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MG Road: a change for the better?

The Bangalore Metro project is announced and work has begun. The absence of dissent suggests all are happy with the decision; except me.

I come up on MG Road week-day mornings, turning round the cricket stadium, sailing right on to Anil Kumble square; mostly I am lucky and arrive when the lights are red. Seen from the height of the square, the entire length of the road is before me, straight until Brigade Road and bent slenderly after it. The promenade on the left is raised above the road; its embankment is lush green and overhung with red bougainvillea. Beside the promenade trees planted ages ago offer shade over the full stretch. On the right of the road some old buildings survive, their charm still with them. At seven the road is quiet and the gentle Bangalore Sun hangs above, angled to the right for one half of the year and to the left for the rest. When the lights change, and we race on over the beautiful old road, I have no frustration with Bangalore: I am full of love for it.

All this will change. Garish boards covering the embankment announced recently that the Bangalore Metro works are on. The news in the papers is that the Plaza Theatre will be a ticket office. A time table is set and promises are made. Even with some delay, the job will be done.

I'd have liked them to set up a New Bangalore some distance away, build the metros and tall buildings there, invite new businesses to go there, and let good things remain good. I wonder if anybody else feels the same.

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SOS in Bangalore? Don't bet on it…

Experience an ambulance in Bangalore. First, the ambulance is apologetic at being on duty (so shy its siren, so soft its beacon.) It has no power and I haven’t ever seen a Bangalore ambulance speed up. To be fair, I must mention that it cannot speed up. Too many automobiles are in a swarm round it and they have no clue what to do. The ones behind blow impatient horns at the ambulance, those on the side strive to overtake it and the ones in front do not want to give up their lead and like to press as much ahead as they can. When this slow-moving swarm (comprising chief executives, other executives, academicians, doctors, lawyers, great achievers, students, regular folks) finally reaches a junction, the policeman is too bashful to summon up some energy, clear the way, and get the damn ambulance going. I have never seen a volunteer jump out of his car and wave about to clear a path for it; I must admit I haven’t done it myself. I have only gazed at it: The upended hanging bottle showing in a dim light, and by it, people who bear no impatience, no ill-will, and who appear to have surrendered to fate the moment their journey began; fortunately, the patient and the expression on his face are never visible.

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Capuccino, a trip to Fraser Town

Sitting alone with a cappuccino, I try not to look deliberately at the beautiful girls, the cafe is full of them this afternoon. Each time I lift and turn my head I catch a nice face and I wonder how it got to be that good. These are very young people. An unkempt man behind me has put his feet up on a chair in front and and has a laptop open. He is not as young as the others. I do not belong here, I beat it.

Driving over to Fraser town, I walk on the pavements of Spencer Road and Coles Road. Fraser Town was a coveted district before; these roads now have no character, much filth, too much noise. My car is parked before a hideous building: Spencer Castle. An apartment block opposite this building (Belvedere Court) and another after the junction are the only two that are clean and decent to the eye. Muslim mechanics from a used-car dealership play cricket on the busy street speaking cricket-words in their accent. The whole district appears to be the in the hold of Muslim and Christian people. A church property has tried to ward off urinators, without success, by drawing religious symbols of Hindus, Muslims, Christians all across the wall; many (probably non-believers) have gratefully relieved themselves even against the symbols. Perhaps they did it at night when couldn’t see.

On Coles Road, a large board announces the telephone numbers of institutions that citizens could contact for assistance regarding power, water, other civic problems. Written below are the hand-phone and other numbers of the local corporator, ward 9, who has probably foisted the loud and large board there, obliterating the home behind it. Driving away, I see his name written in similar fashion, more garish, on the walls of a park compound. The corporator is probably blind; he needs the citizens to call and tell him of the filth. I wonder if he cannot also smell.

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Saket Rajan

I haven’t got Saket Rajan out of my system. I read an article last week and my mind is again full of him.

Twenty five years ago, we were students together: I was studying electronics, he was in the arts. Our meeting ground was Manasa Gangotri in Mysore, at the debates. I have forgotten who his friends were. Until I read the news about him some months ago, and even now, my memory of him is that one day he stood on stage and ridiculed a topic that had been set for debate. I didn’t like him after that though I know that he didn’t know that I had set the topic.

There were stories: his soldier-father was too disciplinarian and Saket Rajan hated him as much as he loved his mother. His time at home would be in the kitchen helping mother. Not wanting to burden the maid, he kept only two sets of clothes and washed them himself when father was not home.

I must tell: Saket Rajan was brilliant, popular, a man of fine character. He didn’t look the sort who would one day die in the wilderness, in the dark, rifle in hand, half his brains blown off, in a police ambush.