Monday, August 31, 2009

VaderahaLLi trip

We finally went on the biking trip that we had been planning for a long time. The destination was an obscure, but really beautiful lake called VaderahaLLikere off Kanakapura road, roughly 25 km from Jayanagar. We had 11 people going on this trip which is a very encouraging sign. The trip was great fun and I really hope the first-timers are hooked.

One grouse that I carried was about the riding etiquette, specifically, tandem riding! Since I know at least a few of the folks are going to read it, I'm going to list down all the things I dislike about tandem riding
* It increases our footprint on the road and makes us more susceptible to be mowed down by a truck.
* Tandem riding never lets you settle into a rhythm because you are adjusting to your partner. That makes you slow and inefficient.
* I've experienced this as a car driver, tandem riders are a pain because they slow you down and make you take sharp angles to go past them. We really don't want people to think cyclists are a pain.
* There's only so much social bonding that you can do while you are on a bike! If there's someone you really want to talk to take him/her out for a beer.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The response to all those comments

Normally I save the serious shit for my other blogs and allow this one to be a canvas for some flippancy. My last post too was one such half-assed rant that I hoped disguised how passionately I really feel about several issues. It did, however, draw from my long-time sparring partners, comments that were longer than the post itself.

@Mohan: "All we need is the common sense to use the public transport." With all due respect, I believe that disseminating common sense to 6 million denizens is far tougher than raising a few taxes. But I do agree that without the Metro in operation, punishing car owners is a bit draconian.

@Shreeni: I'm sure you notice my change in stance from the times we used to discuss this issue in the 5th floor pantry. I'm suddenly all for Singapore-style despotic enforcement. The libertarian in me is still active when it comes to Censorship and Art, but he is well and truly dead when it concerns wealth distribution and traffic management.

@Sats: Just like you apologized for the NRI-snobbishness, I'm going to ask you to make allowance for my holier-than-thou preaching. I think every citizenry gets the government it deserves. We definitely deserve ours. I don't consider the government to be a separate creed of people that have nothing in common with us elites. We could stand on the sidelines and pretend that we have nothing to do with the uneducated, the disenfranchized, the corrupt, the indifferent, but let's get real. They ARE us. I know thousands of people who keep complaining about everything wrong in this country and pathetic few who can honestly say that they have used their 15-yr education or their relative enlightenment to influence anything. I am done waiting for the gory beast of a government to attain nirvana on its own to turn into a gentle genie who will repair all infrastructure. The "system" will transform if enough people ask for it. I have embraced the fact that the administration will not reach ideal state any time soon.

Here's what I was really addressing. Consider a man X driving a Toyota Innova and a man Y who travels in the city bus. I won't grudge the former his "success". Good for him and I hope he sees more of it. But consider that

* X uses a lot more of a public asset, the road, than Y.
* X pollutes a lot more of another oft-ignored public asset, the AIR! Tragedy of the commons?
* If there are 50 Xs and 50 Ys on the street (picture that , 50 Innovas and ONE bus!), it is fair to say that the Xs are responsible for the Ys spending a lot more time in traffic.

From Y's perspective, X is eating into his time, space and air. For me it seems like straightforward justice to make X pay for it. On the other hand in our system, X is more righteous and he feels he is not being served enough. By virtue of his "success" he also happens to be more influential. Which explains why the city administration is pandering to him by chopping all the trees and making the roads wider.

I could go on, but I think I'll save some material for my book.

We are screwed!

I heard some shocking official numbers. Bangalore's vehicular population is growing at 10%. I'll tell you what that means. Look at all the traffic around you. In 2016 you'll have double that. Take a good look at all the rain trees. They'll make way for broader roads. Worse, they will be replaced by the token Bougainvillea shrubs that the BBMP plants to maintain the statistics.

The trouble is I still don't see any measures to disincentivize private cars. Road taxes should be raised. Cribbers should be taxed again. There should be a special punishment for all ex-NRIs who drive alone in their Toyota Innovas that are substituting for the Honda Odysseys that they left behind in New Jersey. There should be ridiculous charges for parking anywhere in the city; even at office. Do something. Do ANYTHING. Save my city.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Urban Stampede (updated)

Photo: Gopal V

This weekend I ran at Urban Stampede race,a corporate 4x5km relay. The strongest memory from this event will be of a guy who registered himself as a team, ran all the four laps himself and still finished third. He made us look like fools, but he didn't stop us from having a lot of fun. I can't wait for the next edition. I'll update this post with our position and times as soon as I get to know it myself.

