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Posts Tagged ‘Bangalore’

On Bangalore’s ever-evolving showpiece street, M G Road, time stands still at the Indian Coffee House. When the modern mantra is “innovate”, this half-a-century old restaurant has refused to move on. It proclaims grittily that its future lies in the past.

ich1ich11And with good reason too: the soothing envelope of its old-world charm is still the easiest getaway from the glitz, gloss and superficiality of modernity for thousands of people, from intellectuals to romantic couples.

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No one walks into this coffee house salivating over crispy masala dosas or cutlets. In fact, even a hot cup of coffee is incidental here. The heady brew is the conversation: topics ranging anything from dreams and gossips to sweet nothings; from the latest buzz in the art world to saving trees and lakes; from socialism in the US and capitalism in China to whether BJP will be back in power or whether it will be a Mayawati — more than the clatter of coffee cups, it’s the gentle drone of the chat.

With a pan-Indian presence of around 400 outlets, the Indian Coffee House is also a place where many newcomers to Bangalore feel at home, a place they can easily identify as their own, whose aroma is as familiar as the air back home. Its USP is informality; “be like you are at home”, could very well be its motto.

CROWD-PULLERS 

Dosa: May be soft and served with watery chutney, fork and knife, but many come from far and near for it 

Scrambled eggs: Fluffy and white, soaking the slice underneath, it makes for a yummy, filling snack; quite unique 

Cutlets: In veg and mutton variety, hot stuff 

Finger chips: Another crispy big draw

This is not one of those places where waiters nag you into placing orders; or after having shelled out a good price you are nudged into vacating the place. Here you can sit for hours on end and see through the glass panes the world pass by. If anything is missing it’s the ashtrays and the smoke, thanks to Anbumani Ramadoss.

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The MG Road ICH is a restaurant unlike any other. At this landmark rendezvous more than the taste of the cuisine it’s the comforting ambience that has mattered. The people-centric credo isn’t difficult to understand; for, again it lies in the past. This chain of hotel was founded in the 1950s as a workers’ cooperative society by Kerala’s communist leader A K Gopalan. The subtle Leftists underpinnings are very much there still holding out to the contrariant surge.

But there is now a faint death knell that’s threatening to grow louder. Will the ICH too end up like all good things, only in memory — this is the fear that’s haunting Bangaloreans. But, ask anyone at the coffee house and they will tell you: “As of now, we aren’t going anywhere. We are here.” Hope that reassuring promise holds good.

(The Indian Coffee House lost a case with the building management filed in 2003 and it will have to vacate the premises. The earliest deadline was some time in 2006, I am told. It has got pushed further and further under pressure of public goodwill. It’s also being said that the ICH is indeed looking for an alternative site and once that is ready, it will move out. But when that will be no one knows. At least no one is willing to say officially. A version of the above writeup appeared in Sunday Times of India, Bangalore, February 22, 2009)

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The whole of Bangalore is talking about a tragic incident late Saturday night,  between 1 and 2 am, in the heart of Bangalore, very close to the famous M G Road.

A B Com student, who was involved in drag racing, fell to bullets fired by sentries guarding an army compound into which he entered while trying to flee the cops who had flagged him down. This is the sequence of events for readers who aren’t familiar with the incident:

  • The boy, Mohd Mukarram Khan, was involved in drag racing on M G Road along with his friend.
  • Police waved him down, since drag racing is illegal; a bigger crime when done on city’s main roads.
  • Mukarram did not stop and tried to flee.
  • Police gave him a chase. The bike skidded and toppled. The two fell. Mukarram, got into a compound (which turned out to be a defence area) to escape. His friend fled somewhere else.
  • Mukarram climbed the roof of a building (which turned out to be a top officer’s residence) and hid there.
  • From there, he made calls on the mobile, describing his situation and asked for a car to be dispatched.
  • After some time, when the car came, he jumped from the terrrace and ran towards the car.
  • The guards — who were all the while searching the premises for the intruder — saw him hiding in the terrace and making the calls, just before the car came.
  • On being challenged by the guards, he fled. While fleeing, he was shot by the Army sentries.
  • He was hit in the abdomen. Whoever came in the car took him to a hospital, where he was declared dead. The people who brought him, told the hospital that the boy was injured in an accident and immediately left the place.

