Has anyone heard of Windsor Manor?

I went to Windsor Manor (now ITC Windsor) after years.

Most of the autowallahs looked at me as if I was talking about a foreign country.

Old Airport Road? JP Nagar? They queried. I think only the 10th or 12th autowallah had heard of it.

Sigh!

When I came to Bangalore in 1988, there were only 3-4 5-stars including Windsor Manor which was a landmark and every autowallah knew it very well.

Windsor Manor was also the famous setting for Kamal Haasan’s Pushpaka Vimana film in 1987 (The Windsor Manor bridge scene with the dead beggar is iconic) and was once the hub of the high and mighty.

New Bangalore has slowly been crushing Old Bangalore out of existence and at least people like me have been denying it for years.

Bangalore garbage musings…

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∙ Ban-Galore= Muck-Galore. Wanted: Bin-Galore.

∙ Ages of Bangalore… PSU Age, Garden Age, Pub Age, IT Age, GarbAge…

∙ Bangalore Online: Garbage In Garbage Out.
Bangalore Offline: Error… Garbage In Garbage In Garbage In…

∙ Bangalore is a city of the future.
The future as shown by WALL-E that is.

∙ Will Bangalore ever conquer Mount Garbage?

These versions by Sunil Rajguru

How to make Egg Broth, Karnataka Style

Set out to make an omelet.

Take a basket with 224 eggs.

Colour 110 saffron and the others in various other hues.

Poach another half-a-dozen eggs and try to paint them saffron too.

Scramble the rest and move on to other experiments

Some eggs will hate being boiled or fried and try to jump out of the pan.

Proceed to mix all of them to now make Egg Broth with a few dozen cooks supervising.

Egg roll… sorry drum roll… for the worst gastronomical disaster in recent times…

This version by Sunil Rajguru

Bangalore Theme Song: Here Comes The Rain…

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Please read to the tune of the Beatles song Here Comes The Sun

Here comes the rain, here comes the rain,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long hot lonely summer
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the rain, here comes the rain
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the rain, here comes the rain
and I say it’s all right

Rain, rain, rain, here it comes…
Rain, rain, rain, here it comes…
Rain, rain, rain, here it comes…
Rain, rain, rain, here it comes…
Rain, rain, rain, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel the cool breeze slowly coming
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been cloudy
Here comes the rain, here comes the rain,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

(Spoof By Sunil Rajguru)

(Original Song: Here Comes the Sun
Group: Beatles
Year: 1969)

Bangalore Rain Facts:
The moment the temperature touches a vague tangible high, it rains.
Thanks to this, the highest ever temperature recorded in Bangalore is 38.9°C. The average temperature is just 17°C.
Bangalore is blessed with two monsoons: Northeast & Southwest. Then there are those regular thunderstorms totally unrelated to the monsoons.
Bangalore averages atleast 100mm of rainfall for as many as 10 months in a year (from March to December), pretty rare for any Indian city.

Crazy roads, take me home…

There is only one rule on the roads of India. Drive to the left. Even that is a custom more honoured in the breach than the observance. That is the very first thing one has to learn while driving on the roads of India. Most of the traffic laws seem unknown to most of the motorists. The throttle and pedals are mere playthings. There’s no need to slow down your car at sharp turnings. (The people around you will be forced to screech their brakes anyway) The sole purpose of roundabouts is to add to the beauty of the city and lanes merely mean more space. If there’s no cop watching, then you didn’t break the rule in the first place.

The rules are more of “opportunity” than “road sense”. For example, you don’t overtake from the right, but from wherever you get space. A motorist in front of you might suddenly show his hand, take a 90-degree turn and cross you without even looking. If you crash into him, it’s your fault. Didn’t he signal you? It’s all part of the game. Pavements are for pedestrians, but in case of emergencies, they have to step down for bikers. Right of way? That’s another term for “My way”.

Apart from this, there are other hazards like cattle sitting casually in the middle of the road, merry pedestrians crossing hand in hand through thick traffic and unpainted speed breakers materializing out of nowhere. Of course, bad roads, potholes, non-working traffic lights and bad urban planning are part of the background anyway.

But you have to hand it to Indian motorists. They are deft at using their brakes, avoiding accidents and executing turns that defy the laws of gravity. Perhaps this is the ideal testing ground for both terrains and drivers. After driving here, one has the confidence to drive anywhere in the world.

