April 2006 in Bangalore through the eyes of an Englishman

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Preparations for a festival.
30/4/2006 - The Road to Hell

Yes, the one that's paved with good intentions. So I made a reasonable attempt for two thirds of the month, but then it fell to pieces. Lots of work, excuses, excuses.

What's happened, well apart from work, it was my 64th birthday on the 30th. We went to the Taj for brunch, and when we got back, Terry had organized a 'surprise' birthday party. Unfortunately, the only people who turned up were a bunch of Terry's men friends. Well to be fair, Nef and Lavanya turned up later. But it was still the usual thing, a bunch of people out on the balcony smoking, and me in the apartment by myself.

To cap it all, the same day someone stole Terry's mobile phone. This must be the fourth one she's got through in a year. I keep telling her that she should just get the cheapest black and white, plain vanilla, no frills phone on the market. Then she'd want to be rid of it, but it would stick to her like glue.

22/4/2006 - Dumbo

I left most of my classical music CDs back in NY, and often wish I had more access to classical music. Well dumbo, there are things called media players, and you have a half decent Internet connection.

I browsed to the BBC Radio 3 web site this morning to see if they had any downloads on offer. In passing I clicked the button that said listen now, and that told me I should download RealPlayer, which I dutifully did. Once I'd installed it I returned to Radio 3 and clicked the button again. Lo and behold, Delius, Brigg Fair, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Davis - perfect quality as far as I can tell from my headphones.

So that's it. Now I have to go out and spend some money on an audio system so I can blow us away. And there's The Marriage of Figaro on from the Met at 22:00 tonight which might just keep me up late. Durr!

22/4/2006 - A Hard Week

Well, the cold didn't last as long as the one before, but it was still not very pleasant - an interesting combo of cold symptoms and the runs. I was virtually out of action Sunday and Monday. Went back to work on Tuesday but felt absolutely zapped by mid afternoon. Wasn't much better for the rest of the week either, and certainly no fun in the evenings. OK, ok, you don't need to hear me winging - I'll shut up.

The new specs that were supposed to be ready on Thursday weren't. Apparently they are now, so I'll pop in this afternoon and get them.

My new bank card turned up, the new PIN having arrived the previous Thursday. The old card had developed a crack right along the magnetic stripe, and wasn't long for this world. I think I have succeeded in engraving the PIN on my brain, but I just know that one day a couple of weeks down the line I'm going to find myself standing in front of an ATM, thinking "oh shit!"

Actually this whole card episode was quite weird. I've never had any success in getting CitiBank here to do anything. Last year, or whenever, it took me about six months to get them to accept a change of address. I'd go in and sign the form, then a week later I'd get an email to the effect that my signature didn't match what they had on record. So when the card cracked I was not hopeful, because what I actually wanted was to change my address (they were still sending mail to the apartment upstairs), get a new card, and get a new Internet password. Not much chance you'd think, but bingo! A week later it all happened - I was gobstruck.

Termination 3.
16/4/2006 - Bits and Pieces

Having had a lousy cold that lasted about two weeks in March, I've now got another one. I don't think this one is as bad, so I'm dosing myself up with the pills I found did the best job on the previous one and hoping this will pass in a few days. I don't think I'll be doing much today though.

I got tested for the bifocals, and had the guy do a pressure test at the same time. My father had glaucoma, which apparently can be a hereditary thing, so I need to get checked from time to time, and it's been a while. My pressure was normal, so maybe I got my mother's eyes. I've ordered some minimal titanium frames, if you can call them frames - they're the kind that just attach to the lenses. They won't be ready until Thursday, but after that I really need to be disciplined, and wear them all the time.

The picture is another example of lack of completion in the pavement renovation work. Almost everywhere there's a building entrance you get this sort of thing. The rest of the new pavement is fine, but the termination is just left up in the air. Then of course people use the resulting hole as a garbage disposal point, and before you know where you are, the storm drain that was carefully refurbished will be blocked again.

Tis the season.
15/4/2006 - Mid April

Half way through the month already. It's hot, and it's the season for all the trees to bloom again. I ritually take a picture of the orange-red flowers every year at about this time. They are quite startlingly bright.

This afternoon I really must go and get measured up for some decent graduated bifocals. I've been getting steadily more and more long-sighted over the years, and it's now reached the point where I think I would need them to pass a driving test. The trouble with expensive eyewear though is that I'm very prone to losing it. I can make a crappy old pair of cheapo reading glasses last for years, but anything I've spent real money on is liable to magically vanish within a fortnight.

Wishful thinking.
13/4/2006 - Continuation

The shops are still closed, but apparently they are to open again at about 17:00hrs. How people know this is a mystery to me. All the local English language Internet news pages don't even mention the fact that they are closed. I got a call from security at work last night telling me that we weren't working today, so I have to assume that this is a spontaneous self-inflicted one-day general strike.

We were supposed to be going to Goa today for a couple of days with Neel and Kapilla, but the plan seems to have come unstitched. I looked at flights this morning, and we could have gone tomorrow, and flown back Sunday afternoon for about RS 12000. But then I phoned Helen's Bar in Bardez, where we would have aimed to stay, and they were full. So I've given up on the idea, since I don't fancy the idea of touring Goa looking for somewhere to stay in the current temperatures (though actually, the forecast there is a little cooler than the forecast here). The idea was more to fly there, dump our stuff, repair to the nearest hotel with a public pool and sit in the water in the shade with a beer or whatever.

