Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Firangi Paani & I

Meet the pretty flower. As I walked in to the British Library, noticed the flower drop and land on the kadapa tile. I had an impluse to pick it up, but decided against it and went in anyway. Minutes later, as I stepped out, the flower lay on the rough tile, so fresh and beautiful that I didn't have a heart to leave it there.

Placed neatly between my fingers it covered my ring and 'pretended' to be a finger 'ring'. A lovely dash of dark pink, slight yellow and just enough white! And we walked hand-in-hand. The next stop was a fancy-shawancy 'beer place' apparently the only microbrewery in town. (I'm not giving names, search online)

As my friend went in to click some pictures (she's writing about this place) - we sat there on a nice old-fashioned bench, painted a worn-out sea-green. And that's where the little photo shoot occured.

It's not a brilliant shot, but I just needed to capture the crisp flower against the bench.

After so much 'work' (we visited a gallery, then the library :p)it was time for 'coffee time'. And the next shot was there ... sitting at the table, almost passing off as decoration, (or so I think :))

A shortchanged pedestrian's rant

I live a dangerous life. How so, you ask? Let's try and explain this. I am part of the vast majority that lives life precariously.

I am a pedestrian and a complusive bus-hopper. Yes, this is by choice. I am a jittery driver and then again - a bus-hopper can always hop out if there is a jam and board the bus ahead ... (sure there are limits to doing that too)

Getting back to living dangerously. Well, I am part of the tribe that even though is in majority is truly in minority. I'm a pedestrian!

So, in the larger city plan, I do not exist. I kid you not. Look out of your window, or walk out of that gated community exit door and you will see roads so broad that you need to be a national level athelete to cross it in the given 10 seconds at the traffic signal. That too, if you are lucky to be standing at a signal that accepts your existence (whatever traffic signals are left, of them only a few have a 10 or lesser seconds slot for pedestrains to cross over).

Most roads today are signal free, and I was at one such road today. Richmond road on which is situated Baldwin Women's Methodist college (my alma mater) and till very recently my workplace. I was crossing to the other side of the road and after waiting patiently for a good five minutes - a friend and I decided to brave the on-coming traffic.

And we almost got killed!! No exaggeration. I was seconds close to death - don't know if a bus traveling at 5km/hr speed can kill but, it can surely cause bodily harm. Just as we reached the center of the road, a bus closed in on us, inspite of seeing us get on the road. And we were almost sandwiched between two buses - both drivers thought it wasn't their duty to stop to allow us - pedestrians - the right of way!

And this is on a stretch that is packed. And it got me thinking. Why are authorities allowing such mindless infrastructural changes? Near my home, on Bellary road highway, they are further expanding the 8 lane road. And this time they have eaten into the side walk. So, now, everytime you cross, you need to thank your stars that you crossed over unscathed.

I don't have numbers or stats to justify this. They aren't needed. Here's the simple truth - every time you get off your vehicle you are the largest minority in the town planners book. Yes, you are a pedestrian - even if it is for a minute.

Even those planning this expansion of roads are included. Then, why this gross miscalculation? Is it because they don't care or is it a way to push every city deweller to aspire to own a vehicle?

It's nothing but "Forced aspiration" a way to ensure that the consumerist culture continues. In a time where sustainablity is a word thrown around for convenience, we fail to see how encouraging a pedestrain culture makes a wise long-term sense, obviously is also sustainable.

It means better health for the citizens,
It means better air quality (lesser cars = lesser fumes)
It means lesser air-borne diseases
It means lesser visits to the doctor
It means reduced noise pollution
It means lesser road accidents/deaths
And all this adds to a better quality of life.

Yet, we the largest minority on the roads of Bangalore city or actually almost every Indian city are being shortchanged. We are the lesser mortals whose lives hold no value - because we don't zip around in shiny bikes or guzzler cars.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Freedom lesson from the Mall - Part 2

Okay, so today was a day of learning. I was at the counter again! Well, ya, last minute shopping. Anyhow, after the shocker I decided it was wise for me to allow my sister to get the goodies billed. I stood close-by.

And I noticed, the girl in front of my sister had this very boho-look, wow! Anyhow, she seemed to have shopped a lot - the piled clothes hid the guy behind the counter. As he finished billing and the piling reduced to show his face, he told the boho-girl the bill, she gave him her card.

