The Karnataka government is trying to increase tourism in the city of Bengaluru. Recent news reports say that they are planning to extend the 11.30pm closing time for bars and restaurants in the city to 1am. A few days ago the paper had a report of the city introducing a tourist ‘Big Bus’ with a hop-on, hop-off service which goes to the tourist attractions of the city — Lalbaug, Cubbon Park, Vidhan Soudha, Bangalore Palace, Tipu’s Palace, Bull temple etc.
However, these tourist attractions are all quite old. Most predate independence and the formation of Karnataka and are at least fifty years old — they are not really representative of the thriving metropolis that is the Bangalore of today. So I thought I would make a list of the present day wonders of Bangalore — which perhaps the proposed ‘Big Bus’ could visit.
The state of Mysore has always been known for its engineers. Sir M Vishveshvaraiya was responsible for many remarkable engineering projects — from the creation of K R Sagar to the creation of numerous heavy industries in the Kingdom of Mysore. Continuing in this tradition the BBMP engineers have created many unique structures — so unique that one cannot imagine them coming up anywhere else in the world.
One of them is the Cauvery Junction Underpass. This is an underpass constructed at the junction of Sankey Road (or Sankey Cross Road) and Bellary Road — sometimes called Chowdiah Road in this area. The genius of this underpass is that while in most places underpasses are built at the intersections of two roads, this has been built before the junction. So traffic travelling Northwards has to make a U—turn to continue going in the direction they were travelling. It is so remarkable that often traffic gets blocked for miles because people slow down to admire this construction. It is well worth a visit.
Another place worth visiting is the Cantonment Station ‘Circle’. This is large ‘circle’ where several roads — Jaymahal road, Millers Road, MV Jayaram Road and Thimmiah Road (or Millers Tank Bund Road) meet. It could have been a simple circle — but the BBMP engineers — like many genius’ — ‘Think Different.’ So, for instance, to travel from MV Jayaram road on to Millers Road towards Shivajinagar, you have to cross oncoming traffic twice. And to travel from Millers Road to MV Jayaram Road you have to drive an extra kilometre and come around Queens Road on to Millers Tank Bund Road. This leads to some enterprising drivers trying to save time. It is a good place to watch creative driving in action.
The junction of Queens Road and Millers Tank Bund Road is another beautiful example of the genius of the traffic management of the city. It is an example of a junction where traffic blocks itself! If short road by the Government Veterinary Hospital is closed, it would negate the need for a traffic light and traffic could move smoothly — but that would perhaps make it less interesting.
There are numerous other engineering marvels in this wonderful city — but if I were to list them all, I would not be able to get to the other wonders of Bangalore.
In today’s fast paced world, we do not get much time for exercise. With the increased urbanisation of Indian cities — there is less and less open space for sports and exercise. With that in mind, the BBMP has taken great pains to make sure that the citizens of Bangalore can keep fit in spite of their busy schedules. The footpaths have been designed so that anyone walking of them will get a good workout — there are wide holes, broken kerbstones, half—grown trees and street signs in the middle of the path — so as to give the person walking or running excellent training for the steeple chase.
If, by some oversight, the footpaths are accidentally are levelled, one does not have to worry — the good citizens and traders of the city pitch in by parking their vehicles, dumping construction material, or setting up a shop in the middle so that they continue to remain challenging. And of course, the politicians do their bit — they put up big cut outs or flex posters at major intersections.
In fact, in Malleshwaram, they have have created the ‘Malleshwaram Ironman’ — a race which challenges the participants to walk from 5th Main and 5th Cross to 11th Main and 15th Cross in Malleshwaram entirely on the footpath. No one has been known to complete it!
Bangalore has many beautiful garbage dumps. All over the city — thanks to the initiative of the citizens, beautiful piles of garbage have been created. The garbage piles of Bangalore are very well known — even the international press have written about them. Great care is taken by the citizens in creating the piles — they make sure that the garbage is quite mixed and of various kinds — from perennials, like plastic bags, which make the piles long lasting, to seasonals, like rotting food, which provide the bouquet. Occasionally, vandals, like the ‘Ugly Indians,’ try to destroy these piles — but the resourceful citizens of Bangalore ensure that they return as soon as possible.
A beautiful new garbage dump has been created along the Jnanabharathi Road in Bangalore University. The entire five-kilometre stretch is lined with garbage of various kinds. The speciality of this garbage dump is that the aroma coming from the garbage mixed with the redolence of the Vrishabhavathi — creates a truly exhilarating bouquet. I strongly recommend a visit. In fact, recently I have noticed that a lot of construction debris is being dumped there. Perhaps they are planning to make a Japanese Rock garden as well.
The poet Ogden Nash wrote the following verse as a tribute to Joyce Kilmer’s ‘Trees’ —
I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.
He was being facetious, but he was also wrong… in Bangalore there are many billboards that are very beautiful — more beautiful than the trees that were cut to make them visible. There was a big rain tree off Sankey Tank bridge. A couple of years ago it was chopped off and now one can see a beautiful billboard advertising a housing complex called ‘Brigade Woods’ — which I’m sure has far more trees than the one that was cut.
What makes Bangalore a truly great city is its people. They are truly free. The believe that anything and everything is allowed. So driving the wrong way on one way streets, parking in no parking zones, all these artificial ‘rules’ are not in their world view. They also have a very high sense of self esteem — and really understand that ‘I’ comes before ‘U’. So they act in a manner so as to ensure that they are not inconvenienced in any way — be it in the way they drive or park, or in the way they build their houses.
The other day, a friend of mine mentioned that he was in a queue to buy some groceries. A gentleman wearing a distinctive cap of a certain political party pushed his way to the front of the line. When asked why — he pointed to his cap. He understood that nothing should come in the way of fighting corruption.
If you are wondering how to get around in Bangalore — the best way is by personal vehicle. Parking is free and plentiful. I am told that there exist No Parking zones and No parking signs — but I am yet to see one. There are these curious signs — round dark blue signs with a red slash or a red cross across them — but no one seems to know what they mean. So you can feel free to park anywhere you feel like — you will not face any consequences. And if the road is fully occupied — feel free to use the footpaths. It is all legal in this truly free city.
There are these vehicles called auto—rickshaws —which roam the streets like flatulent water buffaloes — loitering around the streets looking for the occasional pile of garbage to sample. When I first moved here I was under the illusion that they were for public transportation — but when I approached one I was told ‘What! You think our job is you tell us where you want to go and we take you there?!!’ — I backed off rapidly.
Words to live by
The motto of this city is ‘Swalpa Adjust Maadi‘ — which means, adjust a little. And people in this city — including the police — live by it. If, by some accident, you are caught performing a transgression by a policeman, you can assure him that ‘Next time maadalla‘ — you won’t do it the next time — and he will leave knowing fully well that next time never comes.