12/4/2006 - Riots in Bangalore

Today, there are crowds out in the streets throwing stones through windows and burning auto-rickshaws because some Kannada speaking film star has died of natural causes. This is the inscrutable aspect of India. Why should a death from natural causes get people out on the streets in a violent mood

My boss at work sent us home early because there was trouble on the streets. I saw nothing on my ride home until I got to Bazaar Street, which at that hour would usually be a busy shopping scene. All the shops were closed and shuttered. Apparently half an hour before it had been mobbed, and it must have subsequently been cleared by the police.

All the pubs are closed, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to lose Internet connectivity and the cable TV at any time. Quell bummer!

Well, that was the rumoured version. After I'd written it, I got off my arse and on my bike, and rode into town. It was quiet as a grave - about how you find it at 7:30 in the morning on a Sunday. The Watchman staff took pity on me and let me in for a pint. At TGIF all the staff were standing outside watching the flyover building work. I guess that I rode about 10 km, and saw no signs of trouble at all, so basically, it was a good excuse for most people to have a day off work. The picture was taken on the next day, when the situation was similar.
9/4/2006 - Bangalore Infrastructure

There are some signs of things happening to the infrastructure in Bangalore. The principal motivating factor is that the city is overloaded with traffic, and the resultant pollution. I'll add pictures as I get them.

Probably the largest scale project is the new Bangalore Metro. This partly underground and partly overhead system is currently funded to the tune of about $14.4M, which seems way on the low side to me. It will be vaguely cross shaped, with a north south section running from the north west to the south, and an east west section running from the east to the south west. The intersection will be close to the main railway station and the main bus station - a point referred to as "Majestic" - somewhat to the north west of the city centre. There are signs of surface workings associated with the underground sections along MG Road and elsewhere, but it's not at all clear when real tunneling work might start, or indeed when the project might actually achieve final government approval.

Bangalore Metro map.

However, the Metro project, and the general level of traffic congestion and pollution do appear to be spawning associated policies to restrict access by various types of vehicles to the city centre. These policies appear to be supported by the same, or by extra funding, to improve the city centre for the masses of Metro users who will arrive there, and then have to proceed on foot. There is a lot of work going on currently to improve the sidewalks in the city. Many of the existing sidewalks consist of granite slabs over storm-drain ditches, and the majority of them are in a pretty bad way, as are the marginal areas of the roads. Consequently, pedestrians tend to walk on the viable road surface, further reducing the road space available to the traffic, and of course putting their lives at risk.

Unfortunately I detect a tendency to leave these projects unfinished. A section on Dickenson Road that has just been done is a typical example. They did a pretty good job tearing up the original battered pavement, they cleaned up the storm drain channel, and laid new concrete slabs over it to a decent standard, and then concreted the rest of the new pavement. Well, I say the rest - all but for those points where the road storm drains cross the concreted sidewalk to the drainage ditch. These have been constructed with a rebate designed to support concrete slabs as a cover. But they run at an angle, and obviously the crew who did the job did not have a stone saw that was man enough to cut the slabs to the required mitred shape. When they left, they just placed slabs bridging these channels, so when it's busy, the pedestrians find it more convenient to descend from the pavement, and walk along the road. Also where the new pavement intersects with the pavement on Cubbon Road, there was no policy for this junction, and as a result, the large hole that was there before, forcing pedestrians onto the road at this busy intersection, is still there.

Dangerous granite slab pavement.

Unfinished details.

Termination seems to be a problem.

Pavement before.

Work in progress.

Metro work.

The authorities already claim some successes against traffic congestion, for example: "The average speed of vehicles in Bangalore in 2003 used to be only 12 kmph. It went up to 16-18 kmph, thanks to the introduction of 93 one-ways, a senior police officer said". Well great - what wonderful statistics! So now you can travel at up to 1.5 times the speed, but you'll have to travel twice the distance.

Big red hole.
8/4/2006 - A Saturday Off

Most Saturdays since the beginning of the year I've worked Saturday mornings. We're trying to get a piece of software out of the door ASAP. But today they are doing a workover on the building's power system, and it is blacked out, so I'm home.

The big red hole is a typical Bangalore building site. It amazes me how the almost sheer sides of the hole don't collapse. My guess is that from time to time they do, which may be why they usually surround these sites with high corrugated iron fences. This one is particularly choice. The building behind the pit is right on the edge. I reckon that a week of heavy rain would have it in there, but who am I to say.

At the other end, the pit is even deeper and more precarious looking. However, the security guard took a dim view of me photographing it through the gate there, and was waving his hands about. Unfortunately, the camera focussed on the hands rather than the pit, so his efforts were successful.

Adams family part 3.

I've been reviewing the accumulated pictures, but there aren't that many. My camera, the Olympus, was out of action again after I gratuitously dropped it on a stone floor. After a long stay at the repair shop it's back now with a new front.

This picture took my fancy. Terry and her new friend Nefaria having an impromptu exotic dressing contest. I might have more to say about Nef later, but I probably need to get permission first.

On a completely different topic, it occurred to me when looking at this page that any new readers might wonder why a blog about life in Bangalore has a panoramic view of New York from across the Hudson river in it's header. Just for the record, the blog started of as a Brit's commentary on life in New York, and I've never found anything of the right aspect ratio to replace it, so it's still there.
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