City Buzz

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RAVE – the party goes on

In Editions on July 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm

 
Rave parties make news only when they are busted, but Sarmistha Acharya finds that this underground party culture is alive and well in Bengaluru, and discovers some unexpected raver hotspots elsewhere in the state. As this report goes to press, the Electric Daisy Carnival — an event with a reputation for heavy drug use and considered ‘the world’s biggest rave party’– is underway in faraway Las Vegas, attended by a crowd of more than 150,000. Closer home, a rave party held at Khalapur off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway made it to the headlines last week after it was busted by the police, the party-goers detained, and “every kind of drug” (according to police) recovered from them. The rave party is an extended dance party usually held at some isolated or scenic location to the accompaniment of electronic or trance music, psychedelic lighting, and fuelled by large supplies of drugs and alcohol. Bengaluru is no stranger to rave culture, especially at private farmhouses on the outskirts that regularly host dos that attract weekend ravers by the hundreds.

Despite the barrage of anti-drug laws like the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act backing the authorities, rave party culture continues to thrive in the city at some rather unexpected locations elsewhere in the state. This should hardly be surprising – after all, it’s their very illegality that gives rave parties their thrilling air, and makes them the sought-after affairs they are for weekend ravers, who often take much trouble to reach the remote venues.

City Buzz met up with a number of ravers, party organizers and police officials to find out what the rave scene is really like in the city. Long and short Party-goers City Buzz spoke to say that the season for rave parties starts from September and lasts till March and even April, when the city enjoys the best weather. Vishnu (name changed), an advertising professional and a fixture on the rave circuit, says: “The peak season for raves is December and January because of the weather and also because of New Year celebrations. Parties are also held in the rainy season, but in fewer numbers.” He is quick to point to out that earlier farmhouse rave parties used to be held in the city every weekend, but now they happen once in three or four months.

According to those like Vishnu, the average weekend rave party tends to start late in the evening and goes on till four or five in the morning. Occasionally, there are ‘special’ dos that go on for two or three days continuously. These are often held in remote open spaces on full moon nights to avoid the use of lights. Says regular party-goer Amit (name changed), “People usually start pouring in after midnight. Most of them wait for two to three hours to see whether it is safe, and then inform their friends. They keep coming till two or three in the morning. The number of people varies from party to party. In some parties there are about 100 or 200 people, but sometimes there are as many as 500 people. It all depends on the organisers. If the organiser has pulled off two or three parties safely, then people trust him and turn up in large numbers.” Insiders reveal that people who attend rave parties could be aged anywhere between 20 and 45, and the majority are from the IT & BT sectors since they are the most cash rich among the younger crowd.

The other big contingent apparently is students, especially engineering students. Many of the party-goers are couples. Sometimes foreign visitors and expatriates also attend these parties, their numbers varying according to the location. “If the party is in Mangalore, the number of foreigners will be more; if it’s at Yelahanka then there will be no foreigners, and if the party is at Goa then there will be only foreigners! In general, five out of every hundred ravers attending a party in the city will be foreigners,” is how Vishnu puts it.

Keeping it secret According to Amit , regular ravers are informed about forthcoming parties through sms, e-mail or through social networking sites, although, given the need for secrecy, word-of-mouth publicity is still preferred. Jeet, another regular at raves, reveals that many of the established organisers maintain a database of people who frequent rave parties, constantly updating them with new entries after every party. Organisers often provide party-goers with ‘secret codes’ to separate their preferred guests from unwanted ones. Amit says, “Sometimes many new people come to the parties, so while regulars are allowed in freely, others are given code words which they must tell the security guards to be allowed inside.

Sometimes, codes are also given to help party-goers find the location. They will be informed by organisers to tell something in code to a particular person waiting in a particular place. Only then would they be given the route and direction to the venue.” He further adds that the party dress itself is used as a code, and only guests who turn up in the ‘right’ attire are allowed in to the party. Rural rave If you thought rave parties were held only in the metros and in hotspots like Goa or Manali, it only means that the ravers have done a good job of covering up some rather unexpected choices of party locations.

For instance, who would have thought that sleepy Hoskote, just outside Bengaluru, would be playing host to wild parties? Or even Shimoga or Mysore? Says Vishnu, “Apart from Gokarna and Hampi which are favourite rave spots especially for foreigners, Mysore and Shimoga too host parties. Near the city, Yelahanka and Hoskote are popular choices because of the isolated locations they offer to party-goers.” He also names popular party spots near Big Banyan Tree, Hebbal, Kanakpura road, Lumbini Gardens and Bannerghatta road.

Prashant, another rave partygoer, said nowadays the trend is for people to organise smaller-scale rave parties in individual houses which are sound-proofed and where one can have a DJ performing without disturbing anyone. Swarup, an engineering student and rave party organiser, said that before organising a party in a private apartment or house inside the city, they visit the place twice or thrice to ensure that it’s safe. “We visit with friends and hang around a few times and see whether it is safe or not and whether anyone complains, and only then do we organise a party there,” he explains.

According to party organisers like Swarup, an organiser needs to have a good network of party-goers as well as drug peddlers, DJs, light and sound technicians and good knowledge of the party venue and surrounding areas. They say that most of the major party organisers have good political connections to bail them out of trouble, and it is not uncommon for the police to know about parties and yet stay away from them. Police version D Devaraj, assistant commissioner of police, Cubbon Park police station, busted two rave parties — at Manchanbele Dam and Big Banyan Tree in 2008 and 2009.

Recalling the scene at the party he busted, Devaraj said, “I have seen people lying on the ground unconscious in scanty clothes, a bunch of condoms lying all around, and so on. But even though we busted the party early, we did not permit the media in until after 11 am; not wanting the kids to be unnecessarily harassed.” He said that 2008 was the peak for luxurious rave parties, and now there are fewer such parties being organised. SV Guled, assistant commissioner of Police in the narcotics wing of CCB (Central Crime Branch) said, “All kind of drugs like charas, ganja, cocaine, heroin, brown sugar, opium, LSD, marijuana etc are available at rave parties.

The cost of the drugs varies from time to time and place to place. Some of these are grown or manufactured in the country, while others are brought in from Bangladesh, Pakistan and other foreign countries.” In Devaraj’s view, rave parties are considered illegal because they go on until late hours, playing loud music past midnight, party-goers are often dressed in scanty clothes, liquor served without permit, and above all due to the availability of drugs banned under NDPS Act. He revealed that the police regularly collect intelligence on rave parties, often monitoring the activities of regular organisers and party-goers, including on internet forums.

While monitoring by the police, and busts like the recent one in Khalapur, might effectively curtail large scale rave parties from being organised, it needs to be remembered that such parties are only one aspect of rave culture, an underground subculture that thrives in private gatherings and online forums, often beyond the reach of the long arm of the law.

‘Make me beautiful’

In Editions on July 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm

The city’s liberal night life is bringing forth a new breed of party animal – weekend male cross-dressers – and many of them lead ‘normal’ lives as well-to-do professionals. A report by Chetana Belagere & Manju Shettar.

