From Art to Heart


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/646739/from-art-heart.html

Denizens of Namma Bengaluru are treated to dollops of street art every now and then. More recently, the painting of a swimming pool in and around a large pothole captured a lot of attention. The painting seemed to come alive when somebody captured a realistic snapshot of a random pedestrian trying to step in gingerly into the painted waters holding the bars of the ladder and uploaded it onto social media.

The picture sent me on a nostalgic trip down the busy streets of our city a couple of decades ago. Just about every Saturday, a couple of kids would appear at around 4 pm with brooms and fine brushes. They would clean up a patch of the ground measuring the size of a small carpet. An hour later, their master would come and quickly draw the border lines without using any instrument. Charcoal powder or white rangoli powder would be evenly spread on the floor. Then the master would draw another border around it.

Within a matter of an hour, he would be going round and round drawing the outline. Gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon would emerge magically as he deftly coloured and gilded their ornaments. Once done, he would rest on the platform with his young companions, waiting for the footfalls to linger there. The public would offer prayers and place a coin carefully along the demarked borders before proceeding.

For kids like us, it happened to be the staple weekend all-round exposure to the arts, culture and resourcefulness. No one, except an occasional gust of wind or a spell of rains, would disturb the work of art till it earned bread for its creators until the next weekend.

These artists, though torn apart by time and space have managed to strike a chord and have warmed the hearts of many who have been exposed to their works. They have managed to make us not only appreciate their work but also reflect on it, even if only momentarily. These artists who unleash their creativity with confidence and élan silently remind us how a piece of fine art can warm the cockles of our heart and ruminate on matters beyond the mundane. They serve soups to our souls and hence it becomes our moral responsibility to sustain them and their art. For art is long and life is short!

Perhaps, this is what Khalil Gibran’s meant when he said:

“And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players – buy of their gifts also.

And that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.

And before you leave the marketplace, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.

For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.”

Empowered by Powerlessness


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/614907/empowered-powerlessness.html

When Namma Bengaluru decided to keep its temperatures soaring, little did it know that it was uniting the denizens of the city in some way. It had all of us whining endlessly besides prompting us to collectively pray for the rains. The pleased heavens opened up with a hail storm one evening.
Once the initial rejoicing set in, kaput went the transformer. The area was shrouded in the dim fading light of dusk.

Alternative power solutions lit up the homes, offices and shops within seconds. The skies cleared up for the night. Several hours passed. There was no sign of electricity. Complaints were lodged more frantically when the batteries running the show began exhausting. The sporadic showers had escalated the heat indoors. Premises that opened doors even for a moment were invaded by motley insects which decided to plague our homes post rains.

The horribly hot night passed without electricity. The next morning dawned ushering in new problems. We did not have access to water as motor pumps were lying dead without power. Communication was cut off since most cell phones could not be charged. Making breakfast seemed a nightmare to people who heavily depended on toasters, microwaves and juicers.

As daylight enveloped the layout, people who had barely acknowledged one another started speaking in one voice. The limited resources were put to best use. Water, food and cell phones were used judiciously on the basis of priority. A team of people went to the local power station to learn about the actual cause of delay. They found out that the electricians were not lazing around, but had been working on various poles overnight. It was just that the ratio of men was hopelessly low to the number of repairs that they had to make.

A few more powerless (pun intended) hours lapsed. The refrigerators were raided and salvaged food was put to good use. Water tankers were hired to supply water. The children were rallied around and sent off to a movie to keep them cool, well-fed and out of the way. Finally, power was restored late afternoon.

The 20 hours of power cut, which seemed to be a nightmare to live through, was actually an eye opener of sorts. For starters, it revealed how helpless we were without electricity. But more importantly, it helped us renew ties with our neighbourhood on common grounds and appreciate the value of men whose expertise we think is available to us at our beck and call. The power cut which we thought had made us powerless had actually empowered us.

Improve Quality of Living in Villages


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/574083/improve-quality-living-villages.html

Urban India has undergone a sea of change over the decades. A little more than half a century ago, industrialisation beckoned to a large number of people from small towns and villages to shift to the happening cities. Cities welcomed youngsters who were barely out of schools and colleges with open arms. They established their families, educated their children, bought property and built their homes. The vast expanses of urban land were occupied. Satellite townships were absorbed to expand cities and everything seemed to fall into place. Thus the great Indian middle class came into being when the migrants decided to settle down in their second home for good.

