Boulevard of urban dreams

At its maiden edition of Bangalore Literature Festival, theatre veteran Prakash Belawadi had presented a fitting response to disparaging statements from several panelists that Bengaluru is a city in shambles, and there are countless issues the city continues to battle. The imposing garbage problems being the flavor of the day.  Prakash said that Bengaluru is a work-in-progress, as opposed to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai which were built by the British for most part, and the results will be ours to see in a few years from now.

Food for thought indeed. The recent reopening of the MG Road Boulevard got me ruminating on the significance of his line. For me, a city’s heart is always felt by the use of its spaces to extend a very accommodating lap to its denizens. Mumbai and Chennai have a natural advantage with the beaches – you can gaze into the horizon and feel the breeze, without having to spend a rupee. Delhi with its lawns at India gate is all about the rush of being at the seat of power.  Bengaluru however has long been a tad too expensive to hangout in. Catching up with friends will almost always have to be at a mall or a coffee shop. There is nary a place to sit and chat up, without running up choke-worthy bills. It is almost like you are charged premium rent for the shop space. Not to forget the cold welcome to those who stray inside solitarily. A coffee shop would necessarily be seated with boisterous gangs of boys, or young couples discovering love, and very rarely a lone ranger with nose buried in his or her laptop. And did I mention closed spaces? I’m not claustrophobic, but what good is it to be deprived of the famed salubrity of the Bangalore weather?

The Boulevard on MG Road, though a revival of the popular promenade of yore , is certainly a panacea of sorts for the 21st century Bengaluru.  With Bangaloreans’ disappointment with the short shrift the beauty of the city got in the name of development reaching a crescendo, the BMRCL (Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation)’s efforts in presenting a greener and more vibrant version of the boulevard is truly commendable.

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What does the boulevard offer? The overarching theme is art and eco. As you take a lazy stroll along the 450 meter stretch lined with bougainvilleas, you are bound to breathe in a very artistically charged air. So you have R-MAC (Rangoli – Metro Art Centre) and the Rangasthala.  The R-MAC includes the necessary art galleries and an auditorium, along with fountains, children’s play area, open market and waterless urinals. The Ranga

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sthala, as the name suggests, will be the definitive stage for concerts, plays and other shows. A trip to the boulevard is in order to see for oneself the efforts in place to redeem urban sensibilities.

It won’t be fair to simply regard this revamp of Bengaluru’s prime stretch of land as another avenue for an evening stroll, or, even as a temple of art and humanity.  The boulevard is so much about accessibility and inclusivity.  Art is not something that stays on top of the average Indian’s mind, and not unjustifiably so. Weekend options for many would mostly alternate between movies, restaurants and shopping. Impressing culture consciousness in the minds of countless is no mean task, and BMRCL has but taken a great first step in that direction.

If we’re one step closer towards a greener and culturally enriched world, we will now be several transactions closer to making Bengaluru a creatively diverse and vibrant marketplace, and a throbbing one at that. Let alone providing a platform to showcase craftsmen’s skills and ware, the boulevard is a veritable source of revenue for students of art schools and presents an opportunity for meaningful living in the city. There have been scores of talented art school graduates who eventually find their way into BPOs or other sundry occupations, thanks to the shrinking mind space for art in the city.

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Finally, what kind of baton are we handing over to posterity?  They need to inherit the best urban life can offer, and a city without such open spaces of creative expression can hardly qualify to be something worth dying for. Or at the very least, growing up in. The tiled snakes and ladders game that you can play on at the boulevard is a very fine example of how to engage the young crowd in their sub consciousness, with India’s glorious contributions to sport on our planet.

To chisel Bengaluru into a model city might take several generations, optimistically speaking, but flashes of inspired planning like the boulevard on MG Road will sure serve to keep our hopes alive, if anything.

Why institutional shortchange hits you where it hurts most

Because you are in a theoretically reciprocal relationship with them, but know that most often it’s not they who’ll get fucked

Because you can only fire pellets at them, while they can hear the last of you with a single rocket-launcher discharge

Because as a reasonable individual, you can only think and act fairly conscientiously, while they can gaily indulge in fantastic ascriptions

Because you can call it quits only to assuage your ego, but they can boot you out with humble pie to boot

Because you can tell the world they are wrong, but they can make the world believe you are wrong

Because you have money to lead your life and your family’s, but they have money to screw many lives

Because you are a sucker to corporate seduction, and they can continue to charm many more till kingdom come

Because you can only write about it now and feel lighter, while they can decide to keep you light as long as they want

Apparent conviction – A flash story

At first glance, Bhadra, analyst at a leading BPO in Bangalore, was your average Joe. For that matter, even after several glances and beyond, he would probably remain one. He liked Cricket when India played, and preferred to watch movies on TV, mostly universally acclaimed hits. He believed in ‘settling’ down in life and taking the middle path. To that end, he got married.

Bhadra was a proud Bangalorean and spoke Kannada. Whenever he sensed slander by ‘outsiders’, he would quickly launch an offensive. His stock phrasal retorts included Chennai’s heat and chauvinism, Hyderabad’s white-collared forgers, Kerala’s communist leaning, Mumbai’s underworld and terrorism, and Delhi’s rapes. Did I mention ‘rape’? Bhadra echoed the popular theory that women invited rape.

It was a pleasant Sunday evening. Bhadra and his wife had planned a visit to Orion, the new shopping mall of a few million square feet.  Hailing from a neighboring village, Rekha the blushing bride was as acquainted with western attire as would an Arab be to a kilt. To keep with the city’s fashionable ways, and her husband’s wardrobe preferences, she wore a simple black tee over sulfur blue jeans, but salvaged some of her cultural ground with glinting gold bangles and a symbolic black dot on her forehead. Bhadra was at his casual best in an orange round neck tee, with ‘I was born intelligent, but education made me stupid’ screaming across his torso and the ‘stupid’ firmly planted on his potbelly.

Bhadra and Rekha walked almost a kilometer from their tenement in Jangasandra, to flag a rickshaw. The road was deserted, and most of the shutters were down, a usual Sunday evening sight.  The young couple walking hand-in-hand made idlers, present in pockets, all curious. Rekha started feeling nervous. She and her husband were clearly getting all the attention. Bhadra was oblivious to it for around a minute, then saw that his wife was treading cautiously, looking at the muddy ground beneath her feet. He assured her everything was OK, and people new to the locality got the attention. Right under the veneer of composure, he was praying desperately for time to come to his rescue.  No sooner than he got busy with his prayers, did he hear a voice to his left bellowing a recently released Kannada serenade. He turned and produced a hesitant scowl, only to be met with jeers and whistles.

Rekha was praying as well. She prayed for nuptial intervention, and a swashbuckling one at that. The reality however was of nervousness, and feigned nonchalance.

They came to the main road presently.  Within a couple of minutes, they were inside the relatively safe interiors of a rickshaw.

Bhadra broke the ice and told his wife, “as long as we live in this area, please wear loose-fitting salwar kameezes. Don’t forget to have full sleeves stitched.”

“I feel unsafe here. Can we move to a different locality?”

“Nah, don’t worry so much. These are just boys out to have a bit of fun in the evening. They’re known to be boisterous. Don’t pay heed to these jokers. “

“But that’s not good, is it?”

“I understand, but feel happy it’s only this much. We aren’t as bad as Delhi yet.”

-Met