Chetana Belagere & Manju Shettar
It’s Saturday night. Forty-year-old software engineer Dipith Saxena can’t wait for them to see his beautiful bright pink saree with the traditional blouse and jewellery set. He rushes to a parlour on Brigade Road where a young attendant is waiting to transform him into a woman, to make him look ‘beautiful.’ Mr Saxena is one among an increasingly open group of men in Bengaluru who indulge in their desire to cross dress as women and come out of the closet during weekends.
Apart from a liberal pub culture which welcomes male cross-dressers as colourful additions to the crowd, the relative safety and anonymity of the Internet has acted as catalysts for this new breed of ‘weekend cross-dressers’ who no longer hesitate to pursue their fantasy to ‘become’ women openly. What’s more, cross-dressing even seems to have become something of a trend, something that the most ‘cool’ and fashionable people do.

Any wannabe cross-dresser who visits the many online forums for male cross-dressers in Bengaluru would find them easily accessible and supportive. Taken together, online groups for male cross-dressers in the city have some 350 members between them who regularly share their desires and needs and often meet in the real world. Though most of
them would like to dress up secretively, there are a few bold ones who openly declare their enjoyment in dressing up in women’s attire.

Why cross-dressing
According to Radha Rani, whose real name is Mayank Sharma, and works as a professor in a reputed research institute: “There are multiple reasons you’ll find men in dresses. A small fraction are entertainers; some are young people demonstrating rebellion. A few cross-dress as a sexual fetish while others cross-dress to be outrageous. But the overwhelming majority of cross-dressers do so for another reason entirely – self expression.” He says the demand for cross-dressing is so high that there are several young men in Bengaluru alone who have taken up cross-dressing as their part-time business. They set up small parlours within their homes and charge a certain amount to customers who are interesting in bringing their desire out of the closet.

Dr Rajesh Menon, another cross-dresser from the city agrees, saying, “There are many unisex parlours around Jayanagar, Brigade Road, Koramangala and Indiranagar which entertain such men and also have hired people exclusively for catering to cross-dressers. They even have accessories which can be rented out for a day and have to be returned after careful use.”
A drag queen speaks
Adam Pasha (28 years old) is one of the few such professional cross-dressers who are openly so, and is well-known for it. Speaking about his early experiences, Pasha says, “I started to cross-dress when I was 18 and my first time experience was horrible. I didn’t
shave my legs and my clothes were too loose and I felt very awkward. Slowly I learnt everything and now I have my own wardrobe.”

Pasha admits that it was difficult for him in the beginning. “I didn’t get the support of my parents but my elder sisters supported me but even they wouldn’t help when I had to dress up.” Pasha is a drag queen who goes by the stage name of ‘Emprissxara’ and often ends up giving fashion tips to fellow cross-dressers. He says he sources his costumes
from abroad and sometimes in India. He has lived in Bangkok for four years, when he used to train aspiring cross-dressers and also did many stage performances.

He says that back in Bengaluru, “I wear normal clothers like a man at my workplace and cross-dress if I go to a disco or clubs. People have begun accepting me now. I invest more time in choosing my costume and jewellery, slippers and other accessories. I won an award when I walked the ramp at the Bangalore Queer Film Festival,” he says, adding
proudly, “I am one of the celebrities in the city.”

Another cross-dresser Noori, a 40-year-old project manager in a private company, says, “I started to cross-dress in my school days and I used to be scared to wear all these costumes and learnt everything while watching my sisters. In the beginning it was difficult but when you have learnt it, it will become easy. I have been cross-dressing
for a year now. I like to wear a sari when I am with my friends.”

Pasha explains that it is very difficult for an Indian man to carry off cross-dressing. Along with guts, it needs some fashion sense. He says, “Indian cross-dressers don’t maintain their fitness and they don’t have a proper colour sense. They just wear normal clothes and
are not choosy either. They are also conservative. Most of the cross-dressers are not highly educated and they usually don’t come out to show their desire because of family restrictions. So they hide it and have fun by themselves when they are alone.”

Cross-dressing myths
Samyukth Rao, a software professional with Infosys and weekend cross-dresser, says there are many myths around cross-dressing. People tend to believe that men who wear dresses are homosexuals. But that’s not true, he says. “Most cross-dressers are strictly heterosexual. Even though gay drag queens are among the most visible (and most
outrageous, bordering on vulgar) men in dresses, the proportion of gays among cross-dressers is the same small percentage as in the rest of society. Speaking of percentages, it’s estimated that 5 percent of all men are closet (secret) cross-dressers.”
Also, the other myth is that ‘cross-dressers seek sexual partners’. But the fact is that while females sometimes use clothing to signal sexual availability, most of the time a woman’s attire is simply a personal expression of attitude and style. It’s the same with
cross-dressers, say the insiders.

Interestingly, according to the Cross dresssers Forum, not all cross-dressers are sissies. They go under categories such as rangers, snipers, Navy, law enforcement officers, firefighters, foundry workers, millwrights, test pilots, and even a rocket scientist
(really) according to their tastes and needs.
Cross-dressers seem to gravitate toward ‘macho’ professions, perhaps in denial of their emerging gender expression, says Rao. Dikshit Mishra, a marketing executive who takes his wife’s help to dress up as a woman whenever he wishes to, says, “Modern psychology accepts that cross-dressing is an expression of personality which is as immutable as left-handedness. Any problems cross-dressers may develop are in reaction to social stigma, prejudice, and bigotry — not disorder. Social judgment is not a valid basis upon which to regard human idiosyncrasies as mental disorders.”

Also, the belief that cross-dressers are perverts is a misunderstanding and the result of media driven stereotypes (Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, Horror Picture Show, etc.) and is not based on fact, he points out.

According to these forums, cross-dressing is not illegal. A statement on one such forum reads: “With the possible exception of a few ancient and largely unenforcable disguise ordinances, people are free to wear whatever fashion and style of clothing they choose and cannot be compelled by authorities to restrict their apparel to gender-specific
attire, else women wouldn’t be seen in pantsuits, jeans, T-shirts, etc.”

Nothing new
Citing the historical evidence for cross-dressing, Rao refers to Arjuna, who dressed as a woman to ‘become’ Brihannala during the last year of the Pandavas’ exile. While he was a bit upset — being cursed by the apsara Urvashi after he had rebuffed her advances and was turned into a ‘kliba’ (man who dressed and behaved as a woman) — it was Krishna who told him the advantages of cross-dressing.
The Mahabharata says that Arjuna, wearing red silk, long hair and bangles as Brihannala, hid his masculine glory without eclipsing it, “like Ketu covering the full moon.” Also, cross-dressing gets its biggest support in the Hindu tradition from Lord Krishna himself, who regularly wore Radha’s earrings, skirt,  blouse and shawl — while his belle donned his clothes — peacock-feathered crown and flute included.
Men dressing up like women and women dressing up like men isn’t something restricted to the champagne-sodden decadence of the 1920s Berlin of Marlene Dietrich. It’s also traditionally part and parcel of the ‘sakhi-bekhi’ cult of Vaishnavism.

These contemporary Brihannalas and Krishnas say those who want to dismiss cross-dressing as a passing fad would do well to learn their mythology and brush up their history.