For me it was baptism by fire as one of the first cities I witnessed crazy roads was Jodhpur, where traffic rules were at their nadir. (At least in 1981) I hardly saw any cops and the rare one’s present would only interfere in a major foul-up. While cattle can be found everywhere, here groups of cows would totally block the roads. People would simply take a diversion. Either that or it was half an hour wasted trying to make them get up. Ah! People had so much time in those days! Then, if another vehicle banged into you, noticing it was bad manners. I may be wrong, but I actually don’t remember any official zebra crossings. Even getting a driving license was the easiest thing possible, not that anyone checked anyway.

From Jodhpur to Bangalore

When I came to Bangalore, I found that the only constant was that traffic was mad. Otherwise, it’s a totally different world. Bangalore has an eccentric traffic personality. The first thing that sets it apart is one-ways. They are just everywhere! They rule the city. I take one route to office and a totally different route on my way back. I have no other way. Sometimes you’ll be stuck in a maze of one-ways. Now all that would be fine if they didn’t keep shifting like sand dunes. Some last for months. Some last for years. One even changed the evening I returned from work!

The biggest example of this is Residency Road. In the midst of all the changes an unwanted flyover came leading to traffic jams of the worst kind. The problem was rectified by making this wide and long road in the centre of the city a one-way, but not before putting a red light bang in the middle of the flyover. I haven’t heard of such a similar phenomenon in the world. I read a report a few days back that said that cops are about to find a permanent solution for Residency Road traffic. Ha ha!

Another supposedly brilliant solution that backfired was solar-powered traffic lights. They’re great when the sun shining. But when it rains all day, they shut down by evening and there’s a jam. For those uninitiated to Bangalore, the rainy season starts roughly in April and lasts till November.

One foreigner was once telling me how crazy he found Bangalore traffic. Then he asked me out of the blue, “Isn’t cow slaughter frowned upon in India?” I said a tentative yes. Then he asked, “There are so many cows on the roads, so aren’t they bound to get hit every now and then?” I said probably yes, wondering where this was leading. “So,” he popped the question, “when I go to an Indian restaurant and have beef, am I actually eating a road kill?”

Strict, strict, strict…

But compared to many cities, the Bangalore traffic cop is very strict and seems to be everywhere. He’ll keep stopping you and check for driving license, insurance, emission certificate… (There seems to be an official drive against that, but I doubt it will succeed) He’ll even keep his nose in front of your mouth to check for drunken driving in the night. The fine for not having a side mirror may exceed the price of the mirror itself. Even pillion riders should wear helmets, and that too of ISI make. There are traffic police signs and notices everywhere that say Obey Traffic Police (not Obey Traffic Rules).

One dude’s luna got slapped with multiple fines. He didn’t have any money so the police seized it. My friend found that the amount of the fines exceeded the resale value of the luna. So he decided to let them keep it. That explains the dozens of vehicles gathering dust at so many police stations. Another dude didn’t have a helmet and so he got down and started walking near a junction. The cop looked at him dragging his vehicle and still asked, “Where’s your helmet.” When he pulled a fast one and said he was taking it for repair from home, the cop checked the engine and found that it was hot. He got a fine for not wearing a helmet anyway.

My classmate jumped a red light on his humble bicycle and was chased by a cop. When the cop caught up with him, not only did he fine him for jumping the signal, but booked him for over speeding too! My father, a retired air force officer, has always been particular with his papers and following rules. But once a cop after checking all his everything scratched his head, looked around and cut a challan anyway. For what? He found the registration number a bit faded and couldn’t read it (Even though it was legible). Bang went 50 bucks and I learnt about one more traffic rule.

But there’s still one thing that stumps me: If the Bangalore traffic cops are among India’s toughest, how come Bangalore traffic sense is still among the worst in the country?

© Sunil Rajguru

You know you’re in Bangalore when…

  • The temperature touches 37.5 degrees and everyone starts panicking and journalists start yelling, “Lead story” “Lead story” “Lead story”…
  • The shopkeeper shakes his head when you ask for cold drinks and he shows you “cool drinks” instead.
  • In the evening, the temperature drops a few degrees below normal and suddenly everyone is armed with sweaters and jackets.
  • You go from one one-way road to another, then another, then yet another…
  • After you return from a trip to Mumbai, you wonder why everything is suddenly in slow motion.
  • You drive up a busy flyover and have to suddenly screech your brakes. There’s a red light at the very top! What the…
  • In the apartment where you live, there isn’t a single floor, which doesn’t have at least one ITwallah.
  • You boast that you live right next door to the airport: Just 20kms from my house saar!
  • Every second article in the local pages of your newspaper has the word “infrastructure” in it.
  • When you go out for lunch, the sun is shining and the sky is blue with not a fleck of cloud. And yet by the time you’re leaving office, there’s a massive traffic jam because the roads are flooded after a torrential downpour and the sky is clear again!
  • Your neighbour has been transferred to Delhi and you go to offer your condolences.
  • You have a swank fine dining restaurant buffet and think it’s incomplete because there’s no curd rice.
  • You keep telling everyone that your city is the fastest growing in Asia (or India) though you’ve never ever seen any statistics in support of that.
  • No matter how many malls, arcades and shopping complexes open in your area; you still end up going to MG Road every now and then.
  • You are told that your city’s Metro will be ready in 2011 and you just can’t stop laughing.
  • When you return from Delhi, you think the autowallahs are sweet. When you return from Mumbai, you think the autowallahs are thugs.
  • One day you’re traveling in a crowded stinking bus and the very next day you’re in a high-tech AC Volvo at the very same time on the very same route.
  • You try to imagine your city without pubs and… you just can’t!

