Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last One

The following is the last in my list of articles for the NXG :)

Thundering revelations

I woke up in the middle of the night. Thought I heard a loud explosion. As I opened my eyes and tried to come to my senses, I saw the tube light blinking. Then another explosion, louder than the previous one I guess. I closed my eyes in fear on hearing it. It was then that I realized that it was raining outside, the thunder is what had woke me up and the light had come from the lightning. Well, nothing unusual about it. It has happened many times before. What was unusual was that it seemed too loud and too close.

I couldn’t get any sleep after that because I got too scared. The lightning seemed to become brighter and the ensuing thunder grew louder and louder for every passing thunder and I grew more and more terrified, by every passing minute. It was as though I was going to get hit next. After that I don’t remember how and when I dozed off. The next morning when I woke up, I was just as terrified as the previous night. I asked my mom to make coffee and we discussed about the thunder showers last night over coffee and newspapers, outside on the patio.

My home is in the outskirts of the city. The weather was cool and moist due to the heavy rains last night. And the leaves and flowers of all the plants seemed greener than usual and fresh (they seemed happier :)). We later heard from the local folk that several television sets had been damaged because of the severe thunder storms the previous night. Luckily, nothing happened to our electronic gadgets.

I have always remained an ardent admirer of Nature. But on that fateful night, I got scared of it. There has been a lot in the news about cyclones hitting costal areas and everything standing in their way getting torn away. It reminded me of cyclones, hurricanes and tsunamis that affect so many people’s lives. Most of all, this incident made me wonder how small we are before Nature and that no matter how much man achieves, we are still at the mercy of Nature.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another article for NXG

The following is another of the articles I had written for the NXG, but didn’t even send in this one. This article I am pretty sure will still hold good about Chennai.

Early Morning rush

Our beloved Chennai becomes more beautiful and bustling during the busy hours in the mornings. With a sprawling population of 4.34 million, our city gets on the go during the early mornings. Neatly ironed shirts and pants, girls and women wearing chudidhars, salwars, cotton sarees and the like, nice accessories and trendy footwear that go with them, the bags they all carry, school children in their uniforms, the charts and books some students carry with them, the ID cards which talk for themselves, are all very colorful and vibrant.

People driving their two wheelers, cars, or commuting through shared autos, crowded buses, vans, on their way to work or college, some of them sighing at the red light of the traffic signals and the traffic, as if they have just spotted their enemy or boss (the Author is not responsible if there is an overlapping of sorts for the Reader), while others looking at their watches anxiously, clearly in a hurry, road side shops, the smell of fresh filter coffee filling the air, vegetable and fruit vendors on the streets, the air smelling good with the fragrance of jasmine and ‘sampangi’ (don’t know what the English name is) flowers from the flower shops by the roadside, the tea stalls full of people taking tea, reading newspapers and discussing about the current affairs, the walkers by the streets- some walking alone with their own thoughts, and others chatting with their companions as they walk - these are a few of the common sights and smells in the mornings; it is all so refreshing to watch.

And what best way to observe all these than from an MTC bus! It makes us realize that the city is so enthralling with life and color. Chennai may still have a long way to go in certain ways when compared with many other cities of the world. However, ours is a city, beautiful in its own right!

Just to make things more clear I had written this article, the previous one and another one while I was still in Chennai and all of them are approximately nine months old. There is one more article pending and that is the last one in my list of NXG articles :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Article for NXG

This is the article I sent to the NXG supplement of the Hindu, some nine months back. It did not get published, and since my blog is the one place where I can do as I please (now, how cool is that? :)), I am posting it here now.

Bus Journeying

Who said you have got to make use of your own vehicle because public transport is not so interesting?
It can be fun you know. MTC bus journey in the city can be enjoyable (conditions apply!). I travel by them to college every day. It takes about one and a half hours in the mornings and a solid two hours in the evenings (phew!). The following are some of the interesting observations I made:

Number 1: You may have waited for a particular numbered bus for even up to half an hour (especially in the evenings), but two or three of it, will come one behind the other, often racing each other (causing you to curse with rage!).

Number 2: Okay, now is the best one. Let’s say, you did not give the right change to the conductor and he (mostly) does not return your exact change, falling short of a 50 paise. What do you do? My advice: Shut up. If you ask for it, you will get a cold stare or will get scolded badly for not giving the correct change! Just kidding, you have every right to ask back your money, at least be prepared as to what to expect after reading my article ;)

Number 3: Even if the bus is literally empty, many young guys prefer travelling in the foot boards (boys will be boys?!). This of course, is not applicable, to AC buses and the closed door ones. They particularly find joy in hitting the bus, singing some dumb songs, and exhibiting ‘monkey’ like behavior. And they travel in groups. Nobody bothers as long as they don’t bother someone. Some conductors don't allow this and yell at them to come up, but most don't mind.