Some of the websites offering cross-dressing tips are:
desicrossdress.blogspot.com
crossdresstips.blogspot.com

BOX
Cross dressing in history
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an all-male dance troupe that combines dance, cross-dressing, and comedy to both parody and celebrate classical ballet.
Drag artist Lady Bunny de Chevalier d’Éon (1728-1810) was the most famous transvestite of the eighteenth century. The French diplomat and soldier lived the first half of his life as a man and the second as a ‘woman’.
Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead, 1945-1988) was a versatile character actor, nightclub singer, and international cult star who generally performed his stage show and movie roles in drag. He became famous through his appearances in John Waters’ films.

Kabuki is a classic Japanese theatrical form incorporating fantastical costumes, stylised gestures, music, and dance. Kabuki originally showcased female and boy prostitutes, but now features all-male casts.

Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) was a pioneering German activist and sexologist. A cross-dresser himself, Hirschfeld coined the term “transvestite.”
Miguel de Molina (1908-1993) reinvented the Spanish flamenco performance, but his open homosexuality and gender-bending stage persona provoked hostile reactions that plagued his career.

José Peréz Ocaña (1947-1983) was a fixture on the counter-cultural scene in Barcelona in the 1970s. The Spanish drag performer and painter was the subject of a milestone film in Spanish cinema by gay director Ventura Pons.

IT RUNS ON AIR

In Editions on June 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm


A group of engineering students in the city have successfully adapted Compressed Air Vehicle (CAV) technology to a motorbike for their college project. Sarmistha Acharya tells the story of their triumph.

Amotorcycle that runs on nothing but air?  If that sounds like a lot of hot air, wait till you see this one made by a group of four engineering students in the city. If the group has its way, we might soon have an ‘air bike’ – Compressed Air Vehicle (CAV) to be precise – zipping through our streets.

The students — Suyash Vardan, Sumit Kumar, Prabhu G and Shivaprasad AH, all from the MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, designed the bike as part of their final year project on the suggestion of their guide. According to them, it is the first two-wheeler of its kind and is hundred per cent pollution free. The quartet has now received an invitation to present their invention in a forum to be held in the US this October.

Challenging project
The students readily admit that project was a tough one. Says Sumit, “Our guide SV Prakash gave us four to five ideas for our final year project out of which we chose this one. When we informed him of our choice, he warned us that some three batches of students before us had attempted the same thing and failed, and were forced change their project mid-way. But we took it as a challenge.”
The work for the project was divided equally among all the group members, with each of them spending up to four hours each day for the project. The whole project took a year to complete, including their two-month annual holiday during which the group stayed back in the college hostel to work on the project. As for expenditure, Sumit points out that it was lower than expected since they got the body of the bike from the college itself, with the rest of the expenditure equally shared between them, and came to nearly Rs 3,600 each.

The technology
Compressed air technology itself is not new, but the students say theirs is one of the few successful attempts in adapting it to a motorcycle. A CAV is powered by an air engine, using compressed air, which is stored in a tank. Instead of mixing fuel with air and burning it in the engine to drive pistons, compressed-air vehicles use the expansion of compressed air to drive their pistons.
Prabhu explains that compressed air is stored in a cylinder placed inside the fuel tank or under the seat. He says that the model they have built does not have a cylinder currently because they intend to use a fibre-glass cylinder which will be lighter than conventional cylinders – and cheaper as well – which they have ordered from a manufacturer in Italy. Each cylinder, with 15 kg of air, can last for about 40km at an average speed of 40 km per hour.

According to Prabhu, if the government were to implement the technology in bikes, the maximum cost of the vehicle would be Rs 30,000, easily affordable by the middle class. He lists the CAV’s advantages as follows: It is pollution-free, and you don’t have to worry about rising fuel prices. Unlike electric vehicles, it does not use batteries, and avoids the attendant risk of lead pollution. It can be used even in remote areas because people can easily get the cylinder filled with compressed air even in cycle shops by paying as little as Rs 10. Further, he pointed out that all four stroke bikes can be converted into this technology by replacing their engines with a CAV engine.

College sensation
While questions still remain about the technology’s technical and commercial feasibility, the ‘air bike’ has managed to capture the imagination of students in the college. The students had kept their work a closely guarded secret until one day a faculty member spotted them during a test drive, and enquired about the unusual vehicle. On learning that it ran on air, he relayed the information to others, and soon the bike had become something of a sensation.

“We couldn’t even have lunch that day as we kept getting requests from other students to demonstrate the bike,” recalls Sumit. But for all the applause, he adds, the group was able to complete the work just two days before submission date. Prabhu says that the rising price of fuel as well as environmental concerns were what prompted them to undertake the project in spite of its difficulty. “Petrol and diesel are non renewable sources of energy, so we wanted to build a bike that can run on a renewable resource that one can get cheaply and which also didn’t create pollution,” said Prabhu G.

Their biggest achievement, the students say, is in developing the engine themselves, within a year. They also ran into difficulty in finding a speed controller for the bike, which they finally found in Mumbai.

All-round applause
The group was thrilled when the judges who came to review all the projects appreciated theirs as one of the best projects of the year. Says Sumit, “The judges said that they were very happy that we have made the bike while studying in college. They also said that the engine can be used in small two-wheelers as well as for industrial work and asked us to patent the bike first.”

The judges advised them to approach the prestigious Society of Automotive Engineers in the United States. They are also getting curious visitors from industry, many of whom expressed their interest in the technology, but they would rather wait till they get their patent first, says Sumit. Recently, they were thrilled to get an invitation from the Society to present their project before them this October.
From their days of secretive toil in the college workshop, the group has come a long way; and that too, riding on nothing but air.

Issue 31

In Editions on June 8, 2011 at 9:35 am



GUILTY PARTY

Many of the party and wedding halls in the city where you celebrate occasions you hold dear or sacred operate illegally. They either have no licence or do not follow a sanctioned plan, reports Asha Menon.

Asha Menon

Out of 170 party halls in south Bangalore, 110 are unlicensed, according to a list drawn up by the BBMP’s Department of Health as of date December 11, 2008. This came as a reply to an RTI application that was filed by Ravindranath Guru of Coalition against Corruption (CAC).

On September 23, 2006, Guru had attended a meeting with Lokayukta Santosh Hegde and a few Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials. Various issues were discussed among which was the misuse of basements. Guru said that basements were being misused, unlicensed party halls were functioning and that many of the halls have not followed the sanctioned building plans. In the meeting it was decided that a survey was in order, to determine the extent of misuse. Those present included joint commissioner (zonal), joint commissioner and deputy joint commissioner for health and health officers (East, West, South).

A statement issued by the joint commissioner of south (health) regarding this meeting, says that the BBMP officials had asked their next in command to study the situation and send in their report by May 30, 2009. The officers were asked to investigate the allegations by collecting information on all halls in every zone, and checking if they had followed the sanctioned plans and if they have licences to operate.

If the allegations were indeed true, then BBMP must warn the operators that legal action can be initiated against them at any point. Also, the public must be informed that the halls are under scrutiny so that they are not cheated of their money. For this, the municipal authority must hang boards on illegally operating halls. The public notice must inform the public that these marriage halls are not legal and should not be rented out for functions.

Meanwhile, Guru was using the RTI Act to track the progress of his complaint. “In February 2007, under RTI Act, I filed an application asking for certified copies of executive orders issued on the decision taken at that meeting,” says Guru. The joint commissioner for south (health), BBMP, replied saying that 64 party halls operated out of the basement. The response did not give enough clarity on the question Guru had asked, and so he filed another RTI asking for the details of the 64 party halls with their addresses.

