Monday, March 31, 2008

Bangalore: The City of Optimism

Pardon me for starting with a self-referential (if that is the word) sentence – I am an optimist and an incurable one. But the optimism of the ‘concerned’ people in Bangalore amazes even me.

Take the road dividers or medians for instance. The concerned put them, quite often in the middle of the road, with the hope that traffic gets better or smoother or whatever. On road after road this is belied. Not that the traffic does not get any better, it actually gets worse. Life of drivers, and more so, that of the riders of two wheelers, gets riskier.

Wonder why? Pieces of the median are removed at places where people want to cross the road. So if you are driving with assurance that no one will take a right turn in front of you, some one will. (Sounds like a corollary to Murphy’s Law? Perhaps it is.) Or worse, someone from the right of the road will drive in and join the traffic right in front of you. If you successfully avoid all these, you are likely to involuntarily close your eyes in thanks giving to fate or your favourite god or goddess, and successfully hit someone.

Worse still, all those who used to take a right turn after entering a main road, now median-ed, continue to do so and ride on the right side of the road. They join the mainstream whenever there is a break, planned or unplanned but executed, in the median.

Another hazard is presented by medians that look like fences made of steel pipes. The medians also double as places for putting up advertisement boards. After some time and a few accidents later, many parts of these medians are jutting out where they are not expected. (The best example is the Kasturaba Road. Treacherous!) In increasing levels of ill luck you are likely to lose some clothing, or limb or life, respectively.

Another example for optimism is what I call “Monuments to Bangalore’s Optimism” These are the footbridges across busy roads. Monuments are quite often perfectly useless structures that represent something. In Bangalore too are they perfectly useless and only represent the optimism of the ‘concerned’. I have never seen a soul on these bridges. (Nor have I seen a soul anywhere else, for that matter. So, read that as “I have never seen a body, dead or alive, on these bridges”).

Pardon me. Those monuments do serve some purposes, albeit not the intended ones. They provide great space for advertisement hoardings. They perhaps provide an opportunity for all the concerned ‘concerned’ to make some money. One hardy soul, attached to his mortal body of course, who once came very close to fulfilling the dreams of the concerned by using the foot-bridge, assures me that it serves another purpose, especially on a cold windy day, on which you have been lightly dressed and been trying to fit the description of a man about town…..

The other ‘proof for optimism’ are the white paint wasted on lines painted to separate the lanes on roads. If you are a true Bangalorean, you will ask me, or anyone near you, “Lanes? What the heck (or any other suitable four-letter word which reveals you dictional - to coin a word to rhyme with fictional - preferences) are they. Come, come. Be frank for once. You always thought that they were painted on the road to tell you where the road was, on a wet, dark night, right?

Even if that was the purpose, the concerned would have failed – where are roads in Bangalore on a rainy night, anyway?

Talking of roads, roads are the highways of Bangalore’s optimism. They represent the hope that they will last a monsoon - if you are a user, and that they won’t last a monsoon - if you are road-building contractor. The latter of course is more likely to be met since you know the quality, or the lack of it, in your work.

The roads represent the hope that they are not dug up before the last road-roller has moved away from the freshly laid road, by the electricity supply corporation, the Bangalore Water and Sewerage Supply Board (Oooops, that one slipped out, the original coinage of Murthy, the (alas, late) cartoonist of The Deccan Herald) I mean the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board and the various political parties and the various temples and their annual function organiser and the various wedding halls and their pandal erectors and …. The list is practically endless. The most amazing thing is that in spite of the best efforts of all these people, there are still some roads worth the name in Bangalore. I won’t name them even under duress, lest one among the above list makes a beeline to them to set things right.

Long live Bangalore and along with it Optimism, with a capital O.

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