© Sunil Rajguru

Bangalore Transport Service

The students of the Bangalore University must be one of the toughest thanks to the BTS buses they travel in. With a population of more than half a crore and the prevalent birth rate, Bangalore is clearly inadequate in its Public Transport System. Forget a seat or place inside, in many a trip one doesn’t get a place on the footboard or even the ladder behind.

There is a civilized queue system in most cities, but this concept is unheard of at most bus stops in Bangalore. As soon as the bus is spotted, there is a mad scramble to get on, with everyone joining in the rushing, pushing and jostling. One is reminded of the game of rugby, where players act in a similar manner once the referee blows his whistle. One not only loses his breath on finally entering the bus, but also ends up losing a small article like a pen, hanky or some coins. Recently one poor chap lost one of his shoes, which fell off the bus and was mercilessly trampled by the cordon of vehicles behind. The number of people hanging for their dear lives makes the bus tilt at almost 45 degrees. This makes the onlooker wonder how these buses travel day after day, night after night, without overturning occasionally.

As if this isn’t bad enough, many of the trips due to some uncanny reason don’t even turn up and if they do, just whiz past your stop. This makes a tired and weary you, whose patience has already been tested to the limit, do nothing else but bang your head in frustration. To make matters worse, most conductors are far from polite, treating you like cattle and giving student bus-pass holders a ‘step-conductorly, treatment. Then the conductor is always ready with his war-cry ‘Munde hogi, Munde hogi’, as one is helplessly swung like a bar-pendulum in the suffocating atmosphere of the bus.

BTS has no further sense of time. A bus might come 15 minutes early or half an hour late. Further delays might be caused by frequent breakdowns or the whims of a driver. It may not sound true, but one bus-driver on his daily morning trip to Hessarghetta would stop the bus at a certain point, where he would meet a girl and they would chat sweet nothing for 5-10 minutes unaware of the rising frustration around them. If anyone chance objected, he would find himself speaking to a brick wall. Then one shouldn’t be surprised if one hears non-chalant remarks like: ‘No today, we are not going upto KR Market, only Majestic or ‘No, we are taking a different route today.’

Snap strikes are also nothing uncommon here. Half an hour strikes, one hour strikes, two hour strikes, morning strikes, afternoon strikes, Shivajinagar strikes, Majestic strikes, Subashnagar strikes…… The frustration of the average customer was evident in one ‘evening strike’ which occurred at Majestic last year. About 10 buses were burnt and a 100 damaged. It is to be noted that at the height of the Mandal Commission agitation, no student burnt a single bus in Bangalore, only some were painted with slogans. The problem with any strikes in this list of never ending strikes is that the cause is never genuine. In the above mentioned strike, a conductor had hit a member of the fairer sex. In another case, a drunken driver had created nuisance and was in the lock-up. This formed the pretext for a snap strike.

Even the condition of the buses is nothing to brag about, with seats not upto the mark and some of the roofs being so bad in the rainy season, at times one has to open an umbrella inside the bus! Also some of the buses have such loud screeching brakes, that you can hear them clearly if you happen to live near a bus-stop. This however works out to be an advantage as no two buses have the same screech. Say bus no. 271 has a high pitched sound and 272 a low one. If you’re late and haven’t heard the screech of your pitch, you haven’t missed the bus.

However, good buses or bad ones, happy journeys or sad ones, long waits or short waits, polite conductors or rude ones, small crowds or big crowds, sitting travel or footboard, walking to catch a bus or running, punctual trips or late ones, strikes or no strikes, all that is the lot of the common Bangalore student. One can be consoled by the fact that daily travel by BTS is nothing short of a mini-commando course and hence the student is fighting fit.

At the height of the ‘My heart Beats for India’ ad campaign of the Congress in 1989, someone rightly remarked:
My Heart BTS for Bangalore’.