Seconds before swiping he tells her, "And ma'am, there will be a Rs5 charge."
Boho-girl asks, "Why?"
Billing Guy replies, "For the plastic cover."
Boho-girl - "Plastic what?"
Billing Guy - "Cover, ma'am."
Boho-girl - (pauses and slighty peeved) - "Now, you want to make money from this too."
Billing Guy - "Ma'am it is per government rule ma'am."
Boho-girl - "Ok, just put everything in one bag! HMPF!"

Now, my sister & I were grinning from ear-to-ear. Her reaction was not surprising. We carry our own bag. Well, we aren't mall rats and we do have this habit, formed recently. And yes, we even carry it to the mall.

Then again, Boho-girl wasn't happy, yet she was at the Freedom sale. Are we realy free? We need a sustainable approach and it means tweaking our ways. And the less plastic the better. Yet, Boho-girl felt she was being cheated, why should she be charged for plastic cover. I am sure, she would have gladly campaigned for a GREEN EARTH, yet she was here unable to join the dots.

Suggestion - Boho-girl - a big jhola( cloth bag) will complete your look.

Happy Independence Day!

Freedom lesson from the Mall - PART 1

Yes, that's the last place you expect to be taught anything - except that consumerism is good.

The visit was planned after all who doesn't want a good bargain. Yet, there is something about our (was accompanied by my younger sis) shopping ways that even on a SALE day, we picked something on FULL MRP! Sorry I digress.

Standing in queue, I patiently waited my turn. In front of me, a young couple (early 20s) stood. They looked really happy - two shopping bag full on their either side bore testimony. The hep-looking guy (he had two piercing on his left ear! I thought looked chic!) tapped his debit/credit card, patience wearing off. Suddenly, an older bearded man cut in line, stood ahead of me and behind the couple, handed the merchandise to the guy at the counter.

The girl yelled at the man, asking him to get in the line. The man yelled back, informing her that he take already told the guy at the counter he was coming back. Without listening, she shot back abuses at him, to which the bearded man reacted and asked her to shut up. Her beau, by now started nudging the bearded man, yelling at the top of his voice - "How dare you speak rudely to her!". He pushed the bearded man, who grabbed the guy's shirt, pushed him back. The young guy almost punched the bearded man.

Everyone around was aghast, their shopping experience ruined (they were getting delayed) some felt annoyed and some others enjoyed the 'fight scene'. I was too close to the scene and was scared I would get hit if any one of them missed the punch and so stepped back gingerly, hoping not to step on someone's foot.

Just in time the store manager appeared, intervened - promised the bearded guy that his purchased merchandise would be billed first - "But, Sir, please come to the side." The man left fuming - stood a few feet away.

And I got back to where I was standing - behind the couple. What I did not expect was the giggle of the girl. She was somehow amused at the whole scene. She felt nice that her man "fought for her" and tried to calm the rattled guy who didn't mind calling the man - M*therF****ER, etc. And then, as if she was soothing a child, the girl said - "Forget it, these people don't know how to behave. She saw me looking at her and smiled. I didn't understand what she meant by these people.

I was still trying to figure what that meant, when I heard what she said next - these low class people don't know how to shop". I was apalled. I couldn't believe I had heard what she had said. As if reading my mind, she said it again! She called the bearded man that because unlike this 'cool, chic couple' he was dressed simply - in a pant and a shirt and was slightly darker complexioned.

Her beau, pacified a little said - "Ya, that M*therF****ER grabbed my shirt, just imagine! I would have punched him."

Really? Is this how HIGH CLASS people talk! I was disappointed and felt angry. Not only had the couple branded this man from a low class, they felt it was very sophisticated to hurl abuse after abuse on that man.

Did their education teach them this? Were they right to misbehave with a man who was slightly elder to them? Would they talk to their parents like this?

It got me thinking. Are we really free? Is this what freedom means? To disrespect and be rude and to abuse.

There is some time before we truly attain indendepence - from biases.

We will be independent, the day -
we rid ourselves of biases,
we respect the other person as we would want to be respected and
we allow space for dialouge.

For personally, I feel if the couple had requested politely and heard the man - this wouldn't have happened.

Freedom comes with responsibility and we shouldn't forget that.