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Axis of Traverse in Bengaluru, Finally

Underground Metro Station (pic taken from my mobile)
It's been a hibernation for more than a year, with other priorities in life, blogging went into back burner for a long time. I was deliberating on the post to rekindle to saga of blogging to some extent, and ended up chosing this topic which has made an impact on most of the people in the city for last one year. Public transport has been one of my favourite topics which is evident from my previous post on BMTC, Suburban Rail in Bengaluru and also on Sustainable Transport.


The city of Bengaluru has finally has the axis of traversing. In yesteryears, there used to a word of wisdom for a new comer in the city "when you get lost in the city take a bus to Majestic from the nearest bus stop and you will reach your destination conveniently". With the completion of Phase-1 of Namma Metro in June 2017, there is definitely a paradigm shift. And the word of wisdom no longer valid and the new one would be "get to the nearest metro station to reach your destination".


Long Wait for South Bengaluru:
In Phase-1, the southern part was last to get completed. Somehow it's been a jinx with this part of city which doesn't even have a railway station and suburban train options. Unlike other locations. Baiyappahalli, Yeswantpur, Nayadahalli have seen chiku buku in their neighborhood for ages. The development as expected nothing short of controversy. The route from South End Circle to 9th Block faced lot of protest as it would destroy lush green cover through Lakshman Rao Park on Jayanagar 4th Main. There were many campaigns to take the route underground preserving the unique green cover. But the metro authorities ensured that loss of trees in only negligible which is evident in the below photograph!

Top view of RV Road station (source: not sure, not able to make it from copyright)


The weekend of the inauguration:
I had grand plans of traveling all four terminating stations on the weekend of inauguration of fully completed Phase-1. On the inaugural day (June 17th) the metro was not open to public and next day ended spending my entire day in hospital and labor room welcoming the new member in our family. The delivery happened two weeks in advance and all my plans went for a toss with other priorities :) This will definitely be an amusing tale for my little one when he has mind of his own.


Inside National Colleage Metro (pic tken from y mobile)

First Ride from South Bangalore:
My first ride from South Bengaluru happened on day of the discharge of my little one when I took the metro from National College (nearest station from my home) to Soap Factory (nearest station to hospital). I was very excited to see the things getting materialized, especially after witnessing the construction of National College Station from the time of installation of sign board in 2004 saying "Proposed Site of the Station" and experiencing in numerous traffic snarls due to the diversion of traffic during construction.


Me in Front of KR Market Station (pic taken by Ananth Shayan)

Subsequent Rides:
The next weekend I managed to have a joy ride with Photography buddy Ananth Shayan. We took the metro from Mantri Square and landed up in KR Market. In search of our favorite hangout Anand Vihar for breakfast which has shifted by giving way its original space to KR Market station, we ended up going to Tippu's armoury. The is place which is in a neglected state in contrast to one near Srirangapatna which was in limelight recently for being shifted by some foreign experts to make way of doubling from railway line from Bengaluru to Mysuru. After our small sighseeing and breakfast, the return back to Malleswaram was an arduous task. Almost all the trains from Yelchenanahalli towards Malleswaram were fully packed with first time riders from South Bangalore. After making attempts 2-3 times, we took the metro in opposite direction and boarded our train to Malleswaram from the point of origin. The typical 'best practice' which has been frequently followed by commuters in Mumbai Local when they take the local towards Churchgate, CST as it is impossible to board the train at intermediate stations.




Key Highlights:
  • Effortless Saturday ride: Traveling from my home (Basavanagudi) to my in-laws' place (Kumara Park) have been nightmare especially on Saturday evening, when the folks who don't take out their cars on weekdays, will end up being on the road for the weekend shopping. With the advent of the metro, the nightmare has been annulled as I can bypass all jams and travel from National College to Matri Square in 9 mins flat with additional 2*(10-15) mins walk for first and last mile connectivity!
  • Ola Auto for first-mile connectivity: I have opted from Ola Auto whenever I am supposed to reach time my destination on/before time. Getting the auto to the doorstep and finish the first-mile commute without any bargaining and cash payment business has been a fair option. The perennial problem of auto guys not coming for shorter rides has been solved effectively with this option.
  • Personal work in MG Road: One day I had to be in MG Road on a weekday for  small personal work. With metro + ola auto option I managed to reach my destination in less than 25 minutes without hassles of waiting for a cab, surge pricing etc.
  • Reaching for a meet-up in Cubbon Park: On a Saturday, I had a meet-up with my Photography Society executive members. After getting delayed in morning due to unavoidable reasons, I managed to reach the spot with only 5 minutes delay, again with Metro + Ola Auto option
Key Lowlights:
  • Feeder service from BMTC: The feeder service has been a big disappointment especially with respect to choice of routes and stops. For e.g. if I want to opt for feeder service from my home National college metro, I end-up more walking than actually the traveling in the bus. Not sure why BMTC is behind BMRCL for compensating them for the service which doesn't serve majority of metro users. Only silver lining are the cute small orange bus (Samparka service), which has been effectively designed with low floor boarding, space for standing/sitting etc.
  • Mushrooming of high rise: All major players in Bengaluru real estate market are trying to encash with metro providing faster mode of connectivity. Over last couple of years, the Guidance Value and FAR Ratio have been increased at the location around existing or upcoming metro stations. Also, majority of the projects have been opportunistic, like the ugly 25+ high rise next to Mantri Mall and Station with a price tag 3.5 crore+. Not sure if the people who can afford homes with such a price tag would really opt for travel by metro ?
With phase-1 just completed, we will still have a long way to go before metro connects all key locations in the city. May be we will see light at end of the tunnel when majority of people of my generation are close to retirement ! :) I will be periodically refreshing this post with latest experiences and updates.

