several places to create loads of intersections for everyone to cut across at his convenience. The surface is back to resembling that of the moon's. The service road has been encroached by trucks on the wait and makeshift shops. Volume of traffic has increased 100% in the last 6 years. And its back to two hour long commutes. Who's responsible? And the PM is not coming to the rescue.

Digital meters in autorickshaws

I travelled in an auto that had a digital meter installed (still a rarity though) and it was interesting to note that in addition to the fare it also displays the distance travelled. A quick check for any sign of tampering, though not exact. Hope the transport department can overcome the auto unions' opposition and push through the switchover to such passenger-friendly devices. On an aside, the monopoly of Standard Metres of Pune in this space continues.

Did you know?

That autorickshaws are no longer allowed entry on Brigade Road? Which means you can't go any place on Brigade Road in a downpour or if you are caught in the middle of what comes closest to Times Square in Bangalore, in a downpour, you wait for the rain to stop or get drenched on your way to either end of it. Like I did today.

... and the bad

As the day progressed, the drizzle continued relentlessly and towards the evening turned into a heavy downpour which lasted for about 15 minutes. And that was all it took to bring this mighty city of the future to its knees. Roads resembled what we hope the river Cauvery would look like (but rarely does), peak hour traffic was reduced to a pace than the normal snail's pace that it moves at, office goers were stranded with puddles of water everywhere and auto drivers refusing to ply people unless a substantial premium was forked out, reckless drivers spraying the slush on hapless pedestrians. If a 15 minute downpour can do this, I don't want to think of what disaster the monsoon could bring. Time the BMP stopped putting out sleek adverts glorifying itself and get down to some work.

The good...

I returned to Bangalore, this morning, after two days spent in a humid Kerala, to an overcast sky, a pleasant breeze which turned into a light drizzle as the morning progressed, the kind of drizzle that you don't mind stepping out into. The magic weather that Bangalore is reputed for (whether it any longer lives up to that consistently is a debate we can have some other time) was out in all its glory.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Big Ben for city

The Chief Minister S M Krishna paid a visit to the under-construction Vikasa Soudha yesterday, perhaps to get a glimpse of the CM's new office which he might not get an opportunity to occupy. On his visit, SMK directed Jayakar Jerome to examine the feasibility of the construction a clock tower on the lines of London's Big Ben which will not spoil the aesthetics of the Vidhana Soudha and its younger sibling, the Vikasa Soudha. He also asked for 15 nilgiri trees, that line the site near the (erstwhile) Gopala Gowda Circle and obstruct the frontage of the building from view, to be spared the axe, yes, you read that right. However, he condemned a copse of eucalyptus trees to their graves. The building that is expected to be completed by August will cost Rs. 70 crores and is powered entirely by a solar grid and uses rain harvesting and recycling for its water needs.

Indiranagar 100ft road hurtles towards disaster

It was in September 2003 that I last visited this road. A 100ft wide and a kilometre-and-a-half long green paradise cocooned under the canopy of massive rain trees, its entire length. Over the years several residences have given way to offices. Still the road was very quiet and placid with traffic sailing smooth. Apparently in the last few months, things have taken a turn for the worse with loads of shopping arcades, cafes, restaurants and ATMs having sprung up on this thoroughfare. While the shopowners rejoice at the potential for business, residents bemoan the congestion, pollution and destruction of green life that this unchecked urbanization has brought with it. Read the Bangalore Times' report.

Another theater bites the dust

The Puttana Chitramandira in the Jayanagar Shopping Complex has closed since yesterday. Named in honour of the famous Kannada movie director of the 70s and 80s, Puttana Kanagal, the theatre had turned the corner last year and made a surplus of Rs. 3 lakhs. The theatre was being managed by the Karnataka Film Industry Development Corporation which itself was wound down last year. Subsequently the city corporation also washed its hands off and the theatre screened its last show on Thursday.