Monthly Archives: November 2013

Fix the Potholes in Bangalore

By | Commuting | 2 Comments

[Editor’s Note: There are a whole range of companies (large and small, local and international) trying to alleviate the pain of the urban Indian commuter. Whether it’s taxi fleets, taxi aggregators, micro car rentals or companies like us trying to bring transparency and efficiencies to the auto rickshaw segment, all rely on one common infrastructure. The roads. Embarrassing no? Public infrastructure that’s taken for granted in practically any part of the world. Appallingly bad would be a flattering description for Bangalore roads. Among the six Indian metros, Bangalore would win the “worst roads” title by a hefty margin. There’s nothing any of the aforementioned companies can do to improve the roads. Is there anything YOU (Bangalore resident) can do? Ashoka India’s Sunish Jauhari believes you can. Sign the Change.org petition and you make his hand stronger when he goes to meet the Commissioner of BBMP. At publishing time, the petition had 18,195 signatures.. only 6,800 to hit the 25,000 magic mark. Read on and do the needful.]

Pic courtesy deccanchronicle.com

Pic courtesy deccanchronicle.com

Roads in Bangalore are terrible. Bangaloreans are getting together to demand pothole-free roads and we have 17,000 signatures already.

Last week I met the officials at BBMP and asked them about the progress in fixing the potholes. Shockingly, they only told me that BBMP has no resources to fix the roads.

This is unacceptable! Roads are a huge problem in the city and the BBMP needs to be accountable for them.

Next week, I will meet the Commissioner of BBMP, Lakshmi Narayana and deliver my petition with all your signatures. I’ve also contacted several experts and we will be taking some suggestions with us too.

We need to show him the potholes is a serious problem and we want them to fix it immediately. BBMP will have to listen to us if we can get more numbers of my petition.

Help me reach 25,000 signatures before my meeting. Vishy, here is how you can help.

  1. Forward this email to your friends asking them to sign it.
  2. Share this petition on Facebook and Twitter.

If you have not shared my petition widely yet, please do so and get your friends and friends.

Thank you for taking action for good roads in Bangalore.

Sunish via Change.org

Bangalore’s Auto Raja – just WHO is he?

By | Autos | No Comments
Pic courtesy Livemint.com

Man on the windshield (Pic courtesy Livemint.com)

If you’ve been on Bangalore roads (even if you HAVEN’T taken an auto), you’d have seen this guy’s picture. By this guy, I mean the man on the windshield of this (and tens of thousand other) auto rickshaws.

It’s noted Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag. Outside Karnataka, he’s best known as the Director of Malgudi Days, a phenomenally popular TV series based on RK Narayan’s short stories. He has acted in over 80 Kannada movies but Auto Raja is the movie that made him into a cult hero figure amongst Bangalore’s auto drivers (possibly in the rest of Karnataka as well?) He died in a road accident over 23 years ago (at the age of 35) but his popularity among the auto rickshaw drivers doesn’t show any sign of waning.

Nag’s enduring popularity spurred Sushma Veerappa to make a documentary film, When Shankar Nag comes Asking. The documentary explores the relationship of the working class to cinema, the endurance of a star’s fame even after his death, the nature of fandom, the rise of nativist politics in Karnataka, and the changing nature of Bangalore.

I’m excerpting several interesting tidbits from this Livemint interview of Veerappa.

On filming..

I filmed everything from the Ganesh utsav on Shankar Nag Road in Domlur, Bangalore, to a CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) rally, of which the autorickshaw union is a member, Karnataka Rajyotsava celebrations across the city. Sometime in 2010, when I seriously started seeking funds to make the documentary, a structure began to emerge based on what I had filmed.

The documentary began with Shankar Nag on autorickshaw windshields. That’s something all Bangaloreans of my generation have grown up with.

On how the documentary evolved..

Yes, it was supposed to be about Nag on windshields. Except that the Suvarna Karnataka celebrations took over the city around that time in 2006. I noticed how autorickshaws became a prime constituency for the playing out of identity politics on the streets. It looked like quite a joyride—Shankar Nag and the Kannada flag riding together on an autorickshaw. But was it? The trajectory of Bangalore city’s growth post 1990 seemed very intertwined with lives of auto drivers, who are the lifeline of Bangalore. 1990 was also the year Shankar Nag passed away in a road accident. Fifty years of statehood, 20 years of globalization—all being played out in this city. It seemed like a good time to look into ideas about belonging in a city.

Auto drivers’ collective love for Nag.

There are many ways of seeing, remembering, celebrating. It is complex. The auto driver is also constantly redefining the idea of the fan. Shankar Nag may be disappearing from auto windshields. But auto drivers make space for him by the tail-light of the autorickshaw. The fact that this man still remains in public memory more than 20 years after he passed away cannot be just a socio-cultural phenomenon. This means that there is a lacuna in the political system that has created space for this.

Is the auto driver not a citizen?

As a documentarian, I am compelled to show the alternative to mainstream portrayals in which the state sets up a 24×7 call centre to help the citizen against harassment by an auto driver—as if the auto driver is not a citizen. If I am saying that not all auto drivers who are Shankar Nag fans align themselves with a language activist group, it means that the kind of language politics that plays out on the street is never black and white.

On presenting impressions over information.

It was very important for me that Shankar Nag—the person, his work—gets articulated by the auto driver, and not by a subject expert. That didn’t quite happen. I could not get an auto driver to intellectualize his fanhood in so many words. But at the same time I was meeting several of them eking out a livelihood on his name. There were so many fantastic ways in which he was and is living.

For a more humorous introduction to Shankar Nag (and Auto Raja), check out this Kannada Speakeasy video. The relevant portion is from 1:20 to 3:00 though the entire 6 minutes are quite entertaining too — you’ll pickup some conversational Kannada in the process.

A tale of three cities

By | Autos | No Comments
Pic courtesy redroom.com

Pic courtesy redroom.com

On a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being excellent and 1 being terrible), how ‘good’ are your city’s auto drivers?

Okay. This is no exercise in morality. Replace the word good with likelihood to go on meter.

Commuters in Mumbai are likely to rate 9 or 10 for their city’s drivers. Their counterparts in Chennai might rate a 1 or 2. Maybe.. just maybe the Chennai rating might have improved recently after the Tamil Nadu government brought back the meter (after an extended hiatus of 15+ years). This is thanks (at least to some extent) to the efforts of Times of India’s Missing Meter campaign.

What does the rating look for Bangalore?

Depending on who you talk to, where and when they commute regularly, the rating might vary widely, say between 3 and 8. We reckon that Bangalore’s blended rating might be 5 (or 6). In short, Bangalore is bang in the middle of the two extremes (Chennai and Mumbai).

This poll we started on our website suggests that over 30% of Bangalore’s auto rickshaw drivers go on meter. Considering only 21 have voted so far, this is far from conclusive. Whatever the final ‘consensus’ number turns out to be, our experience is that finding and enrolling such auto drivers into our network is not an easy task.

Is it needle-in-a-haystack difficult?

No.

But it does require a multi-pronged approach.

Our operations team is working on a few prongs but there’s at least one prong that involves you. Yes, you – the Bangalore auto rickshaw commuter.

Our next post in this series will will get into the mechanics of how the Bangalore auto rickshaw commuter can play a crucial role in locating auto drivers who go on meter.