This post was due a long time. I’ve had various thoughts surrounding the topic for about five years now and this seems to be a good time to log this down.
Whither Bangalore – one could’ve asked this question back in early 2000s when a CM such as S.M. Krishna was in power in the state and be hopeful of things to come. I recall back in 2002 how the infrastructure in the city was beginning to don an outfit never seen before. We were getting decent public toilets, public bus shelters with illuminated maps, etc. The elements of an urban city for a teenager in those days were these and more. There was hope.
What was I doing back then? Taking buses to attend tuition classes at Basavanagudi all the way from Shivajinagar area. It was still possible back then to attend my day school, then take a bus around 4pm and still be on time for the evening tuitions. There were not too many cars back then on the road, two wheelers and public transport were the perceivable majority.
Somewhere something went wrong
Fast forward ten years to say 2012. I moved back to Bangalore from Mumbai thinking Mumbai’s traffic was bad after experiencing a rainy season there. I was mistaken. Politically, the S. M. Krishna kind of politicians are no more. I think we had the worst, most corrupt ages in this decade in the city. The public toilets near bus stands had gone out of maintenance in many places. Certain strongholds continue to have them but are still a minority after having a headstart of nearly ten years. The city municipality had shown multiple instances of high levels of corruption in terms of illegitimate dealings, land records, kickbacks and so on.
Environmentally, the last few summers have been progressively getting warmer. Today, in early November we’re experiencing a mini-summer. The tree cover has drastically reduced, I can actually notice the reduction month-over-month for various oddball reasons in the name of “improvement.”
The city is a cash cow for certain “powers that be” which nobody really is sure who they are. Or I don’t know anybody who does know about it.
The “rent-seeking” economy is huge in this part of the country. You have rich landlords from the 80s who’ve acquired a lot of land in and around this city who’re squeezing the most of it by building the most impractical IT parks or apartments in a very congested area. Take a look at the ORR where the Cessna IT park is. A usual occurence today there is an hour-long wait for cars to simply exit the IT park especially when it has rained outside and maybe more than half the road is unusable.
It might be tempting to attribute certain ills in the city to ignorance rather than malice. Example, the steel-bridge in K.R. Puram that divides that part of the city into two by at least twenty minutes.
There are numerous illegal paying-guest houses in the city for the young and single crowd mostly run by a particular people who don’t even pay taxes and have built flimsy buildings with more than the legally allowed four-storeys.
Real estate in this city is poorly regulated and is a mess. There have been demolitions recently of certain middle-class houses because it allegedly runs on a dysfunctional network of storm drains. While habitual big-money builders get away with the encroachment of areas next to lakes! Digitisation of land-records with modern GIS technology is something this IT capital struggles to do even in 2016.
Almost everything that is done by the governing bodies is with the idea of a cash-cow.
Building or repairing new roads? Make sure they don’t have decent drainage so that a. they’re flooded during the rains and b. they deteriorate in under a year so that a new contract is floated and more kickbacks are received.
Want to register your company or get a VAT certificate? Pay every useless person in the government office at least a few thousand rupees unless you know someone personally to waive this off.
Day to day life
Say you work in an IT company and intend to maintain a decent work-life balance. Maybe put in seven to eight hours at the office. Drive an hour each way because a. the public transport is thin on your route and takes much longer and b. you’re having breathing issues with the air-quality and really need something like a car with a decent activated-charcoal-based air-filter in it.
The hours spent commuting is incomparable to any other activity that one might want to voluntarily participate in. It is a tax. It is something unavoidable for some people. It is something that will have an effect on your work when you drive to work and an effect on your time at home once you drive back home. It is something that determines whether you walk in to work or home with a smile or a disgruntled frown on your face. It is something that regular doses of which contributes to a poor quality of life over the years.
When you’re lucky and it hasn’t rained, the roads are somewhat usable. But beware of the users of these roads. I’ve noticed in the past couple of years, the two-wheelers riding the opposite way one one-ways have become a norm now. Even the police do it. There are vehicles parked at inconvenient places slowing everybody else. There are slow goods carriers that hog the right/fast lane everywhere who will not respect your demand for right of way but will expect that you respect theirs even when they’re not going fast or overtaking another vehicle. In fact, I’ve observed the kind of acts most people do on the roads that I’ve become good at expecting the dumb move a road user might make. I would be very pleasantly surprised if a road user doesn’t do what I expected. And this happens extremely rarely. One such incident is when a middle-aged man was riding a bike with rear-view mirrors (9/10 won’t have them) and he was actually using them! That was something I hadn’t seen in years.
