Archive for the ‘Bangalore’ Category

My father moved into the house, which we still own in Kammanahalli, about 25 years ago. In those years, as its name suggests, Kammanhalli was literally a “halli” or a village. It was the back of beyond.

A mud road connected our house – one of only four houses on the lane – to the main road. The Bangalore municipal corporation did not provide water to the locality, so my father actually bought his own water, and this from a man on a bullock cart. Our sewage collected in a septic tank, somewhere deep in the ground, and was cleaned annually – once again, by another man in a bullock cart.

In 25 years, much has changed. Street lights, sewage lines and tarred roads came first. Then, I also remember the day when our road got its first bore well, and the municipal corporation began to supply the area with water soon after (even if it was just two times a week!).

There were other signs of change as well. New houses, new shops and new people. Now, our lane has 10 houses – some of them double storied, and home to at least six families (each!).

Our family was the first to bring a computer and a car into our lane, but now every other family has one of them too. Our neighbours come all the way from remote districts in North India to Afghanistan.

And here’s the clincher – garbage actually gets cleaned every day, and it’s hard to find an open garbage dump anymore!

Four years ago, I remember blogging here about how prosperity had come to Bangalore, but had bypassed the “halli”. I can’t say that anymore.

As the line of swanky new shops on the main road continues to advance one step at a time, the lines that link the richer residential localities and the “halli” is finally blurring. Development has indeed trickled down.

But for that to happen, it’s needed many little steps on the ground. A series of good Congress and BJP corporators, who’ve built on each others successes. The Congress brought lighting, sewage systems and water. Then, the BJP maintained it and also added garbage collection. Funds were actually utilised to benefit residents, till each of us can finally see a difference.

So, if successive administrations work together, there’s nothing that they we cannot achieve.

But most importantly, we need citizens to step forward to both build and maintain these localities. Every time when a city corporation fails us, we must have vigilant citizens, who pick up the phone and demand action from their local corporator. Like my mum does!

So yes, change is slow, but if you persist, it does finally arrive.

Advertisements

It was THE lane with the most beautiful house in the world. It was THE lane where I wanted to live when I was a six-year-old girl.

The lane hadn’t changed much over the last 30 years, except for two new apartment blocks. I was visiting one of them (the red garish one) on Househunt, Episode 2.

But the flat that I was visiting in this apartment block wasn’t on rent. It was on sale. I’d heard about it in the old-fashioned way that still works best in this part of town – by word of mouth.

Since the flat had been built 18 years ago, it didn’t have a lift or car parking. So I walked up to the second floor.

As it turned out the flat was being refurbished, so there was paint and plaster everywhere. But though small, it was quaint – almost out of Enid Blyton’s world. Yes, this could be home.

Then Mr P, the house owner began bargaining. The initially discussed price of 34 lakhs now became 35 lakhs. He wanted me to make him my best offer. I asked for time to consider it over.

As I drove back, I did consider the fact that this was THE lane. But I found that as I thought about it as a property that I wanted to own and not rent, I was dissatisfied.

It was a beautiful lane, but this apartment had not been built for the future. In Bangalore of 2011, parking was important. So was a lift – for a a flat on the second floor. Besides, an 18-year-old building could also not be without its construction and structural flaws.

So I let my head rule over my heart, and I said goodbye to the house on THE lane. Yet something already tells me that this is one ‘head over heart’ decision that I will always be very happy to have made!

Location: Da’Costa Layout
Price: 35 lakhs (and going up!)

It’s been 12 years since I last went house hunting on my own, and it’s interesting to see how the market has changed…and I have too.

The first time I went house hunting, I had just turned 21. So I didn’t ask for too much—just a room with a view and my own independence. In a city that had still not got its water supply act together, I also checked about possible water shortages. All other details were happily forgotten.

I ended with a roof that opened out onto a large terrace. It was my own space in the sun (literally!) and I loved it. Till I discovered that a tiny gap between the wall and the ceiling let bats and rain water enter at will. I could deal with the rain, but not the bats. I vacated the house long before my lease expired!

In the next house that I rented, I did examine the ceiling very carefully. But as it turned out, the house was infested with rats. Needless to say, I did not last for even nine months. From here, I moved to my own house, and with that concluded (thankfully!) the never-ending search for a home.  