Everyone feels a precious life was lost for nothing. In all the discussion that is on, one important point is forgotten. We all have the benefit of hindsight, and the benefit of knowing who Mukarram was. The sentries who fired the shot, didn’t know who this intruder was. This is a very crucial point that is not recognised. There is simply no point in blaming the sentry.

I feel a number of lessons need to be learnt — not just by Bangaloreans but by all Indians — from this unfortunate incident.

  1. These are troubled times in every way. If drag racing is illegal, just don’t do it. As simple as that. Why do all these things in the dead of night, when you should be sleeping.
  2. If cops or even a private security guard, stops you, for Heaven’s sake, STOP. Whether you are right or wrong, just stop. The cops are doing their duty. If you were on the wrong side of law, apologise, and sort the matter out. (Mukarram’s friends or folks with whom he spoke could have told him to just give up and surrender to the guard and admit the mistake of running to a protected zone. I am sure being a localite, he would have realised before long where he had run into.)
  3. We need to be  a lot more disciplined in our public lives. We are a nation that has no respect even for a traffic light.

It’s time introspect and make sure such tragedies don’t happen.

  1. Drag race is considered an adventurous sport. Respect that and provide a dedicated place and time for the guys.
  2. Educate adrenalin-rich guys (and may be even some girls!) on the need to obey laws, and be disciplined Indians. This may take ages for results to be seen, but a beginning needs to be and can be made.
  3. The police and defence forces in partnership with the media can carry out campaigns to educate people about the troubled times we live in and to be cautious always. For example, if someone asks for your identity, show him or her; instead of flaunting your ego.
  4. Never violate a security guard’s suggestions or commands. It’s for our own safety those guys are toiling. Security personnels’ job is a thankless one, they don’t have the sort of fun we all have at work. Let us cooperate with them.
  5. Remember, defence (mainly army) guys have their finger on their trigger always. Unlike police they shoot to kill.

May Mukarram’s soul rest in peace. Let never such incidents happen, especially because of our carelessness.

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If you were out in Bangalore around midnight on Sunday, the sheer number of vehicles, mainly autorickshaws, on the road; and the traffic jams would have puzzled you. It was as if anyone with a baby was rushing to the nearest hospital.

The Times of India)

Scene outside Bowring Hospital, Bangalore. (Source: The Times of India)

It was the National Immunization Day. Little ones, mainly those under 5 were given oral polio drops. Till evening everything was normal. As sun set, rumours began spreading that a few children had died. Some even said 300 children had died! The situation led to violence at many places.

Earlier in the day, a similar thing was getting enacted in Tamil Nadu.

Mangalorean.com)

A ransacked ward of K R Hospital, Mysore. (Source: Mangalorean.com)

Two aspects here: one, the rumour that children had died. The worst part of this was that a local television channel is said to have reported the death, without actually verifying the exact cause. The word, quoting the TV flash, spread adding more inaccuracies to the original falsehood.

The second aspect, is one which didn’t get highlighted in the mass media, obviously for reasons of sensitivity. It is that most of the parents belonged to the Muslim community. One English paper reported that in places of worship people were advised to consult doctors. 

Let me emphasise here that going by the crowd at the hospitals, of course, many non-Muslims too were evidently worried about the polio drops that were given to children. For example, our maid, who is a Christian, was woken up by neighbours around 11 pm and told to take her child to hospital. She told us that the neighbours had said that the police were announcing that many children had died. I am dead sure that the police would never ever make such an announcement. 

The rumour angle is a socio-psychological phenomenon. We all fall for them depending upon how much confidence we have in ourselves and in the system we live in. Actually, in this age of “SMS and e-mail forwarding”, a lot of info that’s floating around are inaccurate. Jokes and humour are exceptions, but not others that contain facts. We also just keep forwarding stuff without ensuring the accuracy of what is contained in them.