Let’s talk about the roads now. The majority of them aren’t flat. You can’t drive with a coffee in your car (I haven’t tried this, but I’m guessing) nearly anywhere in this city. The roads are undulating or riddled with potholes. Undulating because of years of patchwork or improper road engineering. And potholes because the roads don’t have decent drainage to not be damaged by stagnant water. A road that was patched maybe two weeks ago already has potholes now. You buy a fancy sedan and want to drive it in this city? Expect to replace link rods and suspensions prematurely. And when it rains, expect not being able to spot a pothole because of water logging but, hey, at least the two-wheelers have stopped their suicide rides for taking shelter from the rain under those underpasses blocking more than half of the usable road. There have been incidents where potholes at the end of a flyover cause two wheelers to swerve suddenly and then getting hit by heavier vehicles from the back. Pillion riders have mostly died because of that and nobody gets to be blamed but the rider.
Nobody believes in appropriate signage on the roads anywhere. You’ll find very similar accidents on flyover ramps and other places where a road divider shows up out of the blue because there are no reflectors on them to indicate its presence. You’ll be hard pressed to find any lane markings and most of all nothing to indicate that there’s an unscientific speed-breakers ahead of you which would either dent your wheel or cause something even worse.
As a pedestrian, you’re either an idiot or a victim. Idiot because you cross the road when it’s a green signal for vehicles in a road that’s been blocked by inefficiency or a victim because you don’t really have time to cross the road nor does the traffic policeman give you a pedestrian green light. On more residential areas, there are hoardings of various political organisations celebrating their birthdays and what have you blocking the footpaths in many places. As an elderly person, you have to bend even more to go under them or try to walk outside the footpath risking several dangers such as slipping off the footpath or being driven over by a motorist.
About garbage: a garden city once upon a time, now a garbage city. There is a lot of garbage in this city. They’ve run out of villages in the outskirts to dump garbage at. Waste segregation is still a poorly understood and followed topic. Garbage occupies footpaths. Even roads. And of course, most of the famed storm water drains filled with garbage and sewage. The great lakes of Bangalore are literally foaming with chemical effluents from businesses that have paid off the right officials. In areas where gentrification is still in progress, one can find construction debris and teardown debris of older buildings thrown down the street on the sides.
Let’s talk about restaurants now. In areas such as Indiranagar or Koramangala, it’s common to be charged Bay area prices but served one-third the portions. If you cheap out and eat at a smaller eatery, be prepared to hurt your digestive system the following day.
There was a time when I could pursue other activities after work such as attending a gym or some kind of combat training classes. But now one is already quite tired by the time one reaches home there’s no time or energy left to travel to the gym.
Even the Google maps location names are getting worse by the day. Incorrect data confuses all the delivery startups using Google maps data to mark GPS locations with inaccurate and incorrect labels. Today I notice that some smartass has added “5th Phase” to “RBI Layout” and that there’s a “RBI Layout North” now. There’s only one RBI Layout. And there’s an “East Side” for it because two roads belonging to the layout are on the east side of the main roads that divides it. But this actual “East Side” of RBI Layout is labeled as everything but that: Nataraja Layout, Wilson Garden housing colony, even as Arekere which is miles away.
So, yes. Here you are, in the “IT capital” of the country. Paying more taxes than most people on the road each year. Getting nothing of value in return and everything outside of work and home only gets worse year on year. You’re never going to be part of a vote-bank for any political entity. How does it feel? Hopeless? What are you going to do about it?
I realise this is going to be the least expected post from my on my blog. It’s been a while since my last post and although a lot of things have happened since July 2014, I’m choosing to not do a consolidated “updates” post but a very specific post about food I’ve cooked in the recent past.
Why cooking? Because I got opportunities to try it out, I guess?
Before marriage (Aug ’14), it’s mostly been my mother’s dinners and eating out for lunch and occasionally breakfasts at home – especially during the summer holidays when mother is at home. After marriage, things changed. My wife put a lot of effort in taking care of the affairs – laundry, cleaning, cooking – at home and going out to her day job. I thought I’d contribute more than I would’ve liked to but couldn’t. Partly due to my own laziness or the fact that my wife was quicker and better at this.