Number 4: Passengers are often kind to each other- like all good things in life, conditions apply; say for instance, not applicable if the bus is too crammed. When people stand with heavy bags, people sitting get it from them and have it until either one of them gets down. This is particularly helpful for school kids (who, by the way, seem to carry bags that weigh more than them!).

Number 5: When pregnant women travel standing, people seated always get up and give place for them to sit. This is applicable for very old people and mothers with infants or toddlers too.

Number 6: Commuters help each other by passing money and tickets (some passengers though, can be quite unwilling about participating in this free trade, don't disturb them, for your own good!).

Number 7: Most of the drivers are passenger- friendly, even if they had already started from the bus stop, when they see people coming towards the bus, they wait until they get in.

Number 8: Now, here is information, which many people don't seem to know. If you get the so called 30 Rupees ticket from a conductor in any of the MTC buses, you can travel anywhere within the city, in any number of MTC buses (except AC buses and the night buses), for the whole day. You can make use of this if you switch between buses, saves money. And there are other kinds of tickets also, like you can avail the same facility for a month by paying 600 bucks.

A few points in this article may be superannuated now. For instance, point number 8 was not so well known back then, but awareness about it would have improved by now. And the 30 bucks and 600 bucks tickets’ rate may have changed. But I suspect that it will not be so, coz the TN Government rarely increases the rates of bus tickets; even after the Central Government announced the increase in the fuel prices recently, the TN Govt. announced that it won’t increase ticket prices. Over here, the ticket rates were increased by one rupee the very next day (sigh) - for ordinary buses, for ACs it was much more. The rest still hold good I guess.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Some more on Bangalore

One thing that is pretty scary is the rash driving. Bangalore’s road fatalities are the second highest in the country, next to Delhi (was in the papers on June 3, 2010) - about 860 deaths and 6100 injured annually.

Normally, you would think drivers will reduce their speed when they travel towards or through crowded places. Well, you won’t see that happen here. They still keep pressing the accelerators. This is one of the reasons I like Chennai. Drivers there were more careful.

There will be moments when some vehicle will approach you so fast, making you think ‘This is it, he is going to hit me’ and just as you anticipate it, he will stop the vehicle suddenly. They highly rely on the efficiency of the brake system, just one more of the reasons for automobile manufacturers make their products all the more perfect I guess.

And it is pretty scary to cross some roads, coz there is little organizing. There is this route I take in the mornings to go to office, where there is complete chaos. The road has been blocked owing to construction works for the Metro (underground Railway Network) and only two wheelers can pass through.

One can find vehicles coming out of nowhere from all directions and you can also find bicycles driven on platforms! I don’t know if pedestrians are meant to walk on their heads. It’s important to maintain a 360 degree watch.

When I told that there is too much rash driving in Bangalore to a person I had struck up an acquaintance with, he just said “If you say Bangalore’s is rash driving if you go further north, to Pune and all, you’ll die”. Hmmm, I wonder how that will be. Not the dying part, the driving part :)

Talking about people, they seem good hearted. And there seems to me more tolerance (as in, for all the right things) and understanding than there was in Chennai, because Chennai tends to be a little more conservative. And the attitude of the people here is nice.

Every one in the city seems to mind their own business, not one bad experience of ever being disturbed by others or unpleasant constant stares so far, which, I think won’t be the same case if I were in Chennai.

That doesn’t mean things are rosy all the time. I have seen people have nasty fights- once, between the conductor of a bus and a commuter. Another, between a customer and a stationery shop employee (or rather, boy- I pity him). The fights were intense and scary, and it sometimes escalated beyond verbal confrontation. But that’s only between the two of them. They don’t disturb others.

As an aside, that is not all about Bangalore; will post further as days go by. So, until my next post stay cool and stay safe.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

To believe or not to believe

I have always been enthralled about the world, just like you- at how things and beings are made. Of the many questions it poses, one question remains to be perplexing- where exactly do we exist? Like for instance, where exactly this ‘space’ is and how much space is there in space.

It is said that we are on the Earth which is in the Solar system inside the Milky Way galaxy and that there are other galaxies such as this Milky Way… blah blah blah. We know only so much. But where exactly is that? This reminds me of the very last scene of the movie ‘Men in Black’. It is a beautifully imagined one.