But the bogey man was back last month. I find myself back in the real estate market, and the game has changed alright!

Like all other things, real estate has also moved online. After running through scores of properties, I finally settled on T’s advertisement. The location and the size seemed right, the price ridiculously low. I clicked the “get number” option on the website, and there was beep on my cellphone. T’s number had reached my cellphone via a text message. Renting a house in Bangalore definitely was not what it used to be!

I gave T a call, and she guided me right to her doorstep over my cellphone. While it had been a long drive, my heart warmed to her house on a lane that still had many trees.

Later T led me through her newly tiled, freshly painted home. She was especially proud of her bathroom. The kitchen was unusual because it had a coconut tree running right through it—her attempt to save every possible tree while building her house. All in all, the quality of construction had definitely improved since the old days.

Like every potential landlord, T had plenty of questions. That at least was one aspect of house hunting that stood unaltered by the intervening decade 🙂 I fielded her off as best as I could, but yet I warmed up to her. She was a cosmopolitan old Bangalorean, who still lived in a world where everything had not yet turned concrete.

So did I end up renting the house? It did have the right price, quality and landlord. Not to mention plenty of green.

As it turns out, the answer is ‘no’.

For one, the long drive off the main road could be slightly scary on a dark lonely night (and that’s when I usually travel). Then, a tree in a kitchen is a cool idea when it’s just in your head, but if you are living with in your home, it’s another story. (Would it bring my old companions ‘the rats’ back—considering that I had open roots and mud in the middle of my kitchen?!) It didn’t help that parking was a mess either.

But more than anything else, when I looked at T’s ‘property for rent’, I did see a roof over my head, but it could not inspire within me a desire to own (or even rent) it.

So I moved on.

This time at least I have decided not to settle for four walls with a roof. My search for a home continues.

Location: Hennur
Size: 1 bedroom house (abt 900 sq feet) with space for a garden
Price: Rs 6500/- only

It was just another evening of commuting from Kammanahalli to Koramangala. The auto driver hesitated for a moment and then nodded. I jumped in.  

There was another momentary pause as he wondered whether he should take a left or right turn. Like most Bangalore roads that run in circles, both ways would lead us to our destination. He opted for the left turn. I did not object. He turned the metre down, and we were off.

But my auto driver’s choice of route meant that I was visiting a Kammanahalli that I had not visited for the last five years at least. Nothing could have prepared me for the ride ahead of me.

When I was child, Kammanahalli was considered the back of beyond. It was not a ‘happening’ or an extremely rich neighbourhood. But in a city where most people had houses that were large and life was easy, neither was it heartbreakingly poor.

About a decade ago, the loud reverberations of the information technology boom could be heard in Bangalore. Like many other localities that rose up to meet the needs of our fast growing metropolis, Kammanahalli slowly changed from being somewhere in the ‘back of beyond’ to ‘happening’. Swanky brands, cool restaurants and the well-heeled made their appearance. And with them came a new demarcation.

Yes, there was the Kammanhalli of bright shining lights, beautiful houses and nice things in abundance. But on the edge of this nouveau rich respectability, the old halli (village) still lived on. Only it was older and poorer.

My autorickshaw’s choice of path now took me to that Kammanhalli. Most of the single houses on its narrow lanes had been converted into three-storey structures that housed at least six families. Garbage was everywhere. Someone had shown the foresight to plant trees here, but even they were covered in grime. The halli that once happily overflowed into an open railway track was now hemmed in by a bridge. It was the bridge that both cut it off and hid its poverty from the rest of the world.  

The city had grown rich, but it was a stingy millionaire. The halli had not shared in its new found prosperity.

The autorickshaw driver made his way expertly through the narrow lanes and over the dividing bridge, even as the madness of Saturday evening traffic closed in from all sides. But the autorickshaw driver moved with the familiar ease of one who travelled in his own world and knew it well.

At the Bypannahalli Railway Crossing, he was brought to a halt as the railway gate was closed for an incoming train. This shortcut connects Kammanhalli and Indira Nagar ever since I can remember, and inevitably fails you on the days when you most need it because the railway gates are down for a passing train. But a good Bangalorean still always takes a chance 🙂  

This evening too the Bypannahalli short cut failed us. Commuters in cars chose to take a U turn and travel by the longer path. But the autorickshaw driver did not have that luxury. So he waited with resigned patience till the railway gate opened 15 minutes later.