I recall making my first chicken biryani in the first few months using a recipe from the Hawkins pressure cooker recipe book. It came out well but lacked salt. It even made it to my wife’s Facebook page which garnered attention from all the fathers in her circle.
I later on tried simpler spaghetti pastas and even a bland chicken pot roast. We soon got hold of a OTG (oven toaster grill) which helped us make breads at home and vegetable and poultry/meat/fish grills. They were great to make and eat.
Lately, in the past year I’ve noticed a lot more men share and comment on recipes on a popular Indian automotive forum. Probably surprising to some but it all seems kind of related in an esoteric way. The same automotive forum also hosts threads on topics such as weight loss, body building, Bangalore traffic woes and many other topics which wouldn’t “fit” naturally in a forum about automobiles.
I saw how some members had taken it up on themselves to prepare food quite regularly at home to ensure that they eat healthy and were getting better at it.
The first recipe which I tried out from one of the posts there was a dum biryani. This was in mid-June. Even my sister liked it.
It came out really well. So much so that even our maid commented that it was the best she’s tasted so far. An important note is that we’ve become a big fan FreshToHome and for most non-veg dishes we order the raw ingredients in advance from here.
I tried making it again, this time with white-basmati rice and it was still good.
In second week of this September, I tried preparing a mutton curry in my quest to make something similar to the kind of curries we had begun to like in the nearby Prashanth Hotel. The results were quite good. In the following few days, the mother and wife tried cooking it by themselves when I was away on travel.
Before the mutton curry week, I had tried to prepare almond biscotti inspired by a post in the automotive forum. It came out quite well athough wife didn’t like it much.
Last Sunday, my brother-in-law came over and I was excited to cook again. This time, it was a Malabar-style chicken kurma. It turned out be so good that none of us could control ourselves with the portions and the word has reached that everybody in this house cooks good food.
What have I learnt with these experiments? One, many recipes when followed with care come out really well. This means better hygiene during preparation, better ingredients, better sizing of spices.
We’re so used to eating out or eating quick staple food at home that taking the Sunday out to prepare an elaborate meal has taken a backseat. Or vacation even. A lot of eateries outside indulge in heavy usage of spices or unhygienically handled raw ingredients (such as onions cut with unclean hands) which could end up causing a week-long scene of discomfort and anti-biotics. Thanks to FreshToHome, we get to use good, anti-biotic free raw poultry and meat. This is very easy for me to test because if I eat anti-biotic rich chicken outside, my eyebrows swell up quite easily. We’ve even gone to the step of growing some simple herbs such as mint and coriander up at the terrace.
Before this, wife would cook on most weekends trying out recipes from this cookbook about food from across Tamil Nadu.
Two, it’s de-stressing. Say you’re a salaryman commuting to and fro every single day to the IT corridor and back. You lose maybe two hours or more per day. When you take that one Sunday to focus on a project at home – such as cooking a nice dish – it gives you time to unwind and do something else apart from work or commuting.
Three, you can see the happiness in your family members or guests.
I’ll probably add more and link more recipes in future parts of this series. If hadn’t tried to cook, this post wouldn’t have made it on my blog. It’d been something my mother or my wife have always been taking care of. In a way, I’m dedicating this to all family members who’ve cooked for me.
A lot’s happened since I last posted here. Job switches, travel, treks, books, cycle rides, engagement, accidents, and so on. I’ve been uploading quite a few photographs in my Flickr account and keep my Goodreads profile more or less up-to-date.
It must’ve been an exasperating (disenchanted rather) experience with banks that prompts me to post something about them today.
I’ve held more than two savings accounts across banks and thought this must a good time (IT-R season) to cut down on some of the least recently used bank accounts. I started with YES bank: emailed them a couple of days ago asking for a quick outline of the procedure, they responded within 24 hours in email (rather than calling me up out of the blue — which is a good thing) and all they wanted from me was to fill up a closure request form at any branch and destroy the ATM card and cheques.