There was no immediate response, except that they would give the reply in a week. Guru got a reply after many months on December 11, 2008. “It said that there are 170 party halls out of which 110 are not licensed.” The reply says that there are 51 licensed ones and nine ones that had closed down.

“In February 2009, we filed a complaint with the Lokayukta’s office in this regard,” says Guru. What they had expected was a thorough inquiry into the corruption that made this illegal activity possible in such a large scale. “We wanted to know how this situation had come about,” says Guru. He was expecting halls to be closed and officers to be taken to task. Instead, he was told that action was being taken to license the halls. A few weeks ago, at the Lokayukta office, the CAC members were assured that “action was being taken.”

While the number of illegal halls in south Bengaluru is mind-boggling, Guru says that the situation is not very different in the other zones. “The Deputy Commissioner of Health’s reply to my RTI application says that out of 53 marriage halls, five do not have parking facility and 12 do not have licences. In the west, the reply said, out of 85 halls, 51 operate without a licence.”

In June 2009, BBMP put up boards on some of the halls, warning people against booking them. “Most of these halls have now taken these boards down and have started functioning,” says Guru. A public notice (dated June 6, 2009) given by the municipal authority, in a prominent English daily, orders the closure of some of the party/marriage halls. But, CityBuzz tried booking with three of the halls that were listed in the notice and they were open to taking a booking.

The first one, we spoke to, was Ganjam Kalyana Mantappa. It was the fifth on the list of “Party/marriage halls having no licence” (BBMP notice issued by the Office of the Commissioner, on June 6, 2009). The rates here are Rs 84,000 a day and they are open from 6am to 10pm. Catering will need to be arranged by us, they said. They do not accept cheques made out to the hall, but the Ganjam Nagappa and Son (HUF).

At Jayanagar’s GNR Kalyana Mantappa (number 17 on the list), the rates are Rs 1,05,000 for two days. It is Rs 60,000 for a day and extra for lighting, catering, etc. No cheques will be accepted here.

At Krishna Kalyana Mantappa in the same locality (number 18 on the list), the rates are Rs 95,000 for two days. This non-AC hall cannot be rented out for a day. No cheques will be accepted here, either.

We checked if there were any legal hassles and all the three halls assured us that there would be none.

Buildings and spaces being misused is a pet peeve with Guru. One of his earliest battles was against a party hall that operated in his residential locality in Banashankari. “In the 40×60 site, they were operating two party halls. One was in the basement and the second, on the first floor,” he says. It had been operating since 2000, and he moved permanently to the neighbourhood he had known for over three decades in 2003. When the deafening sound and traffic congestion got on the residents’ nerves, Guru filed an application under the RTI Act.

“There had been a small house in that compound and the owner of the hall had bought it and had taken a change of land use, for office space. It was not meant to be a party hall, but he ran one anyway. BBMP officials did not seem to bother with it. Also, the license issued in 2000 was for the earlier building (the small house) and not the new, larger one that was constructed on the same site. We took the matter to the High Court and it ordered the hall to be closed.” Today, shutters are down on the building.

Commissioner’s list of violators
A notice came out in an English daily, announcing the closure of some halls in the south Zone, on June 6, 2009. “The Commissioner of BBMP has ordered the closure of the following party/marriage halls falling under the south zonal jurisdiction of the BBMP that have not obtained the industrial licence officially and violated the building bye-laws by converting the basement parking facility into lunch homes and running industries.”

Party/marriage halls that have obtained licence but are not allowed to run lunch homes and yet violating the rule

  1. ChandragiriPalace, Chandra Layout
  2. SVParty Hall,KSExtension
  3. Nandini Party Hall, Padmanabha Nagara
  4. Deepashri Party Hall, BSK II Phase
  5. Urs Party Hall, BSK II Phase
  6. GK Party Hall, BSK II Phase

Party/marriage halls having no licence

  1. Balaji Kalyan Mantapa,Mysore Road
  2. Shadi Mahal, Bapujinagara
  3. Bhavasara Kshatriya Kalyana Mantapa,Gandhi Bazar Main Road
  4. Nageshwara Kalyana Mantapa,NAT Road
  5. Ganajam Kalyana Mantapa,Bull Temple Road
  6. Rai Rai Kalyana Mantapa,Pampa Mahakavi Road
  7. Chandrashekara Bharathi Kalyana Mantapa,Pamapamahakavi Road
  8. Sharada Prasad Kalyana Mantapa,Pampa Mahakavi Road
  9. Parvathamma Kalyana Mantapa,Bull Temple Road
  10. Jagadguru Renukacharya Kalyana Mantapa, SBN Hall
  11. Bharathi Krupa, Girinagara
  12. Smt Lakshmmma Venkata Rao Kalyana Mantapa, Girinagara
  13. Hanumanthappa Kalyana Mantapa, BSK III Stage
  14. Deepam Party Hall, BSK III Stage
  15. Krishna Convention Hall, Karesandra
  16. Sai Pushpanjali Kalyana Mantapa, JP Nagar
  17. GNR Kalyana Mantapa, Jayanagar
  18. KrishnaKalyana Mantapa, Jayanagar
  19. Samskruthi Party Hall, Jayanagar
  20. Lakshmi Venkateshwara Kalyana Mantapa,Kankapura Main Road
  21. Navarang Marriage Hall, Gurappana Palya
  22. Shyamanna Kalyana Mantapa, BTM Layout

The notice says that the named halls will be closed down at any time by the municipal authority and “steps will be taken to demolish buildings violating the building bye-laws”. It cautions the public from booking the halls.

Issue 29

In Editions on May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am

GROOM DETECTIVES

Sensational murders by spouses and growing general mistrust have parents of would-be brides in the city engaging detectives to do background checks on future husbands, reports Chetana Belagere

Several instances of murder, involving a spouse taking the life of a partner, that have grabbed headlines recently in the city is one among many factors forcing families of young girls to engage private detective agencies to do background checks on their fiances. Several detective firms in the city revealed that they are inundated with requests asking to spy on would-be husbands before they tie the knot.

May, June and July being the marriage season in Bengaluru, it is definitely a  busy season for us, says Mahendra of Private Eye detective services. Traditionally many families would arrange marriages but now that many youngsters meet their future partners on the internet, at their workplaces, colleges and even malls, they increasingly do not want to take any chances about their spouses, he adds.

Girls take the lead

This year especially, cases like the murder of Israeli national Farha Tamara by her married yoga instructor lover and the gym instructor who murdered his rival’s wife and other similar incidents seem to have shaken up youngsters in the city, who earlier would have blindly agreed for their weddings. “Nowadays, the groom’s past is very important for a girl and her family. We receive at least five calls a week requesting us to do background checks on boys. They want the entire background of the boy and even details of their family rivals!” says Sundaresh N of Red Eye detective services.

Earlier, it was mainly boyfriends who would engage private detectives to spy on their girlfriends but agencies say the trend has now reversed, and it is mostly the girls and their parents, particularly in the upper middleclass, that are requesting such checks.

Some private investigators point to a related trend, that of the increasing number of young Indian girls chatting with Indian men who live abroad in places such as the UK. Likewise, Indian women living in the UK have also used the internet to find potential husbands back in India. It is not uncommon for either party to engage private detectives to check on the backgrounds of potential partners. The UK has a significant Indian community and even in that country, it is fairly common for Indian men and women to engage detectives to do background checks, usually under pressure from their parents.