Team timing (20k): 1:42:51
My timing (5k): 26:17
Position (out of 95 teams): 13th

This also happens to be my 200th post. After 5 years of chronicling all my adventures, stories, upheavals, ramblings , blogging is neither a novelty nor a chore, it has become a way of life. I'm terribly embarrassed about things I wrote in the past and I know I'm going to be terribly embarrassed in future of the things I'm writing today. However, at least for now, I don't intend to stop.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pet peeves of the week

* Songs in which short syllables get stretched to fit the melody. For eg "get your prescription filled" becomes "feeelled". Other examples include, well, EVERY song written by Alanis Morissette.

* People who don't dry their hands while getting out of the toilet, and leave behind a dripping wet door-knob.

* Moral bulldozing that dictates that you don't get to say anything good about Jinnah or anything bad about Gandhi
(and the other way around, I suspect, on that side of our border)

* Rajdeep Sardesai's high-pitched wailing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Random updates

I have to report a personal milestone for me; I got garlanded for the first time in my life. This was at a function that the villagers arranged as part of a tree-plantation drive that we had organized in Rayappanahalli. I got served two sumptuous meals for digging exactly three pits. That fact made the garlands all the more embarrassing. That apart, I must say it's great fun to visit the village. The hospitality is really humbling. It was a pleasure to see last year's saplings take root and thrive although the prospects of this year's plantation looks rather bleak considering the sparse rains.

Here's another pet project that I've started (plagiarised shamelessly, I admit, from Phoebe Snetsinger); photographing 500 unique species of birds in the next 10 years.

I've wallowed on the peripheries of Praja for long now. Time to step it up a little. We have begun planning an event with the theme of Sustainable Transport. More details to follow, because we haven't done much more than talk at this moment. The planning nightouts have been super fun though (whenever it has not been eclipsed by beer) . We've scheduled this on Oct 24th to coincide with a mass movement planned by

I've been preparing for a 5 km corporate relay that is scheduled to take place next sunday, 22-Aug. I'm averaging 24:30 for 5 kms, and the rest of the team has been in that vicinity too. That should put us in the top 25 teams. It would be great to do better than that. Results coming up in a bit...

And finally, Happy independence day to all and happy 5th anniversary to my blog!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I hate goodbyes

The two cutest creatures on this side of the Atlantic are now on that side. And they leave behind half-empty cupboards, at least one swollen chest, a redundant portrait lens, orphaned cosmetics, three sheets of perforated paper that carry an indescribable innocence, a demotivated chef and a lot of momentousness. All the best folks! Let this be the start of something big.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Reading Lolita

I'm not going to write about Lolita, the novel. I'm going to write about the experience of reading Lolita.

Every page is a celebration. Yet, every paragraph is a hellish ethical ride. The prose is sublime, yet to acknowledge it feels like connivance in the narrator's outrages. In the first part of the book, when the narrator Humbert's thoughts are just that, it was easy to humour him. After all, you can't be too intolerant towards mere thoughtcrime. I can remember all the times in my life when I've had to conquer the thoughts that I couldn't help have. As the dude said, "If my thoughtdreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine". As long as the narrator only describes his thoughts I was an unqualified admirer of the grand prose that does so much justice to the madness of love, all the while making a grudging allowance for the depravity. In the middle of the book it got terribly confrontational. I couldn't laugh freely at the delightful humor. I couldn't laud the expression. I couldn't be unabashed about anything I liked about the narrative. Every bit of appreciation made me wonder if I was a partner in crime.

The place where I do most of my reading is in my office shuttle. Normally, I look forward to people peeping into my book and starting a conversation about it. While I was reading Lolita, however, I often curled the pages so that my neighbour had no chance of reading any full sentence. What if they thought I approved? What if they've not heard that Lolita is a classic? There was even a time when I folded the book in a hurry and put it in my bag because I suspected that the guy sitting next to me was reading it. There never is a boring moment while reading the book. The irony and the candor spawned off so much introspection around morals, censorship, love and the whole experience of being human. It was one of the most stimulating books I've read... And now I'm nervous that the reader will misconstrue the meaning of that last sentence. Ah well! That sums up the ethical tiptoeing that Lolita forces you to do!