Archive for May, 2007

Tales of Time

May 7th, 2007

I boarded his auto from Kormangala. My warped sense of direction, I felt clueless about which direction to proceed towards. He asked me which route should he take to drive me to Langford Town. I said ‘take whatever route you think is best’. Later he told me to memorize the route because, “people in Bangalore are not good, haraami hote hai, they can take you for a ride. This is the shortest, quickest and easiest route, so you should remember it now.”

Our conversation started when I said to him that traffic seems to have increased a lot in Bangalore. “There are so many out-of-country people here. Look at this city, it has expanded beyond its capacity, now to Uttarahalli, Devanahalli. There are at least eight to ten lakh out-of-country people, coming here to study and work. These people come from Korea-Japan and those countries and settle in the outskirts. Then, there are about forty lakh people who are not from Karnataka-Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh. They are from Kashmir, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, North. The number of outsiders in Bangalore has increased so much, that it is now hard to find a Kannadiga in this mass – chiraag leke dhoondo, to bhi nahi milta”. He is Kannadiga, he told me. Every aspect of his conversation was a tale of time, every telling a memory of the time gone by and/or a narrative of the time that is.

“Now look here, there are so many people from outside who are coming here to study, like yourself. You are afraid of this traffic and so you are not purchasing a two-wheeler. But many people are. My own sister, when she was married, they had only a moped in her house. Then they bought a kinetic, a maruti eight hundred, a scooter, a luna, all this in addition to the moped. How much does this make it? Five vehicles. And how many people to drive these five vehicles, just three! In Bangalore, the road capacity can handle only fifteen lakh vehicles. How many vehicles are running on the road now? Thirty five lakh, more than double! The problem is that this is not a planned city.” I marked his words – the problem is that this is not a planned city.

“I was living in Bombay once upon a time, in Bandra. With a daily earning of three hundred rupees, I would eat well, spend on rent and yet save money. Now what is the value of three hundred rupees? That was a time. Things have changed today – mahaul hi alag hai aaj. I had a little accommodation there for which I gave a pagdi of two lakh rupees. The space has not increased an inch till date, but the value has gone up. What an irony!”

We got stuck in a little jam around Kormangala when he pointed out, “People who work in Electronics City or even in Whitefields, they have to travel at least three hours each day. What a national waste of time! All those daily three hours, they add up to so much. And all those daily three hours can easily be put to productive use. The money earned in all those daily three hours would ultimately go into the national economy, isn’t it? Desh ka hi fayda hota! I once drove the manager of an IT firm in my auto. I asked him, ‘Sir, why did you people not think of building houses for your workers in Electronics City itself? Wipro, Infosys, why did you not think of housing your employees close to the place of work itself?’ He said to me, ‘at that time, when Infosys, Wipro were building, they thought of purchasing those extra four or five acres for expanding their businesses. Now the prices have gone up so much that they cannot afford to build housing there.’ I look at these fellows traveling to work. They come from as far as Peenya, Malleshwaram and Rajajinagar – what a national waste of time, isn’t it?”

“There was a time when I was driving people in the auto for a minimum fare of seven rupees. Look here today, the minimum fare the minimum fare has gone up to twelve. In Bombay, I could take a taxi from Bombay Central to Bandra in twelve rupees. Can you imagine this now? Impossible. Prices have gone up so much. I imagine that Bandra has become unlivable now!”

Like all journeys, this one ended too. I did not bother to note his name. The display card was scratched and it was dark. I tried to visualize the space that he was talking about, the space of this city. All I could conjure up was a chronology of time and memories as he spoke with his words.

Tales of time,
A time gone by,
A time there is,
And a time to come …