Ridiculous requests

Meanwhile, Eagle Eye Detectives proprietor Rajesh says that some clients can take their concern over their children’s future to ridiculous extremes. “One family who contacted us recently didn’t like their daughter’s boyfriend but we looked into his background and found that he was okay and came out clean,” says Rajesh. “But that wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted us to frame him by setting him up with another girl. When we refused, they did it themselves.”

In another case, Rajesh says he found proof of a groom-to-be’s philandering. “I took it to the girl’s family and they said, ‘No, no, no, we don’t care about that. We hired you to find out if his family has as much money as they say they do,’” Rajesh says. “Even the girl wasn’t really shocked by what we found.”

Jeesha Rao, a software firm manager who is getting married this June, told City Buzz, “I do not care what he would think if he gets to know I spied on him. I want to ensure that his background and past is clean. I don’t want to mess up my life after marriage. On this, my parents are convinced too.”

‘Appearances deceptive’

Sudipta Chandrashekar, who runs her own detective agency Trust Checked which specialises in matrimonial and related investigations,  says she can catch the liars like that. After all, she has had plenty of experience followed them through the mildewed mazes of Bengaluru’s middle-class neighborhoods, and photographing them as they leave their lovers’ apartments. She has heard them exaggerate their salaries and hide their illnesses.

Sudipta has spent years honing her skills: disguise, surveillance, misdirection. She claims that with just a few minutes’ notice, she can deploy teams nearly anywhere across the country. “Today, there’s a need to check if people are telling the truth. And that is where we get involved,” Sudipta says. “Does that boy really have an education? Is he really earning that big salary? Is that boy or girl running around with someone else? Does he have any rivalry with anyone in the past? Any past flings which can be dangerous to the future wife? These are some of the questions we tackle.”

A groom-to-be might seem like a nice young man. He might come from a good family. But nearly two decades running her own agency has taught Sudipta how little that can mean. So she spells out a warning: “You don’t know what that boy is doing with his time.”

Booming business

The detectives, though, are more than ready to find out.

“Earlier, we were only a luxury for someone who had a lot of money,” says Sudipta’s secretary John James, a tough-talking 45-year-old, adding that only one-third of their business used to be about premarital investigations. “Now, every family wants to know the maximum.” According to insiders like James, especially after series of murders involving spouses many are scared to blindly believe even the person he/she has been in love with for many years.

Mahendra Mishra, father of a young techie who is preparing to get married in August, says, “We are not worried about the cost but we want to know that our daughter is in safe hands. Though ours is going to be an arranged marriage we do not want to take any risks. So, we have asked Ms Sudipta for detective services. We do not regret it as we will be happy if our son in law comes clean.”

Professional operation

The costs of basic detective services range from Rs 5000 to Rs 15000. If someone wants a detailed history of the person with pictures and other proof then it would cost them not less than Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

Explaining their method, James says, “We start with the house: How many people live there, whether the property is owned or rented, if the subject in question is married or has been engaged before. We talk to drivers, neighbours, neighbours’ drivers, maidservants, gardeners, the people who come for the laundry, all of them.”

Insiders say that surprisingly, it’s often the parents themselves who come with the request to do checks on their future sons-in-law; the reason why of late a full-fledged industry of matrimonial investigation has sprung up across the country. Interestingly, detectives are even asked to check the psychological nature of the boy. Whether he can get aggressive at situations? Is he the suspicious types? Will he be able to handle any kind of financial crash or depression etc? These are just some of the questions parents have.

As anxious parents make a bee-line towards matrimonial investigation agencies, a profession that once lurked on the shadowy fringes of society has moved quietly into the mainstream.

The murderous spouse

2003 Shubha Shankarnarayan, a law student, in cahoots with her parmour Arun Verma, killed her fiance B V Girish near Koramangala Ring Road. She was recently convicted of the crime.

2008 Lakshmi, a newly married techie, was allegedly killed by her husband Manoj who was in love with his colleague.

2009 Honey Mary and her husband Umesh had moved into their new residence in Banaswadi. Honey, who hatched the plot to marry her lover Bipin, tried to stage it as a robbery.

2010 DPS teacher Priyanka Gupta was found murdered in her residence. Her husband Satish Gupta, a HR executive of Infosys who spun an elaborate tale for his alibi, later confessed to the crime.

2010 B Malarvalli, a former techie, was murdered by her spurned admirer T Naveen for marrying another.

2010 The recent murder of Dell employee Payal Surekha is still being investigated. The police suspect the role of her husband Anantha Narayan Mishra in the murder.

2011: 28-year-old Israeli woman Farha Tamara was murdered by her lover Lokesh Chandra Das as he was in love with her and on the other hand he was married already and had two children.

Issue 28

In Editions on May 23, 2011 at 11:09 am

Framed?

Frederick Roberts says he was assaulted and abandoned by his wife and family, and then slapped with a false domestic violence charge. Here, he tells his story to Sarmistha Acharya.

“Which law of the land can help me?” asks Fredrick Roberts and bursts into tears as he begins to narrate the harassments he is still going through fighting the domestic violence case his wife has filed against him. He claims it is a false case.

At 70 years, Frederick can’t even digest food properly. He has only steamed rice and curd for lunch and breakfast. With his all his health problems, he has to visit the court twice a month for the hearing of the case.

Frederick has been living alone for more than a year now, in a three-storey building in SK Garden, Benson Town, after his two daughters and his wife abandoned him on January 27 last year. He has hired no help fearing that servants may spread rumours about him and his family.

Frederick spends all his time in a room on the second floor of the building. He does not use the other rooms. “I get a strange smell whenever I go inside our bedroom,” he says. “I keep it locked. I haven’t gone inside since my family left.”

He asks if retired judges could help him out. “If there are any retired judges who want to help, kindly contact me.”

Nightmarish ordeal

On January 25, last year, two days before his family left, he says he was assaulted by his former tenant and his elder son-in-law in the presence of his wife and two daughters and two police constables.

“The bell rang and when I opened the door, there were two police constables, they pushed me into the room. One of our tenants, named Gnanadesigan hit me on my chest, I fell down and fainted. When I regained consciousness my elder son-in-law asked me to sign on a blind bond paper, the police constable also threatened me. After half an hour, the constables left the house but the door was still locked. Gnanadesigan hit me on the head and started kicking me everywhere. I screamed and called out the names of two of our neighbourers and they came and rescued me,” says Frederick.

Frederick was immediately hospitalised and on the very next day, he filed a complaint through the hospital authority in the JC Nagar Police station. But the police had not acknowledged the intimation. “I had given a written complaint on the very same day of my discharge from the hospital and Inspector Nagaraj of JC Nagar Police station didn’t acknowledge my assault complaint,” says Frederick.

Domestic violence charge

His wife, a retired banker who was with the UCO bank, had approached an NGO, and given a written complaint on March 23, 2010 charging Frederick with domestic violence. “The application was later on forwarded by her lawyer to the VIII Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (VIII ACMM) on May 10, 2010,” says Frederick. He says that the report his wife filed lacks necessary information. “It does not have a shred of evidence, date and time of the incidents, names and addresses of witnesses, no FIR and no police charge sheets.”