We have relied on science for long to answer our questions. And we will continue to do so. But some say science will only spur more questions than it can answer. And it is said that religion (or rather, faith) begins where science ends.

It’s convenient to believe in some supernatural power coz it gives you a feeling of hope when you think all is lost; lets you to believe that everything happens for a reason. Or when you accomplish something of importance in society, it gives you the ability to stay humble (not that atheist’s are too boastful of themselves ;)). It also gives some explanation when things happen beyond one’s control or power.

May be it’s enough to know only so much. May be it’s best to leave it at that, without venturing further. May be God Himself wants some things to be abstract. These are what believers would perhaps say. May be ignorance is bliss. But then, isn’t knowledge power?

The presence of God has for long been a mystery. Just like the question- where are we. Perhaps it will remain a mystery for eternity. There are some Believers who believe in science also to an extent. They would perhaps say it is up to the Maker of all the Worlds to decide whether or not to give us humans the answers. But then, is there a Maker? Atheists would say only science will eventually give us the answers- it is just a matter of time.

And I am stuck in between. I have been a follower all my life- whether I did or did not believe, because of my family I guess. I do not know how I should describe myself- an atheist or a believer. So another question remains, do I believe or do I not? Not an easy one for me to answer I suppose.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A little on Bangalore

Bangalore has many nick names- India's Silicon Valley, Garden city , Science City , world's best known back office (this term is applied to India itself in a larger context), to state a few. And all of them seem apt. There is also one called ‘the Pensioner's Paradise’, I am not so sure whether it is apt in today’s times.

It is a city with a modern outlook and a modern population- friendly, and quite fashionable and trendy. To mention all my experiences and observations, about Bangalore, this one post won’t suffice. So, I will break them into many posts and write about them now and then.

First, to talk about transportation, the promptness of service is commendable. One thing really sweet is that the drivers stop when they see someone on the road gesturing for the bus to stop, at least in my route- the Hosur road, on the way to EC; don’t know much about other routes. The ventilation is poor though, I have seen many people feeling giddy coz of the poor ventilation, more so if the bus is crowded.

One irritating thing about bus travel is that no matter how crowded the bus is, the conductors will try to go through the crowd of people, pushing them aside, and stamping people's foot. So, next time bus is crowded, and the conductor approaches you, what do you do? My advice: move as far away from the spot asap, for which you would have to do the same thing the conductor does, pushing aside people, stamping feet! (Sigh).

In Chennai, the conductors don’t move around much. They just sit in the seat assigned to them and people pass money to the conductor and he/ she passes back the ticket and the change. This process is a complete relief compared to the practice here and seems flawless as far as I know. It would be much better if Bangalore also adopted this strategy.

And then, there is hardly any checking, that is to get hold of people who don’t buy tickets. In the four months I have been here, checking has happened only once. A person I knew, a fellow student from my training class (who later became my friend), got caught on that day :)

Anyways, the point is there is hardly any checking. So, this gives scope for conductors to cheat, some conductors get money from you without giving you the ticket. Oh and I should mention, they give you generous concessions for your travel.

And then, there is this concept of driver cum conductor. Yeah, you are right, the driver distributes the ticket. The driver just parks the bus in some lonely spot, takes out his bag and starts distributing tickets. And you are left to wonder “don’t these people value time!”.

It’s irritating, especially if you have to go someplace important and on time. Though I have witnessed this several times, I remember the particular day when I returned from home one Monday morning; the bus was held for about half an hour, at four in the morning. I couldn’t afford the luxury of sleep since I was travelling alone and had to be cautious about my belongings and all. Had I gone with one more person, I would have slept (Sigh).

I tend to deviate. So, this ‘practice’ should definitely be done away with. But then, like bus travel anywhere, here also it has its ups and downs I guess. Enough has been said on bus travel I think, I will talk more about Bangalore as days go by. It is a captivating cosmopolitan with lush foliage, flowering trees and its salubrious climate makes it a beautiful city to live in.

So far, staying in this city has been fun. It stands two in my list of favorite cities (first ofcourse is my 'singara' Chennai). I had so much fun with my friends here. We were quite a bunch. And our favorite dialogue ‘Naanga anju per, engalukku bayame kedayathu’ (we are five in number, we know no fear :))- yeah right, we ‘sutufied’ (copied) that dialogue from the movie ‘Khaka Khaka’ (plagiarism, I guess… he he).

Now looking back, all those moments seem golden, coz three of them left Bangalore; two got posted in Chennai and one in Cochin. So, it’s just two of us now. I keep telling myself, I should simply make new friends here. Looking forward to happy days!