Visited the branch at JP Nagar (6th phase?) and saw a small branch with four people in there. There were no queues (small banks and branches are neat aren’t they?) and I was quickly and courteously attended to. They were satisfied with my reason for closure (too many accounts) and didn’t bother me anymore about it. Overall quite good experience. The only negative points were the account closure charges: nearly 112 rupees. And they took a few minutes to print out the closure form which they didn’t have handy. I guess they’re entitled to that for the low operations in their personal banking branches and for offering a fabulous interest rate of at least 6% (depending on the type) in their savings accounts. The remaining balance would be NEFT’ed to my HDFC account whose details were filled along while submitting the closure request.
Next up was ICICI bank. This is an account I’ve been holding since 2011 starting off at the Malad branch in Mumbai which I later transferred to the Koramangala branch a year later. I’ve also held credit cards with them and I kind of still have a soft spot for this bank (their phone customer service is usually excellent, even late at night). I’ve raised a closure request for the credit cards which I haven’t been using for a while now over phone banking and it seems to be progressing at its own pace (about a day old). What surprised me was, I think, the home branch portability of this bank. I don’t recall setting the JP Nagar 6th phase branch as my home branch and it appears that they’ve done this by themselves based on proximity to my residential address at JP Nagar 7th phase. That was pretty cool I thought. Onto the actual branch visit, the customer relations lady seemed a little irritable and was mostly on the phone while I sat there patiently waiting for her attention. Their closure request form had options to en-cash the balance out through NEFT, DD or cash withdrawal from the teller. The relations lady flat out refused to do the NEFT stating no reason. She kept pushing me to use the ATM or take a DD. I didn’t have my latest ATM card with me (old account, don’t know where it is) and I don’t like the idea of running around to banks with a DD in hand. Finally she budged and let me withdraw cash from a manned teller. It’s a little disappointing given the “privileged” banking customer status and all. NEFT would’ve been ideal. Now I have quarter’s supply of cash in my wallet.
HDFC bank: I’m not closing any account right now; to the contrary, I purchased a FOREX card through the netbanking which got delivered to me today. The person (3rd party agent on behalf of HDFC) who delivered the card asked me to activate the card through phone banking. I called up the number listed in the kit and IVR’d my way through to an intermediary who was going to forward me to the correct department. This intermediary, like so many intermediaries in the past at various occasions in my HDFC phone banking experience, had some “phone-only” offer to sell me. It was some kind of “savings plan” whose details I can’t remember or lookup, because, as usual, they wouldn’t send me a PDF brochure or a link to my registered email address when I ask them. They’d offer to send me some product manager to discuss the product and its terms, but all I want is a brochure to read at my own leisure and decide whether I want to pursue this or not. It has happened in the past with other products I was being sold such as insurance.
I’ve been using a DBS account since mid Feb this year and I quite like the interface and OTP format it uses. The debit card has offers relevant to me. A good selling point was its ability to allow me to add an external NEFT beneficiary and transfer money without having to wait. (HDFC and SBI has minimum wait times of 12 hours if I recall correctly). It’s been a good experience so far. I wish it had more options in its netbanking such as the ability to download historical statements in PDF (not just a bare-bones CSV that it currently provides). And perhaps more services such as prepaid cards and so on.
The quest for a good savings bank account with secure but not-irritating netbanking, reasonable service charges (100 rupees to close an account (YES) or drop a cheque at a non-home branch (HDFC)? Silliness) is still open. And I wish more workplaces offered a choice with salary deposits like my current company does (that is how I ended up with DBS – my own experimental choice).
A new experience on my bike. I’ve been to touring-style CAM rides, random commutes, but a timed, marathon-like populaire was a first.
Populaires seem to be a starter course to their longer versions called the brevets — which are timed, marathon-like rides starting at 200km. The time-limit for a brevet is based on a simple formula which assumes the rider to be able to maintain a 15km/h average speed for the entire distance. Populaires organised by the IISc randonneures group are of 55, 100 and 150km.
I woke up at 4AM yesterday and was ready to leave by 0430 to reach the IISc gymkhana gate which is approximately 17km from my home. We were expected to be there by 0530 in order to start off at 0600 for the populaire. The previous day I had commuted to work just to make sure my cycle and I were in a state fit for this populaire. Instead of riding to the start point, I decided to put the bike into my car and drive instead. Wasn’t sure about the route and the time it’d take and not to mention, the dogs. Had I company, I would’ve chosen to ride along as a group.