How has been your experience with metro so far ? Feel free to comment below for your stories.


Askew: Where going forward resembles going backward


While reading about the debate/discussions about proposed SteelFlyover in Bangalore from Chalukya Hotel to Hebbal, I stumbled upon an article in NewsMinute - How Bangalore went from cosy town to an urban nightmare. The article which was actually an excerpt from the book Askew: A Short Biography of Bangalore by T. J. S. George concluded with following the lines.
It used to be a city in peace with itself. It was now a bundle of contradictions, a battleground of competing constituencies, where going forward resembles going backward.
The lines struck the right chord in my mind was very relevant to the ongoing discussions. Without any second thoughts and I bought the kindle version of the book well before the official launch of the hardcover version. The biography weaves multiple amusing stories which have made unique value-system of the city and also led to the deterioration of the same. It discusses city's history, personalities, culture, novel enterprises, IT boom and many more things. The author expresses concern about the new type of virtual plague which is close to inevitable and primarily happening due to the greed of elected representatives and bureaucrats.

Some of the key highlights of the narrative are:
  • Bangalore is following the same pattern of development as other deteriorated cities - which is build and enjoy, overbuild and suffer, collapse and complain, and then become argumentative of what happened. 
  • The city made its mark on the word map thru IT revolution and it changed the name of city from a noun to a verb. This overnight transformation coupled with myopic policies of elected representatives has made the city unbearable. In contrast, Silicon Valley and Boston didn't lose its charm while adopting modern enterprises. 
  • The builders of the city in yesteryears were selfless to the core. Lakshman Rao who had architected Jayanagar, died in 2005 without owning a house or site in Bengaluru. The cost per sqft was only one rupee when the best neighborhood in Asia was laid out in 1948. Just imagine how much assets he could have made just by hoarding parcels of land created by him ?
  • There used to be an orderly development of thru live-where-you-work principle followed by PSUs. IT tore this system apart by building fancy ivory towers without giving a thought on living and commuting needs of employees.
  • Within the boundaries of tradition there's a scope for innovation and enterprise - this has been beautifully narrated thru the story South Indian restaurants (i.e. MTR, Vidhyarthi Bhavan etc) set-up by Udupi Brahmins.
  • Amusing story of R Prabhakar, a consumer activist and guide/mentor behind the Darshini model low-brow eat-outs starting from Cafe Darshinis to latest being Bye-two coffee set-up by Raghvendra Padukone.
  • There's a big question mark on the scope for fresh enterprises in the city. The heirs of billionaires Rohan Murthy, Siddharth Mallya have managed find their green pasture elsewhere. 
There are more such interesting things which make the book an engrossing read ! Do order your copy at Amazon.


Monsoon trip to Nandi Hills

Landscape view besides Yoga Nadeeshwara Temple

It was a trip to mark 10 years of blogging and by reiterating the same trip which had led to my very first blog post. For several reasons, I had a lot of things to compare and contrast between the two trips  - mentioned in my anniversary post. We started from the city in relaxed manner post 12 noon and as expected the traffic towards our destination was very lean. Within no time we managed reached the airport interchange toll booth that too driving with conservative speed.

Lunch at India Paratha House:

India Paratha House

As per our plan, we had a stopover for lunch at India Paratha House which comes after Devanahalli town junction. The eat-out or rather hangout place was brimming with all genres of people - youngsters, families etc. The wooden structure and rot-iron/wooden furniture made up a unique ambiance which was blending perfectly with surrounding environment. The menu comprised various types of stuff parathas,  q-parathas and pizza like parantzas. The parathas, chai and lassis filled our stomach optimally and kept us energized for rest of the day.