But, the success and the relative comfort of the city dwellers as against their country cousins proved to be the thorn in the bush. More and more agrarians who were working hard for a pittance and their landowners who found themselves at the mercy of erratic rainfall looked citywards.

The innumerable job opportunities for the unlettered as the support system of the city to help it function smoothly, translated as secure salaried jobs for them and a better future for their kids. They came in broods from all over and occupied the nooks and crannies of the cities and looked forward to making it big or at least reasonably sustainable. Though their skills were limited, their willingness to learn and work hard for a living stood by them. And today, the second generation of the working class has proved that the speculation of their parents hit the bull’s eye.

They have been educated in English medium schools and colleges and many of them have landed jobs as  drivers, mechanics, electricians, clerks, accountants and many have even been absorbed in white collar jobs.  Quite a few have managed to clear loans, buy a little gold and build homes for themselves.

Millions of such people who have migrated to the cities in search of greener pastures have no doubt found the experience enriching in more ways than one. Yet the price that they have had to pay is humongous. They have embraced a way of life very different from their own. They have battled against variance in ideologies, language, culture and ethos and have come to terms with them without ado. They have been removed from their families and communities. They have even lost touch with Mother Nature in the bargain.

One is likely to think that the merging of the rural and urban populace would have happened over a period of time and must have helped the city that has sheltered and supported them to progress in a healthy way. Yet, the picture is quite to the contrary.

Contemporary picture
If one were to present a contemporary picture of Indian cities, it is likely to be uniform across the length and breadth of the country. We are riddled by a large population, pollution of every sort, concrete jungles, garbage and traffic jams — not necessarily in that order. There is a definite line of demarcation that separates natives and migrants socially, economically, politically, educationally and emotionally.

Yet these setbacks have not discouraged mass migration from villages to the cities.
The people who come in search of better prospects know that they have to stretch resources like housing, water, electricity, sanitation, transport among other things till they become threadbare. They are acutely aware that one of the reasons for pseudo inflation is the inverse relationship between demand and supply.

The other obvious reason is, there are not too many hands toiling away and growing food for those of us who are willing to buy them. Yet, these factors do not seem to deter hopefuls from making a beeline to the cities.

The Indian cities are bursting at their seams and are presently witless to deal with fresh onslaughts like dealing with rain woes, overflowing garbage, increased power cuts and traffic jams.

The only way out of this syndrome is to step up the quality of living in our innumerable villages. The government does not really have to do much on this count, except encourage entrepreneurs to establish their industries in and around the villages. Housing, transportation, communication and attendant facilities will follow automatically.

As for the ever growing cities, its population should be persuaded to take up terrace gardening, rain water harvesting, solar lighting and garbage management in right earnest. Only then shall the twain meet!

Thieves on the Prowl, Residents Cry Fowl


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Thieves on the prowl, residents cry foul

Last updated: 24 September, 2016
Chethan Misquith and Meghana Choukkar September 25, 2016, DHNS

 Preferring anonymity, a businessman from Byadarahalli seeks more patrolling to instil a sense of security among residents of his locality. I have seen rowdies hanging around street corners in the evenings. There are police in the area, but I feel it would be better to have CCTV cameras installed as well, he elaborates.
As Bengaluru transformed from a manageable city to a metropolis of 1.2 crore, the city has seen a corresponding rise in crimes, more apparent in the new, outlying areas. Here are some citizens voicing their concerns about this unwarranted trend, suggesting a few solutions. 

Preferring anonymity, a businessman from Byadarahalli seeks more patrolling to instil a sense of security among residents of his locality. “I have seen rowdies hanging around street corners in the evenings. There are police in the area, but I feel it would be better to have CCTV cameras installed as well,” he elaborates.

Kiran Aithal, who lives at Nobo Nagar in Kalena Agahara on the city’s outskirts has this to say: “I have seen police patrol the area in the late evening hours, around 7 or 8 pm. But I do not think they patrol late in the night. Otherwise, incidents of theft will not be rising here.”

Radha Prathi, a resident of Mathikere, has a different take on patrolling. She says the police do go on rounds, asking residents to be on alert. This goes on for a few days after such incidents. Residents too are wary. But once normalcy returns and patrolling slackens, the burglars strike again.