By the time the railway gate opened, traffic stretched back as far as the eye. We edged towards the narrow opening in bumper-to-bumper traffic and finally made our way out.

The now familiar sight of Indira Nagar’s new shiny glass façade, displaying the best global brands hurt my eyes that evening. There it lay, sprawled out in luxurious opulence, completely indifferent to the grinding poverty of the halli. In a couple of minutes, we reached nearby Koramangala, which also basked in the happy glow of Bangalore’s new richness.

Both Koramangala and Indira Nagar had always been residential localities for well-to-do Bangaloreans. Now they were home to the cities information technology factories, with homes and shops for workers employed in these concrete jungles.  

So why had the city’s newly acquired wealth found its way into the richest localities and completely bypassed the poorer one? As Bangalore booms, why have the poor never seemed as poor as they did today?

We had reached our destination by this time. I paid my fare and was about to leave. A girl approached. “Forum Mall jaana hain bhaiya”, she demanded. At the mention of Koramangala’s big expensive mall, pat came the standard reply, “30 Rupees madam”.

He had charged me by the metre. But I guess he figured that if you could shop in an expensive mall, you could also pay ‘double metre’.

Yet when I thought of our long ride from Kammanhalli to Koramangala, I almost sympathised. Only someone who has experienced deep grinding backbreaking poverty can understand it.

So the next time I hear “double metre maddaam”, I will not turn my back in anger. I will reason it out with him till we arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. I will not let anyone take advantage of me. But let me also not forget to be guided by the spirit of generosity.   

“Double meter” does not always mean that he is a crook. “Double meter” sometimes just means that he is poor.

It’s also true that until the money from the new Kammanhalli finds its way to the halli, we will fail in our dream to create a beautiful Bangalore.

Time to move on?

Posted: June 14, 2011 in Bangalore

I’ve watched it happening over the years to friends of mine. One day they’d get up, look at the city of their birth, and discover that it stifled them. They felt it was time to move on.

But I never thought that it would happen to me. Bangalore was after all my great love affair. Other things could perhaps pass away into the nothingness of time, but not my passionate love for this city of my growing years.

And perhaps it will never pass away yet. Bangalore was my first love, and it may still remain my only love. The one city in the world where I will lay my head to rest and know that I am finally home.  

But for Bangalore to remain all those things to me, I must perhaps go away and let the winds of the world heal some deep wounds.

I have always loved that Bangalore is a small-big city. But sometimes it is the smallness of the city that allows some threads to entangle you and then eat into your soul. Bigger cities give you the space to lose yourself for awhile, and not bump into people you know at every street corner.

Where will I go? I am not sure. But I am considering pursuing my dreams. Perhaps it’s finally time for me to be a person who is not led by my love for a city, but led by my love for my dreams.

I will not run away. But I will move on.

Monsoon magic

Posted: June 9, 2011 in Bangalore, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Morning light kisses the sky.
A soft wind languorously unties my hair.
The promise of a scattering of raindrops tantalizes my skin.
This monsoon morning my heart beats again.
 I am alive. So I live.

(Written in Bangalore, one monsoon morning)

Copyright – Christina Daniels

It was just another morning on my way to work. I was at the strategic left turn into the industrial area that is home to my office and a long list of other international technology companies.

The traffic clogged intersection usually has most of the bikers getting onto the narrow adjacent mud road and beating the signal. All this happens while the folks in cars wait patiently at the signal, looking with a mixture of helplessness and envy at the gay abandon of the biker.

At peak traffic hour, this should be a fairly common sight at many other Bangalore intersections as well.

But this morning was different. A cop had parked his bulky Bullet Enfield squarely in the centre of the muddy side road. Now it was the biker’s turn to look on in helpless irritation.

But not for long. Soon one biker realized that there was just enough space between the road and the pavement for one bike to get through. He squeezed in. Soon a long line of bikers were following that adventurous lone explorer.

I couldn’t help shaking my head, with a bit of a wry smile. We are such a loophole loving nation. Give an Indian a watertight compartment, and we will find the loophole. Not in ones and twos, but in hoards 🙂