I was handed a populaire card where the details of the check-points and timings had to be written. A stamp would be pressed and actual arrival times would be written at adjacent boxes when one reaches the checkpoints in the “PLACE” column below.
More details (the route-map, the cue-sheet, etc.) are located here.
I started off on time and tried to keep up the folks in front of me until the first check-point. A few roadies who were ahead of me (and the one that went past me in the initial 5 minutes) were nowhere to be spotted hereafter. I noticed in the checkpoint official’s record sheet that some had reached that place at least half an hour before the three-person group I was closely following as to not loose sight of them.
I didn’t have a printed cue-sheet but I had a copy open in my phone’s browser. The populaire website warned that the route-map is not “official”. And best of all, we weren’t on city roads at all for the bulk of the ride and trying to look for landmarks was pointless.
We went past a lot of government research institutes that researched on poultry of various kind: emus, ostriches; and even frozen semen. There was a research institute for poultry feed too. A younger co-rider who was on a BSA mach flatbar roadie showed me an ostrich in one of these compounds.
The route was very scenic. Flowers on the trees of various colours, grasslands, comfortable weather (I guess this is largely owing to the fact that were riding these stretches between 0600 and 0800 when the sun isn’t fierce.) This wasn’t a tour but a timed-marathon. I saw nobody stop to take a break of more than a few minutes. And breaks weren’t taken in locations that were photogenic. So the best I could capture was when I got a chance to slow down because of the terrain while still trying to keep a group of cyclists in sight in front of me whom I was relying on to know the routes.
I had lost track of the people in front of me after the 40km mark when I entered some controlled farmlands which had fields of various kinds of vegetables growing in them. Luckily, I found the 3rd checkpoint, got the stamp and moved on. But at the fork, I took the wrong turn and lost quite a bit of time before I got on track to head to the end. I think I realise the importance of being fit enough to keep with those who have a clue or be lost with at least a company.
Loaded my bike back into my car and left the gates of IISc gymkhana by 1010. Took me close to an hour and forty-five minutes to reach home cruising through the traffic as if I was carrying a heavy load. My bum was sore and I couldn’t sit still in the car. After I got back home, I took a good shower and headed to the nearby Cafe for a brunch and finished up Edgar Burrough’s “A Princess of Mars”.
I have a feeling that I’m going to be doing more of these. There’s something about this brevet-style of riding when compared to a relaxed trek. There are 100 and 150km populaires in the coming months. If I conquer those, I’ll definitely be eyeing the brevet. Hopefully, I should have a roadie with me by then.
Commuting in Bangalore can be a soul-draining adventure for some of us. After all, it ranks in the top-10 worst cities in the world’s worst cities for commuting. Public transport is sparse, over-provisioned (i.e. runs with more people per bus than it should), terribly slow, and generally lacking in many routes.
Size and numbers
Ten years ago, it was a big two-wheeler scene. One could spot the various Bajaj and Kinetic Honda scooters. And motorbikes like Bajaj Calibre. Nowadays, it’s a huge four-wheeler scene — starting from a humble Tata Nano going all the way up to the Porsches and Audis that cost more than 3 decent residential flats. What hasn’t changed is the road capacity. The number of vehicles has surely increased (hundreds of new vehicles enter the roads each day) and so has the size each occupies in the streets.
This growth has not only affected commute times, but also: pollution levels, anxiety and stress levels.
One of the major failings of the traffic system here is the fact that driving licenses are given out without sufficiently satisfying tests that demonstrate one’s ability to follow traffic rules — which are there for good reasons. Traffic rules provide a protocol of behaviours one is expected to follow on the roads. Without them, it takes time for interacting entities on the road to figure out what to do in a new type of situation they’ve encountered, affecting those around them as a result. This exact behaviour may not even be reproducible were a similar initial condition to arise again. Rules cut down on time and produce standard operating procedures to follow at appropriate initial conditions.
False assumptions and enforced safety
There seems to be a general misunderstanding with how the brakes of a vehicle are to be operated. Many think that applying the front brakes is asking for trouble because it might topple them forward and therefore never apply the front brakes and depend solely on those on the back. This results in skids. Manufacturers that aren’t myopic (i.e., the ones that think “maybe if we build an image of producing safe vehicles, we might get more customers in the long run”) do things like: a. offer full safety features on all of their models and not just the “top-end” ones. (Honda does this, Indian manufacturers such as Tata or Mahindra don’t), b. shunt the front brakes too with the back brake levers so that the back brake levers never operate alone and always applies the front brakes too. (Honda’s two-wheelers do this: see picture)
The players: two wheelers, three wheelers (auto-rickshaws with a handler-bar steering), four wheelers (cars and upto buses), and the traffic police.