When the case was filed, Frederick was 69 and his wife 59.

Frederick married in 1969 and after ten years, left to Saudi Arabia. He was working in Saudi Arabia as a banker with the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC) for 23 years.

He has spent lakhs on his family, he says — Rs 17 lakhs for the MBA education of his elder daughter and Rs 3.7 lakh for her marriage; Rs 35 lakhs for the medical education of his younger daughter and Rs 5 lakhs for her marriage. His wife claims that he has contributed only 30 per cent to their children’s upbringing.

Frederick blames his wife for driving both his daughters away from him. He says that she told their children that he was married to someone else in Saudi Arabia and had neglected the family for 23 years. “My younger daughter told me ‘Daddy don’t forget that you neglected the family for 23 years and had a gala time in Saudi Arabia’.” Frederick claims that his wife had even offered a ‘supari’ for his killing for which he had approached the highest police officers.

Frederick’s wife has sought, through her report, Rs 50 lakhs compensation for beating and assaulting her, Rs 25,000 maintenance per month, Rs 15,000 rental per month and Rs 1,50,000 towards rental agreement.

Public mistreatment

He says that his wife started mistreating him a while ago, by harassing him in front of visitors and denying him food. This continued till a fight broke out between them on the second week of April, 2009 when he asked his wife about the confirmation of 19 gold rings and 180 grams of gold biscuits which he had handed over to his wife for the safe keeping in bank lockers. “She burst out and said that she had not received any such thing and used filthy language,” he says.

He claims that his wife destroyed his passport, his appointment letter and bank statements to prove that he never worked in Saudi Arabia.

“When I reacted, I got attacked,” he says. “Which institution will protect my rights,” he asks, adding, “all of them are for women.”

Wife responds

On the other hand, according to his wife (who does not want to be named), she does not want the situation to be publicised. “I am already 60 and he is 70. I have lived a wonderful life. A lot of things went wrong. I don’t want to comment anything now because it will reflect on my children and grand children,” she says.

Senior citizens, harassed husbands 
Stories of young men being harassed by their wives with false charges are often heard. But in the city, even the elderly, who are above 60, have to face such harassment.

According to Kumar V Jahgirdar, president of Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP) and counsellor of Save Indian Families Foundation (SIFF), they have come across 25 such cases of false charges. Among these, he says, four or five cases are against husbands who are above 60. Most domestic violence cases filed against the elderly are false, he says.

He believes the law to be biased towards women and therefore it does not give protection to men. He says that the law is largely being misused by women.

‘She threw me out of my own house’

In a story that is eerily similar to that of Frederick Roberts, Aruldas Ambrose, is fighting a domestic violence case filed by his wife after 25 years of married life

Ambrose, who was married in the year 1983 and worked in Saudi Arabia for nearly three decades as a Human Resource executive, says that his wife filed a domestic violence case against him in December, 2008 on the false grounds of dowry harassment and extra marital affairs.

A resident of Koramangala, 56-year-old Ambrose is at present staying on the ground floor of his two storey building whereas his wife along with his daughter is staying on the first floor of the house. He says he was thrown out of his house and made to stay in the ground floor. “I bought the land myself but the only mistake I did was to buy it in my wife’s name, and thanks to that she has now thrown me out of my own house claiming that the property belongs to her,” Ambrose told City Buzz.


He added that in order to force him to leave the house, his wife had called the police and falsely accused him of violence. Ambrose also said that other than his daughter, none of his family – which also consists of his son and daughter-in-law, apart from his wife – comes to the ground floor where he stays.

Issue 27

In Editions on May 12, 2011 at 10:42 am

FOR YOU, MOTHER

May 8 is Mother’s Day. City Buzz brings you a celebration of motherhood through the eyes of four people for whom their mothers remain the biggest inspiration of their lives, and for whom they paid unique – and moving – tributes.

 ‘When I try to speak about her, I become speechless’

Poet Nagathihalli Ramesh, who published a book of poems as a tribute to his mother Kempakka

For poet and writer Nagathihalli Ramesh his mother Kempakka is such a towering influence in his life that he was moved to write a collection of poems inspired by her, which has been published as The Rain and The Sea (translated from Kannada by Ankur Betageri). The poems are a loving tribute to Kempakka, portraying her character and her life experiences. Ramesh says, “My mother seems like a philosopher to me and she always used to sing folk songs which were full of meaning and which I enjoyed also because of her singing.”

He recalls his mother’s struggles by quoting Kahlil Gibran’s lines ‘My mother lived countless poems, but she never wrote one.’ Ramesh says, “I, with my poems, wrote hers as well. Gibran said, ‘The song that sleeps silently in the mother’s heart sings on the lips of the child.’ Even at this age, my mother still has things to teach me. For instance, she would say, ‘Don’t say it’s bland, say ‘add a grain of salt!’ So, when I try to speak about her I become speechless. But I don’t want to limit the concept of mother to my mother alone, for I have seen the same motherhood in others as well.”

In his turn, Ramesh himself has been taking care of many economically backward village students with a lot of love and affection so as to give them a future like the one his mother gave him. Ramesh’s strong emotions and love for his mother is what also motivates him to take up similar ventures in the name of Kempakka. Ramesh, who has also done some documentaries, along with music composer SR Ramakrishna produced an audio album title Avva, which is based on his poems about his mother.

An excerpts from his poetic tribute:

My mother is still there:
like a fruit holding a million
trees in her womb.

**

Avva,
tell me where is the end of your love?

**

Mother’s memory
makes the long road ahead
easy.

Manju Shettar

‘I feel my mother’s fingertips in my every step’

Actor Vinodraj, who built a village hospital to honour his mother, the actress Leelavathi

My mother is always with me, in my happy moments and sad moments. So many times she has taken risks for me when I was in trouble and she has been scolded by others for it. Really, I can’t say anything about her sacrifices in words and she is the only person who understands me completely. I feel my mother’s fingertips in my every step, in every venture I do. Her love and caring for me is infinite.

A five-bed village hospital

Once while travelling, my mother had a bout of food poisoning, and it took us a long time to take her to a hospital because the road was in a bad condition. Then itself we both decided to build a hospital in that village (Soladevanahalli in rural Bengaluru). Later when we got a profit of Rs 30 lakh from an investment in mutual funds, we used this money to build a hospital here with the necessary facilities. Built in honour of my mother, it was inaugurated last year on the occasion of the audio release of my last movie, Yaaradu? More than twenty thousand patients have benefited from this five-bed-facility, which is under government control, and is staffed by a doctor and compounder.

We also have a plan to build a veterinary hospital in the same place, for which we intend to raise funds by selling a part of some land we own in Madras. As soon as we get the money, we will proceed with it. I am inspired by Swami Vivekananda, who said that it is the greatest of virtues to serve the poor. I am also planning to publish a book about my mother’s film career and her experiences in the industry very soon.