More than thefts, what really scares residents are the heinous crimes. Three weeks ago, an IT employee was raped at knife-point right inside her paying guest accommodation near Parappana Agrahara on the city’s outskirts. She was alone in the room when the assailant barged in.

Ten days ago, the Kengeri police arrested six persons from a desolate area when the gang was conspiring to commit dacoity. Interrogations revealed that the suspects had murdered a man six years ago in Sandur in Ballari district. They were also involved in more than 50 other cases across the State.

These recurring incidents have made residents even more insecure. They feel the frequent thefts could easily morph into more dangerous crimes. A Kodichikkanahalli resident, M N Kulkarni recalls how thieves had struck three houses in his area over the last few months.

Besides the usual loot, the culprits have also begun to take away gas cylinders. Kulkarni points out that the culprits had once fled with 16 cylinders. Complaints were lodged, but the police never caught the thieves.

Many residents now feel police-public partnerships such as the Community Policing campaign could work better in ensuring law and order. Tilaknagar police sub-inspector Tanvir notes that the crime rate in his jurisdictional area has actually come down after the campaign struck a chord with the public. Across the city, around 1,000 volunteers are now part of the campaign.

Here’s one instance where the partnership worked well: Two months ago, a resident, Zameer, grew suspicious of a man who was parking a scooter without number plate near his residence on Bannerghatta road. When Zameer questioned him, the man sped away from the spot. Immediately, Zameer alerted the police, who in turn urged a volunteer to chase the scooter. The suspect was nabbed. Upon interrogation, it was learnt that the scooter was stolen.

Time Tested Bond


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Whoever said, “99% perspiration and 1% inspiration is the arithmetic of success” was spot on. The thrill of experiencing the process of the saying being translated into reality during my school days made me a staunch believer of the aphorism.

Recently, I stumbled on a Facebook request of a dear, long-lost childhood friend. The ball set rolling almost immediately. She called up and we chatted away. The excitement, the bonhomie and the unquestionable affection surfaced together leaving us overwhelmed. That night, I could not sleep till the wee hours of the morning as I was lost in nostalgia. Vivid pictures of a distant past were visualised by my mind’s eye.

We had just stepped into high school. Each class was expected to present a programme for 15 minutes to display our talents. We had decided a moving tableau showcasing the wedding of Rama and Sita. My long-lost friend, who played Rama, had to string the bow and then pretend to break it in the process before garlanding Sita. I was behind the curtains providing instrumental music on the Veena for the show.

I was supposed to ramble through an auspicious raga and then strike all the strings together to signify the breaking of the bow. The music and the act never seemed to coordinate during our practice sessions. So, we meticulously timed the act. It was decided that I should twang the strings after a certain time. However, I was not quite sure how it would turn out on stage because I would not even be able to see what was transpiring.

On the red-lettered day, each of us did our bit. My friend, who was on stage, bent the bow with all her might and actually broke the bow quite unintentionally, and I, who was oblivious to the happenings on the stage, concentrated on the music and twanged the strings at the pre-decided moment. The action and the sound occurred simultaneously, inviting a roaring applause. It was only after the performance I learnt about the extraordinary and unexpected turn of events. A sense of happiness and fulfillment pervaded us whenever our schoolmates mentioned it in the coming days.

Soon studies, other activities and preoccupations took over our lives and each of us went our way. Yet, what remained with me was the moral support of the time-tested truth which made me believe in the power of perseverance and the benevolence of almighty and not to mention the warmth of our friendship which renewed seamlessly after three decades.

Deconstructing Clever Signs


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/564275/deconstructing-clever-signs.html

Radha Prathi, Aug 14, 2016,

Reflections

The smart man had zeroed in on the real culprits who could be blamed for the inflation.

The written word has a charm of its own. It is not merely what is available on the Internet and in media and books. Sign posts, menu cards, brochures, pamphlets and billboards, bloopers and unintended puns have the power to lighten many a heart with their original content and humour. However, I would like to dwell on another genre of writing that has grabbed my attention on and off. Though I have come across many such nuggets, the following take the cake…

A Xerox shop had put up a new price list. Alongside was another sheet of paper that read, ‘We are not responsible for the pricing. If you have any complaints, please approach the CM or PM.’ The smart man had zeroed in on the real culprits who could be blamed for the inflation. The writing on the wall discreetly encouraged the customer to give the matter some thought while discouraging the potential customer from questioning the cost.

