Sunday, June 24, 2007

R2I - Bangalore: Everyday commute options

Before coming to the conclusion that cars are your only option for everyday commute after R2Iing, let us assess all the other available options. The only public transport that Bangalore has right now is the bus. There are a few kinds of buses for public transport; the absolutely basic blue-colored BMTC buses that you see in the pic below, the slightly better Pushpak buses, and the luxury Volvo buses. Unfortunately, the frequency of these buses and the rush of people in them will make you want to turn the other way when it comes to relying on them on a day-to-day basis. If you are a concerned citizen of the globe and want to really use public transport, you may have to wait for the Namma Metro project to complete. The Metro is made to seem like an all-in-all problem solver to our woes. Like always, I will wait and watch before getting too excited! Also, this project has recently kick-started, so we do have a long way to go.

Since there is almost no public transport option for now, you can consider relying on company provided transport for your commute to work. A lot of the companies provide real nice, comfy buses/vans for pick-up and drop-off. The only downside is that you will have to stick to their timings. But, I do know of people who are able to make this option work for them.

The next option would be a 2-wheeler. If you have been away from India for a while, riding a 2-wheeler may or may not be possible for you. Now, if you are going to be the dare-devil to try a 2-wheeler amidst this traffic, then the next deterrent is going to be the pollution levels, especially at peak hours. The smog will make you squirm on your 2-wheeler seat. My husband was one of those that considered a 2 wheeler for his regular office commute, mostly because he was going to be saving a little bit of time. Obviously, your ability to maneuver is far better on a narrow vehicle. Also you occupy much less space on an already crowded/narrow road, and in turn will help the insane traffic in your own small way. But after the initial few days of observing the traffic patterns, he just gave up the idea! :)
When I see all the bike guys halting at the red-light and balancing their 2-wheelers with their feet on the ground, I worry for the safety of their feet. One of my cousins was at the red light with her feet on the ground, and an auto just went over her right foot. Thankfully, the damage was minimal. Since all the vehicles are just inches away from you or your vehicle, the thought is scary. What if it was a bus that had gone over her foot? And of course, there are still others who have had many a fall from their 2-wheelers. Not to mention the inconvenience during the rains.

If you want to use the autos for your everyday commute, you will have to again cover your nose for the entire to and fro journey because of the vehicular exhausts. Whenever I take an auto, after a few kilometres I notice a fairly distinct smell in my hair; all the exhaust fumes taking their toll! The exhaust fumes also make me feel squeamish. The other factor of course is the meters - you may not want to see the auto meter reading all kinds of numbers, since most of the meters are rigged.
A sea of autos. Notice how our rear-view mirror is broken (bottom left corner of the pic).
A simple mishap when one of the other cars was very close to ours!

Your final option is the car. And because of the unbelievable traffic on the roads, owning a small sized car becomes a necessity as compared to owning a bigger one; your ability to maneuver on the already clogged Bangalore roads is a little better with a smaller one. And of course, you have the option of owning a 2nd, bigger, nicer, family car for your weekends and out-of-town drives since the freeways are quite good. Wouldn't you agree about the small sized car? Or is there any other way to look at everyday commute? Would love to hear your thoughts, more so because I like to encourage a more public friendly commute.

On R2Iing, buying a car will be one of your crucial decisions. The good thing is, there is a fair amount of choice for cars in the market, and definitely so for small sized cars. 'Cars' is an exhaustive topic and I will cover all the options available, over a period of time. I will write about the available small cars in the market when I write about cars next. I will also write about the available cars based on their sizes and their prices subsequently.

An R2I Tip: The traffic is really bad; can't stress enough. See pic below. If you are sure about your R2I plans, then the one thing you can already do is to slowly start losing your attachment to your cars/roads there. Things will not be the same here and preparing yourself for it in advance helps. And when you do get stuck in traffic here, you will have the choice of not letting it affect you. That way, YOU still have the power! And you can take that time to think about your true reasons for coming back. :)
Clogged traffic on Bangalore roads - A common sight

PS: If I sounded preachy in the last para, please excuse me. I hate sounding preachy!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Summer of '07

(Alright, so I have Bryan Adams and his 'Summer of 69' in my head as I type the title of the post. Let it stay that way.)

Since the time I went off to the US, I planned all my trips to India during Decembers or Julys, just to skip being here in the summers, not a huge fan of the heat or the humidity. Also, since we had to make a few trips to other places within India during our short India trips, I was keen to avoid the Indian summers. In fact, when we decided to R2I for good, the Indian summer was a concern for me! I hate humidity that much. Anyway, now that we have been through a summer here in Bangalore, I am glad to say that it wasn't too bad. Bangalore was hot and we did complain about the temperatures during the peak; in fact for about a month or so, it was pretty hot. But we were lucky to get some rains and the temps cooled off tremendously, especially since the rest of the country was struggling through heat waves. We were blessed to have some tolerable temps, sometimes making it quite pleasant too. We realised this more so when we traveled to other much hotter places.
Some near-perfect days

Flora: Only when I was actually here, did I realise the familiar summer floral sights that I was missing being away. Not that I missed them particularly when I was actually away, because California has beautiful flora too. Spring would be awash with various hues and some lovely colors. This summer, here in Bangalore, the Gulmohar, Queen's Flower, Copper Pod, etc were everywhere. The splash of colors was beautiful and the Gulmohar seemed redder than in the past; almost like organic coral sprinkled against the clear blue summer skies.
The resplendent Gulmohar lining the streets, making for some very pretty sights

Fruits: The summer fruits in India are a delight - mango, jackfruit, guava, musk melon, papaya, pineapple, chickoo, palmyra (kAti nongu) etc. Though mango is the king of fruits, and summer is the peak season for all its varieties, I have this weakness for jackfruits. And I hadn't eaten any in all the years that I was out of India. So, I made up for the loss this summer! The nice thing was both my kids took to jackfruits as well. So, I had some nice, crazy company to enjoy this (strange) fruit. Jackfruits always remind me of all my summer vacation spent in my ancestral native, Kerala! Just the thought of Kerala conjures up a splash of beautiful images that mean nothing but home - my beautiful exotic home! Though I am a Bangalorean at heart, Kerala will always be home for my soul. The absolute rustic scenes, the down-to-earth temples surrounded by mystique, and of course the food! Thankfully, the jackfruits were aplenty this season in Bangalore and I had a ball, to say the least!
Yummy Yum Yum!!

We enjoyed some kAti nongu too. Some of the vendors take the fruits out right in front of you like the vendor in this picture.

Summer Camp: Our (then) almost 4 year old daughter went to a summer camp for 3 weeks and within walking distance! I wanted something close by and there was one at the nearest Ramana Maharshi Center. What is unbelievable is the kind of positive influence just the 3 weeks there had on her. She used to take at least about 3 hours to relax and start interacting with non-family members. After the 3 weeks at their summer camp, she was quite comfortable talking to everybody and in a 'nice' way. I am thrilled with this development. At the end of the summer camp, all the children put up a nice show for the parents and family members at their auditorium. Splendid! Our daughter learnt a few of their shlokas, some small dance sequences, and some good social skills. I am thrilled! The summer camp was for 3 hours, 6 days a week for 3 weeks. I paid a whopping amount of Rs. 100/-!!! Unbelievable! (A lot of the commercial places and private schools hold summer camps for 2 weeks or so and charge more than Rs. 2000/-) Overall, she had a lot of fun and loved her summer camp!

Not being sure of how the summer would go, at the end of it, I am happy to say that it went off very well. Isn't that nice .... when you are not sure of how something is going to turn out and later realise that things actually went off well? Applies to all things in life, doesn't it? :)