The Trigger

Alright, can we have a show of hands please? How many of us think happiness is transient?  Or should we roger Abraham Lincoln’s words, like many others’, that ‘most folks are happy as they make their minds to be’? Let’s  ask Ribbin Joseph.

Ribbin, the accountant, is a very unassuming chap.  He cracked an interview with Intellect, a respectable technology firm in Bengaluru around six months ago, and accepted the job offer in a trice.  Not that Ribbin was any the less gainful in employment, but it was the need for change that raised its alluring head, which incidentally is biennial on an average.  His folks cheered him and wished him the very best. They said they should celebrate his getting the new job in style and took Ribbin to a fancy restaurant. He wasn’t sure if this really called for a celebration. His friends demanded a treat, to which he responded by laughing it off and asking them to raise their standards. What’s great about changing a job, he would argue. I got a higher role, yeah, so what? I haven’t won a Nobel, have I? he would continue saying.

One has to give it to Ribbin’s sense of humour, though a bit on the drier side. When a colleague of his asked him to lend to her the Michael Crichton novel he was raving about, he replied pithily that it was booked! Pity that the lady didn’t get it, but he was mighty pleased with himself. If you had been around and spied on him at that time, you would have caught him chuckling to himself. With half a self-congratulatory nod, he went back to his desk and started clearing those invoices with a little extra vigour.

Soon, life at Intellect for Ribbin hit the treadmill, and weekdays started appearing indistinguishable from one another. Gym, breakfast, commute, traffic, login, cigarette, bills, meeting, blah, lunch, cigarette, bills, blah, logout, traffic, home, TV, dinner, reading, sleep. In this cycle of daily activities, not much could possibly change. And then the weekends were a heady mix of sleep, TV, reading and eating out.  In due course, Ribbin had subscribed to the apparent monotony of work, which showed in a couple of instances. He walked in late on a windy Monday, oblivious to the storm that was brewing in the boss’s cabin. He was summoned in no time, and it suffices to say the meeting had done its job of hitting Ribbin’s self-confidence. He smoked an extra cigarette, contemplated on resigning first and then looking for a job, as he  felt he didn’t belong here. What a gloomy day it was!

Sometime in the late afternoon the same day, as he was walking across the aisle, Ribbin averted a head-on collision with a lady he had been throwing admiring glances at. Now Shubha the lady had not met his eye once in these six months, leading our man to believe that he probably couldn’t carry himself off well. Cut to the present. Shubha stopped in her tracks, caught his eye and grinned at him before moving on.  Ribbin was quick to quick in flashing back that benign smile at her and stood aside to let her pass. He could barely hold his excitement. She too had perhaps been secretly admiring. Probably she hadn’t mustered the courage to come up and speak with him. Never mind, as long as he knew that people had approving thoughts about him. Wasn’t the world beautiful? But of course bosses will have a go at you. It’s part of their profile. And who doesn’t make mistakes? With these thoughts, Ribbin spent the rest of the afternoon, and closed his day a half hour early, feeling he deserved that time off for himself. Such a lovely evening that it was!

In less than a week from the date of that sweet accident, Shubha left the organization. Ribbin decided that one shouldn’t have been so easily excitable and made a solemn vow to himself. In fact, he hadn’t made any great friends over the time and guessed that it might remain this way for him. Lonely, undervalued, and strictly business like. That his bosses and some of the old hands at the company had a coterie of sorts didn’t help matters either. Ribbin’s manager, Piyush, was a gentleman of varied interests and was known to lead a very ‘happening’ life outside work. But for some inexplicable reason, Piyush seemed to restrict all conversation with Ribbin to business. So, when he walked up to Ribbin’s  desk and chatted to him about books, Crichton included, our man was pleasantly surprised. Ribbin grabbed the opportunity to talk about movies, travel, sports, music, all in the window of 5 minutes. The boss seemed to be in a chatty mood that day, and responded well to observations on the aforesaid topics. Boy, wasn’t that wonderful? Ribbin’s reasoning as he drove back home was that Piyush wasn’t such a tart after all.  One only needed to make time for small talk, and bob’s your uncle!

What does one say about Ribbin Joseph? He appears to be of the kind who don’t have much to complain about in life, but aren’t the most enthusiastic either. Not of the kind who will likely have ‘happiness’ added to the ‘things to do’ list for the day, but more like the ones who need a trigger for happiness. Yes, a trigger.

Should happiness really need a trigger? Ribbn says he doesn’t know if that is how you term it, but just that those fleeting moments of joy give him an instant high, and is sure that there are plenty more to come by.

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.