As told to Manju Shettar

“She has always been there for me”

Teacher Rithika Chawla, gifted a special bonsai tree to her mother Reena Chawla

Rithika Chawla believes in the story of the giving tree (in which a tree gives a boy everything he asks for – food, shelter, wood for his boat and finally, as a stump, a resting place). To her, her mother Reena Chawla is a symbol of that generosity. “She has always been there for me, whatever the time of the day, and she always treats me like a princess. I am so glad to have her as my mother and I am proud to be her daughter.” Last year, to express her affections, Rithika gave her mother a surprise. Reena is a gardening enthusiast and so through Oye Happy (a surprise planning company), Rithika gifted a bonsai tree. On every twig there was a message of love and crowding around the plant, in the pot, were flags with notes on them too. There were tips on gardening and expressions of gratitude. Rithika usually gifts her mother a cake or flowers or a card for her special day, but this one moved her mother to tears.

Asha Menon 

“She was moved”

Techie Limy Jose, who surprised her mother Rosily Jose with a specially-designed newspaper edition

Limy Jose’s mother Rosily Jose has been a teacher all her life. So, when she reached her last year in her school, as its principal, her daughter Limy planned a surprise for Mother’s Day. “That morning people from the event management company came dressed as newspaper boys,” says Limy. “They asked my mother if she had read the newspaper and she said yes. They asked if she read the special edition and she was taken aback. Then, they handed her the newspaper they had specially designed for her.” They had a lead article on Rosily, headlined “Mrs Jose wins the award for the best mom by the Mother’s Bureau of India, says Varun of Oye Happy (the event management company). Besides the article on Rosily, there was an interview with her daughter and fictional quotes from celebrities (which included PM Manmohan Singh declaring a holiday to celebrate Rosily). There were weather reports which announced that there would be a “shower of surprises”. All in all, the gift was a mix of love and humour. “She was moved,” says Limy.

Asha Menon 

Issue 26

In Editions on May 12, 2011 at 10:33 am

BABA’S BLUFF

Agrahara Krishnamurthy, Sahitya Akademi secretary, was part of a rationalist team that confronted Sathya Sai in the 1970s. In a special for City Buzz, he recalls how Dr H Narasimhaiah, physicist and Gandhian, fearlessly led the campaign.

Agrahara KrishnamurthyThe 1970s was when Sathya Sai Baba fever was at its peak. He was known for his miracles, and not so much for his charity. People were thrilled to see him materialise HMT watches from thin air. Sacred ash poured out from his portraits, and he routinely produced ash with a wave of his hand.
That was also when several rationalists questioned Baba’s so-called miracles. I was a BA student at Bangalore University. I was influenced by the thoughts of Dr H Narasimhaiah, whom everyone called HN. He was a physicist, Gandhian and then the vice-chancellor of Bangalore University. He wanted to inculcate a scientific temper among youngsters and the general public.After I finished my graduation, my association with HN grew stronger. Ours was the first batch to shift from Central College, in the heart of Bengaluru, to the Jnana Bharati campus, which was then on the outskirts on Mysore Road. I was doing my master’s in Kannada literature.Many would talk in awe of Baba’s miracle of the day, but HN would just laugh at them. Being a rationalist, he never believed in Baba’s miracles. But he decided to challenge the Baba craze when the miracle man said he would leave his present body in 2022 and be reborn as Prema Sai Baba, in Mandya district of Karnataka.

The time came soon. In July 1975, a boy who called himself Sai Krishna hit the headlines, claiming to be Baba’s next avatar. He was from Pandavapura in Mandya district. HN had set up a fact-finding committee to expose charlatans. Along with the well-known writer Anupama Niranjana, he took some students along to Mandya, and proved that the ‘holy ash’ produced by Sai Krishna was hidden in the boy’s vest, and that the pulling of a string delivered it to his palm.

As chairman of the fact-finding committee, HN threw an open challenge to Baba to perform his miracles under controlled conditions. He wrote three letters to Baba, and published them later in his autobiography Tereda Mana (An Open Mind), published by Christ College Kannada Sangha.

Baba aggressively attacked the university panel and HN in particular. He called them “worms” who couldn’t grasp the nature of his powers. In one of his speeches in Bengaluru, HN writes, Baba described members of the committee as “dogs” and “ants.” He declared no mortal could examine him.

HN then decided to visit Whitefield along with some students. On 29 May, 1977, at 10 am, about 20 of us, led by writers Anupama Niranjana and Kalegowda Nagawara, took the university bus to Sai Baba’s ashram in Bengaluru.

Our objective was to challenge Baba to create a pumpkin out of thin air, instead of gold rings and watches. Baba’s followers threatened us with dire consequences, but we were determined to make that trip. We were accompanied by some journalists. One we reached Whitefield, despite our best efforts, we couldn’t penetrate Baba’s ashram-fortress. His men tried to shoo us away, saying he was not interested in meeting us.

HN retorted, “Let him not meet me as a rationalist, but he is obliged to meet me as a vice-chancellor.” During those days Baba’s educational institutions were affiliated to Bangalore University.  But Baba wouldn’t budge. Our confrontation made headlines and HN’s challenge dealt a blow to Baba’s miracles.

Later, our committee exposed the Mandya boy as a fraud. We invited Abraham Kovoor, the famous Sri Lankan rationalist, to come to Bengaluru and give a demonstration of how Baba performed his miracles. The show was at Town hall. All these efforts put Baba in the public gaze in a way that wasn’t flattering, and he stopped performing his tricks.

After this encounter, Baba concentrated on preaching and social work. Though I am not a great admirer of Baba, I respect his concern for society. His water projects, educational institutions, and health care initiatives are helping common people today, and that is commendable.

Issue 25

In Editions on April 29, 2011 at 10:31 am

Pedal Power

A group of passionate cycling enthusiasts are pushing for exclusive cycling tracks on key roads to help ease the city’s traffic, energy and environmental woes. Their dream is well on its way to becoming reality, finds Sarmistha Acharya.

As cycling grows in popularity among city youngsters and young professionals, and with authorities under pressure to pay more than lip service to energy and environmental concerns, Bengaluru could soon end up having exclusive cycle lanes on its arterial roads, turning them into ‘bicycle friendly streets’.

The project has been mooted by the Ride A Cycle Foundation (RACF), an organisation that promotes cycling as a clean and healthy alternative to current modes of transportation, with support from research organisation Gubbi Labs. According to RACF member Murali Ramnath, areas like Jayanagar, JP Nagar, Basavanagudi and Malleswaram are some of those shortlisted for the pilot phase of the project where tracks are expected to be constructed by the month of June to provide space for 25,000 cyclers, including the captive cyclers and students.

Work in progress

The project is supported by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) of the state government’s Urban Dev elopement Department. Sudhir HS of Gubbi Labs told City Buzz that the paperwork has already started on the ‘bicycle friendly street’ in Jayanagar. “The BBMP is in the process of tendering it out. The planning of the project is funded by DULT while its implementation will be funded by BBMP. The work for the other bicycle friendly streets will take some more time to start, may be the end of the year,” he said.

Basavaraj Kabade, BBMP executive engineer in charge of the project, said that the detailed project report (DPR) has been approved by the commissioner, and now they are awaiting the allocation of grants by the Accounts Committee. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 3.59 crore. “We are expecting the project to be approved by the Committee in a week or two. After that the project will be given for tendering, which once completed, the work can start. We have also requested DULT to prepare a feasibility report for bicycle friendly streets in areas like RT Nagar, Malleswaram, Kormangala and Indiranagar,” Basavaraj said.