(This essay won first prize in an essay contest and was published in The Student Mail newspaper in November 1992)

Callous officials, wasted efforts

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
—Aristotle

With the declaration of results, Bangalore University students are finding the fruits as bitter as the roots.

Every year, the examination results bring some new complications for students who have slogged mercilessly throughout the year. This year it is the passing-out final year degree students of Bangalore University who are in deep trouble.

The results were out so late (they were expected June-end, but came only in August) that many couldn’t join the post-graduation courses they had applied for as the time for admission had elapsed. There are many students who have cleared the Indian Institute of Management MBA entrance examination and many other competitive exams, but now, because of the delay, all their efforts have simply gone down the drain.

Not only has a year been lost, but there is no certainty about the same competitive examinations being cleared in the subsequent attempts. Hence even bright students find their careers in jeopardy.

How much money you have to shell out and where, to get your work done, seems to be an open secret. A newspaper report once busted a racket in a college where you could “hire” your paper for a couple of days for Rs 5000. In this way, you could change your answers and make additions long after submitting your paper on the day of the examination. Some might find this process too tedious. They simply pay to pass directly.

A girl student was shocked to find that she had failed, but on cross-checking with the university, she found that she was actually a rank holder! In another case, a bundle of answer papers wasn’t dispatched from the examination to the valuation centre. This was discovered after the results were out.

Last year’s degree results had really gone haywire. Insiders had taken money and tampered with the annual examination results. An example is a student who had got 08 marks in a subject. He had it changed to 80. We have heard of students failing narrowly in subjects and paying money to pass. But this was a case of bribery in which someone who hadn’t even got double digits had ended up with distinction.

When the students started receiving their mark sheets in mid-1991, there were shock waves in the degree colleges. Some students had got through in subjects they had not even studied. Kannada students passed in Hindi. And Hindi students failed in Kannada. The examinations might have taken place in 1991, but many had passed in 1981! The confusion of the subjects and the years was bad enough, but studying hard for an examination, writing it and finding oneself marked absent was more frustrating. On the other hand, absent students found themselves passing out with flying colours.

Such mix-ups create havoc in a student’s life. If you thought having your subject changed was the limit, how about a change of faculty. This is just what happened after a certain “scrutiny” had taken place in the university. One shudders to think what the picture might have been before the scrutiny.

The reports on the goings-on in the university were many. Tampering had taken place at all stages from evaluation to tabulation. At places 3 was made 8, while 1 had become 9. Hence 35 could easily be made 85 and so on. Such alterations can be detected, but what if the answer booklet itself had been altered.

The university officials said they were inquiring into the matter. The result of the inquiry was that 3,002 errors were detected. Great! But how many undetected? Maybe tens of thousands. How many hours of hard work down the drain? Lakhs and lakhs…

Students went on strike. Rasta rokos. Cries for autonomy. Demands for justice. Articles and letters in newspapers. The result? A big naught.

Sending your papers for revaluation means losing a hundred rupees. Retotalling means twenty lost. A student had got first class and sent one of his papers for revaluation. The result was an increase of one mark. The remarks? Failed! This engineering student took his case to the newspapers which published both his mark sheets.

Such errors cause great hardship and come in the way of further studies. Another engineering student, who got a first class, was taken aback to find that the official concerned had entered his class as second. He went to the States for a post-graduate course. The institute there demanded a first division and rejected the faulty certificate. The student’s father gave the certificate for correction. The university lost it. Time was lost and the student even faced the prospect of repatriation.

The university has a penchant for losing important documents. This is just another example of carelessness where one wrong word on a certificate can result in the destruction of a career. With rising frustration, students are losing faith in the system.

In 1990, the “Year of the Engineering Student”, future engineers saw their results go topsy-turvy. Batches of students were marked absent in certain papers. A survey was done and it was found that about 30 per cent of the students had received incorrect mark sheets. Three out of ten is quite high.

The whole incident took an unexpected turn when the Vice Chancellor nullified the results of more than a hundred students. A hundred careers knocked down in a single stroke.

Bangalore University is not a stray case. It is an integral part of the whole education system which is decaying.

Till the eighties, there was faith left at least in the civil services, the IITs and the IIMs. The civil services papers are now being leaked regularly while the latest IIT-JEE, it was reported, had six faulty questions in a total of 40. With thousands taking the examination, a single question can cause a massive swing in the merit list. What do you make of six wrong questions?

One incident shows that at least the average student hasn’t lost his sense of humour.

There was a poster, with three bold words: Jesus never fails.
To this, someone had scribbled as addition:
…because he never was a student of Bangalore University

(This article appeared in Deccan Herald newspaper on October 16, 1992)