Nineteen out of twenty people wouldn’t use the rear-view mirrors when breaking their straight, onward path. Some make attempts to look back before shifting their directions on the road, but why not just use the rear view mirrors and be aware of what’s happening of the front too at the same time? This is a general problem with all of them.
Two wheelers have a tendency to take sudden zig-zag paths on the road with complete disregard to those behind them. Some can be found texting or speaking on their phones in one hand while handling their two wheelers with just the one other hand.
Four wheelers, too, sometimes perform the similar sudden zig-zag movements, but not as much as the two wheelers. Cars are generally okay to bear except the cabs who are similar to the three wheelers. Buses are not the way they once were — gracious.
The three wheelers are probably the most irritating of them all because their primary prerogative on the road is to be on the road and not to reach some destination and get off the wheels and on with their lives. The three wheelers work is to be on the road, for hire. When they’re on hire, exhibit the agile zig-zagging behaviours similar to the two wheelers while also being more dangerous because of the width of space they occupy. When they’re not on hire, they tend to slow down everybody else by sticking to the middle or the right most lanes and not using the left most one instead. They barely use indicators, if ever.
Everybody plays the game of tetris on the road. Many do not use indicators when wanting to take a turn or to stop, let alone using the rear-view mirrors to ascertain whether to do so is safe in the first place. Vehicles are parked just about anywhere with utter disregard to how it might be affecting others.
It’s just downright horrendous. tiring and grossly representative of a mindset that doesn’t respect or value others’ safety, if not their own.
I just wish all driving licenses were invalidated and everyone made to start all over again with stricter tests.
A post to record list of changes that were made to the configuration to get networking to work within the VZ containers on a managed hardware node.
Softlayer provisions CentOS machines with two bonded network interfaces: bond0 connected to their private network and bond1 to the public. We got a “portable” private network subnet and got them converted to “routed to subnet” so that all IPs in that subnet are usable (instead of 3 of them getting reserved into a broadcast IP, gateway IP and broadcast IP).
OpenVZ sends ARP requests when it’s trying to initialise a container and the interface to which the requests are to be sent has to be explicitly specified in this multi-network case. So, fix the
NEIGHBOUR_DEVS variable in
/etc/vz/vz.conf before you pick IPs from your portable subnet pool and start assigning it to your containers.
With that, you should be able to ping these containers from other nodes in your primary private subnet and vice versa. But you won’t be able to ping public IPs from within the containers yet. This doesn’t require you to assign public IPs to the containers too. A NAT rule on the host node should fix this:
iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o bond1 -j MASQUERADE
Took me a while to recall/realise that the lack of ARP requests in SL’s network was necessary. The NAT rule was something I found later on on the internet.
In the past few months, we’ve heard of Zynga acquire DrawSomething, and more recently, Facebook acquiring Instagram for huge sums of money. Both Zynga and Facebook might be doing it for the user base acquisition. Or they might simply be doing it to "nip it in the bud."
What attracts these huge businesses to the userbase? Sales in terms of ads? Probably. It’s still mind-boggling to think that the circle of folks I’ve known over the past 6 years (who have all been using those ad-blocking plugins on browsers and have probably clicked ads only by accident) are the minority. Most people are constantly being lied to (through marketing) over radios, televisions, and billboards (Sao Paulo is an exception) out in the streets while they’re stuck in traffic.
What differentiates these from the internet is that they lack ad-filters. And yet, internet-based businesses that serve ads make it big.
Sidebar: It should be noticeable by now how tech stocks have been underwritten in the past few years (with entities like certain powerful investment banks out there).
So, what we have today is a huge internet userbase made by businesses that offer questionably silly services that are later turned into yet another ad market. Why? Because a lot of people still click ads.
The NYTimes maybe operating for over a 100 years and may be valued well under a billion. Many may not even know what the Tesla corp does. Big dreaming tech companies are getting rarer by the day.