Babus enthusiastic

One of the key reasons such a ‘new age’ idea as cycling tracks has been fast-tracked towards execution is the support it has received from the government agencies like DULT which recognise that they need to think innovatively to tackle the city’s burgeoning traffic problem.

Shailender Singh, special officer at DULT, told City Buzz that the Directorate was always on the lookout for ideas that solve the traffic problem, and cycling tracks was a key area they are interested in exploring. “Cycle tracks are basically meant for places where there is low vehicular density. The places where the vehicular density is more, the tracks will be separated. Moreover cycle requires less space and it is the most efficient way of using roads.”

Karnataka state transport commissioner Bhaskar Rao agrees, when he says, “As step in the general direction of promoting non motorised vehicles as a means of transportation, it is a very good initiative for the cause of the environment.”

Tricky execution

Transportation experts like Prof MN Sreehari, who is also an advisor to the government of Karnataka for traffic, transportation and infrastructure, approved of the concept as a well-meaning initiative that will help spread awareness about issues related to energy and environment among the younger generation. But he is quick to point out that execution is the tricky aspect, and cites the example of countries like China, where a large number of people use cycles in urban areas.

“China has more cycles than any other country in the world but they have been mixing cycle users with fast moving vehicles so the number of accidents have increased. Therefore we have to create a separate facility, especially in residential localities, for cycle tracks. At least two-metre wide track is needed to ensure safety,” he said.

Captive users

Information collected by RACF shows that there are about 10,000 captive cyclers in the city who use cycles as their chief means of transport, mainly to commute to their workplaces. The major group of cyclers belong to the people aging from 20 to 45. There are about five to six cycle clubs in the city with their collective membership running into the thousands, who are actively backing the idea.

According to experts like Ramnath, cycling gained popularity as a trend among professionals in Bengaluru about five to six years ago, after many city techies got exposed to the popularity of cycling countries such as Netherlands, France and Denmark, where cycling is not only popular, but is actively encouraged by governments who have created the necessary infrastructure for it.

Around the same time, some shops in the city started selling imported brands of lightweight cycles, which also helped make cycling fashionable among the urban youth. Treks, Merida, Schwinn and Btwin-Decathlon are few of the models of imported cycles which the majority of the new crop of cyclers use. Those who use them claim that the new generation cycles are totally different from the old models, and part from being faster and more comfortable, are also largely maintenance free.

This small but growing group of cycling enthusiasts want to bring about nothing less than a revolution in urban transport. Going by their latest idea – dedicated cycling lanes – they just might be able to pull it off.

What non-cyclists say

Harish Bist K, student

“Using non motorised vehicles is a very good initiative to that will be beneficial for the environment. I will definitely opt for cycling if separate tracks for cycles are coming. I would prefer to use a cycle to reach places within a distance of two for three kilometer rather than use my bike.”

Chetan Shivarudraiah, an entrepreneur

“It’s my long term plan to use a cycle. As I am busy, I have not been able to find time for cycling. But if there is a track coming exclusively for cycles, I will switch to a cycle. If I can manage the time, then I will think of using the cycle as my mode of transportation to my work place as well.”

Fahad Khan, student

“It is good initiative to save the environment as well as to save petrol. We are running short of natural resources like petrol, so if we can save it by using cycle, then that would be a great help to the future generation. If we use a cycle to cover shorter distances than it will at least help in reducing down the pollution level to certain level.”

Indu Khokher, student

“I would definitely prefer to cycle if separate tracks are coming for cycling. Cycling has so many benefits. One or other way it is going to help in making the environment pollution free. Moreover it’s a good exercise also.”

Issue 24

In Editions on April 29, 2011 at 10:27 am

Look who’s talking about clean hands

Karnataka’s greedy, tainted politicians are coming out in support of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement… Are they crazy, or are they just being their usual hypocritical selves?

Manju Shettar

Support is pouring in for Gandhian activist Anna Hazare’s struggle from a shameless lot: Karnataka’s corrupt politicians.

Chief minister Yeddyurappa was the first to announce that he was backing the struggle to formulate the Jan Lokpal Bill, which, once in force, could cost him his job.

City Buzz spoke to prominent politicians in the BJP government, and almost all of them claimed they were in favour of Anna Hazare’s demands.

Ramachandre Gowda, forced to resign from his ministership following a staff appointment scandal, was the only politician who expressed some cynicism. He said, “I don’t think Anna Hazare is doing anything new. Vajpayee had already been talking about this bill.”

The bill, of course, has been pending for 42 years, and no politician, including Vajpayee, took the trouble to have it passed and turned into law.

“Corruption was common even in the British period and just we can’t put an end to it. If you force someone for money, that is corruption, but if you get a tip, that is all right,” said Ramachandre Gowda, giving a new definition to the extortion at government offices. He described the system as “live and let live”.

The former medical education minister, who believes giving a bribe to a government employee is like “giving chocolate to a child,” said he would, however, support the passing of the bill.

S N Krishnaiah Shetty, also ousted from the cabinet after a land purchase scandal, said, “The Jan Lokpal Bill is a necessity and I support Anna Hazare. Politicians should be transparent.”

Katta Subramanya Naidu, caught in a scandal involving appropriation of government land, didn’t answer the phone though City Buzz tried several times. His officials said he was all for Anna Hazare.

Murugesh R Nirani, minister for large and medium industries, believes Hazare is fighting for the “good of the country.”

“The Lokpal Bill had to be passed several years ago, and at least now it should be passed. If it becomes an act, it applies to everyone, and we politicians should remember we will not remain politicians for ever,” he said.

Nirani is among those accused of large-scale power theft at Nirani Sugars and Cement Factory in Mudhol, northern Karnataka.

Congress leader DK Shivakumar said his party had been fighting corruption for a long time. “I support Anna Hazare, but I don’t have any idea about the bill,” he said. “I have to study about it.”

Shivakumar had earlier been accused of encroaching on forest land, and his family is charged with mining irregularities in Bellary district.
M P Renukacharya, whose love-hate relationship with nurse Jayalakshmi has yielded the tabloids some of their most sensational stories in recent years, said, “Hazare’s intentions are good. I support him, but I don’t have a clear idea about the bill.”

Now excise minister, Renukacharya was issued a non-bailable warrant in the nurse Jayalakshmi case and was, according to official records, absconding. The court had ordered the police to find and arrest him. Renukacharya had allegedly threatened Jayalakshmi that he would release intimate pictures of the two of them to the media and to the college where she worked.

The Reddy brothers also, incredibly, have come out in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill movement.

Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy, his elder brother and revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy, and MLA-younger brother G Somashekara Reddy, are accused of large-scale illegal mining in Bellary as well as neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. They own the Obulapuram Mining Company. Between 2003 and now, more than 30 million tonnes of iron ore were illegally mined and exported from Karnataka, causing the government a loss of about Rs.60,000 crore.

Former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy was scathing about BJP leaders announcing their backing for Anna Hazare.

“Yeddyurappa is a wolf claiming to protect the sheep. He also lies and destroys records about his scandals. I appreciate Hazare’s movement, irrespective of whether he accepts politicians’ support or not”.

Former assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar said, “Yeddyurappa’s support is just a joke. Public figures should lead a life of dignity and only then do they acquire the moral right to participate in such movements. I think Anna Hazare knows very well whose support he really needs”.