Then there was this message on a sheet of paper stuck on the front glass of a large car: ‘Kindly park your car properly or we will punkcher your tyre.’ The car was not moved. Overnight there was an addendum to the note: ‘I mean puncture,’ in block letters. I could sense the despair of the scribe who felt that there was no response to the memo because he had misspelt his threat. I also observed the change in the use of the first-person pronoun from plural to singular. In the coming days, the car was parked ‘properly’, without inviting more such nag notes.

Another time, a sheet of paper stuck on the elevator door read, ‘Please don’t press 2, dead end.’ I could not figure out the import. A staff member explained that the general entrance to the second floor had been sealed off because it had an internal lift that connected the first and the second floors. Therefore, if people did stop at the second floor, the door, which was still operable, would open to a wall that sealed the entrance. I understood the good intention and the dark humour behind the cautionary words.

I cannot forget another such piece of writing taped over a young neem tree. ‘You will not prosper if you use the leaves of this tree.’ According to the grapevine, the sapling had been planted by a green enthusiast only the previous year. The locals had helped themselves to every leaf that sprouted, for medicinal purposes. The tree had survived the onslaught and had unfurled its green umbrella the following spring. It was Ugadi and there was every chance of the neighbours stripping the sapling to its scrawny branches, hence the warning. The tree lover had cashed in on the power of curse to play mind games on the people who may be tempted to relieve the tree of its leaves.

These and many such memoranda that are laced with humour happen to be insightful. They reflect the genuine intent to communicate effectively and honestly. They mirror the feelings of disgust, anxiety or disapproval. They also testify the fact that the scribes of these notes have possibly failed to express their thoughts orally. They could have been timid, may have wanted to avoid open confrontation resulting in embarrassment or unpleasantness, or, they may have believed more in the power of the written word. Yet, the fact remains that they are generally put up with the expectation of seeing desired results. Oftentimes, these gems of prudence are written in English, albeit with some creative liberties taken with the Queen’s language, with the hope of reaching out to a larger number of people.

If it has not been already done, these cryptic notes can be compiled, analysed and studied. They will throw light on the human mindset, lifestyle, and thought processes of our contemporary society.

Three Wheeler Tales


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/541102/three-wheeler-tales.html

Auto fares have increased, and so has the attitude of those who drive these haloed three-wheelers. The ‘autodom’ – if we may call it so – has a law unto itself! Since I am a regular patron of these vehicles, I can self righteously profess to have seen them all – the good, the bad and the ugly!

Since, bad and ugly have received maximum media coverage, I think I will concentrate on the good Samaritans of this kingdom who form the minority – the drivers who ply children to schools belong to this group. If we choose to overlook the greedy ones who stuff their autos with uniformed brats, the remaining constitute to my theme.

They are heroes who metamorphose into auto man, auto uncle, kaka, mama or thatha and share a wonderful equation with the children they commute. A sense of responsibility, coupled with gestures of concern and generosity, define most of these men who are trusted with the apples of several people’s eyes.

I have been privy to the conversations of indulging parents who have included the auto drivers of their children into their extended families. I have been regaled with instances of these men in various shades of khaki who always checked whether the children had their badges, ties and belts on before they got on to the auto.

They are also the types who ensure that the lunch boxes of their little commuters have been polished off on their way back home.

Some would gift a pen or a bar of chocolate to the child who got a full score in mathematics, and one driver would fasten two balloons on his vehicle whenever it was some child’s birthday and while others would employ theatrics while narrating stories to the kids.

I know of a working couple who pursue their careers without being weighed down by insecurities about their wards because their auto driver not only ferries their wards but also babysits them till one of the parents arrives home.

As for the children, they seem to worship their auto uncle, sometimes much more than their own uncles. These knights who drive the three-wheelers have proven that several traits of humanitarian values can most definitely co-exist with commercial gains in the contemporary urban society sans animosity or acrimony.

That is the story of “the good” in a nutshell. As for the bad and ugly, the space in the middle will not do justice to the subject – I might as well write a theses and earn my doctorate!