The Kano link

The second aspect to the Bangalore incident, the Muslim angle, is nothing new actually; only that it’s unprecedented in Bangalore. Here is a little background to this:

The global polio eradication programme began in 1988 mainly under the initiative of the World Health Organisation. It was undergoing a good run, with any nations being formally declared polio-free. In India it was launched in 1994 under the Pulse Polio banner.

The global effort hit a major obstacle in 2002, when in Kano province of north Nigeria (largely Muslim populated unlike the south which is Christian dominated), religious leaders (including a well-known doctor) claimed that many samples of the vaccine supplied by the west were adulterated to reduce fertility and caused AIDS. This they said was part of the US-led drive against Islam in the post-9/11 scenario.

A few other reasons added to the fears. In 1996, Pfizer company conducted a trial on children to test a drug against bacterial meningitis. The company was later taken to court under the charge that it resulted in the death of 11 children. The American war on Iraq (seen by many Muslims as unnecessary and unprovoked) only fuelled the conspiracy theory on the polio vaccine.  

In 1999, a controversial book “The River” hit the stands. In it the author, Edward Hooper, says the modern HIV came from an experimental polio vaccine which was being used in Belgian Congo in the 1950s. This vaccine was being tried on a medium of chimpanzee cells that had been infected with monkey virus, which is considered the precursor of AIDS.

Most AIDS experts deny this theory about the origin of AIDS. Also Hooper says he never ever suggested that the modern polio vaccine contains any AIDS virus. But many Nigerian religious leaders and journalists were unconvinced.

Around that time, there were reports in Nigeria that university scientists had found estrogen in the polio vaccine. Estrogen is one of the ingredients in birth control pills. Any birth control measures in Nigeria is very controversial. The whole thing got politically and emotionally coloured during the 2003 Nigerian elections.

The conspiracy theory reached India in 2004. Uttar Pradesh was the victim. Health officials were banned from entering localities, and there were bizarre reports of children being hidden from these officials.

Though within a year, Nigeria reported resumption of the eradication drive, many doubt if it’s working as effectively as it should. Within a couple of years of the Nigerian ban, 18 countries that were once polio-free reported outbreaks, which some scientists say can be traced to Nigeria. And, most worryingly among these countries is India.

A total of 535 cases have been reported in India in 2008, with the latest reported from Uttar Pradesh on November 27.

In India, the second part of the National Immunization Drive is on February 1.

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A few days back, there was a tragic incident in Bangalore.

A man was riding a motorbike without helmet. He was flagged down by traffic policemen.

Since many cops feel that the biker may not stop, they virtually come in the way of the motorist in bid to stop him. Not only they come in the way, just as the motorist is forced to slow down, one of the policemen catches hold of the handle of motorbike and, just as the vehicle stops, pulls the key out and confiscates it.

Here too something similar happened. Unfortunately, the motorist lost balance and fell on the ground. And, to his utter misfortune, a truck overran him, and he died.

…. Naresh Kumar (26), a student of SJES College, Madehalli, and a resident of Tambu Chettipalya, KR Puram, died on the spot after the policemen tried to stop him for riding without a helmet… Naresh’s helmet was hung on the rear view mirror of the two-wheeler (HP-31-2579) he was riding. When a policeman tried to catch the bike’s handlebar, the rider was thrown off balance and went sprawling on the busy highway. Just then a truck (KA-29-2201) loaded with bricks  coming behind ran over Naresh…. (Source: Deccan Herald)

It was a freak tragedy, no doubt. But it’s NOT RARE that motorists travel without helmet. Though there is a strict rule, there are the odd ones who ignore it. Also it is NOT RARE that motorists cock a snook at the policemen who are doing their duty. They just swerve the mobike and speed away. Again, it’s NOT RARE that some policemen are highhanded sometimes, and treat citizens rudely.

I think — whether one likes wearing the helmet or not — when there is rule, one should obey it. I don’t think there are two ways about it. If you can’t wear helmet, then don’t drive the motorbike. 

Policemen come into the picture only when rules are broken. So, even though, here the policeman may have been guilty of overreaction — and must be punished for it — the whole situation could have been avoided if the motorist had obeyed the rule and worn the helmet.

What do you say?

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