Getting to the Top:
After taking a deviation at Nandi Cross we continued our journey to the top. The stretch from the highway to the base of the hill is longer a countryside. There are several real estate developments or being planned. Not sure if we need a golf course, so many layouts and villas at green belt which has soil ideally suited for growing fruits. It's unfortunate to see developers encashing on disposable income of people without valuing the ecology of the sensitive area which is the source of 3 rivers - Arkavathy, Palar and Pennar.

At the top:
We entered into the Nandi Hills by paying Rs. 100 parking and entry fee. Immediately after the parking our car in front of Gandhi Nilaya, one of the monkeys jumped on the top of our car and started licking the top and glass panes. The parking attendant mentioned that due to scarcity of fresh water bodies on the monkey was desperate to consume the droplets :)

Monkey licking water drops

A hill with many attractions:
Since I was visiting Nandi Hills after a lot of years, was very keen to experience of catching the glimpse of downhills landscape from sky decks which were constructed in recent times. After clicking a few photographs from the deck, we had a stroll towards Gandhi Nilaya, the rest house where Gandhiji had stayed during his visit to Bangalore. Further ahead, we came across a small temple dedicated to Nandi(Nellikai Basavanna). Besides that there was an ashrama where some swami had meditated for a year. It started raining for a brief spell of time, since we had equipped ourselves pretty well, didn't face any issues during sightseeing.


Cubbon House - Nehru Nilaya
One of the major landmarks on the hills is Cubbon House - a guest house constructed in 19th century by Mark Cubbon, where he used to stay during summers. Post Independence, this house was renamed as Nehuru Nilaya and was the venue for SAARC summit in 1989.

Yoga Nandeeshwara Temple:
We offered prayers at Yoga Nadeeshwara Temple which is close to Tippu drop. While buying some fancy items inside the temple, we struck an interesting conversation with one of pujaris of the temple. Conversation revolved around philosophical discussions such as : 'Why we have so many gods ?', 'What is this supreme power' etc. Later we came to know that he is native of Mangalore and has been staying at Nandi hills close to 45 years. Previously, he was managing the Mayura Hotel and later when the government took over the hotel, he moved on to pujari's job at the temple.

Hill Station Experience:
Post 5 pm it suddenly turned very misty. It provided us an experience at typical hill station like Ooty, Kodaikanal, Coorg and Chickmagalur.

Engulfed in Mist
To Conclude:
We started our downhill journey around 6 pm. Due to time constraints we could not explore a few landmarks but will ensure to cover it in our next trip. 

The trip which was planned to be an obligatory visit to the hills, surprisingly turned out to be very fruitful experience. Also, felt sorry to witness unwanted real estate development around ecologically and historically significant place close to Bangalore. Hope the sanity prevails and the place is preserved for generations to witness !

A decade to Cherish !

It's been exactly 10 years since I have been sharing my experiences and thoughts on this platform. The journey has been amusing with  a lot of things happening in life w.r.t. personal and professional front and not to mention about endeavours related to travel and photography !

Screenshot of my first blog post
For last one month, I was contemplating on how to celebrate this accomplishment. Many thoughts ran through. Whether I should post cliched a blog-post with a birthday cake or post some statistics or do some retrospect. In the process, while going through my old archives I just had a glance at my very first post which was about a trip to Nandi Hills. Then an idea struck - why not visit Nandi Hills to celebrate the moment and also it would be good to share by comparing and contrasting the experience of visiting the same place 10 years back.

Key Observations:
  • The routes to Nandi Hills from Bangalore has changed drastically.  In 2006, there wasn't an elevated expressway or expressways. The main reason can be attributed to the development of Bengaluru International Airport at Devanahalli. I guess in 2006, the construction of the airport was still in progress we hardly knew Bangalore beyond Hebbal flyover.
  • With the shifting in epi-center of the city, it was disheartening to see multiple high rises around Hebbal flyover. In 2006, there were only two promiment structure around the flyover: One was Godrej apartment and other was 'clone of petronas tower' at a fair distance. Now the every inch of available land has been constructed or under constructed.
  • There were no decent restaurants enroute to the destination. In 2006, we had breakfast at a hotel next to Devanahalli bus-stand and only other decent option was Mayura pine-top at the Nandi Hills. Now there are 'n' options to choose.
  • There are several developments atop Nandi Hills as well, the sky decks at various corners of Nandi Hills is one of the significant addition.
The comparisons continued flashing back to memories of the trip 10 years back and to the real time experiences. More about my latest trip in my next post.

Experience of Reliance Jio 4G

Reliance Jio is soon to be launched LTE 4g service in India. The official launch of the service is still months away, however the network is live and Reliance employees have been using it for last 6 months and recently they made it made open to outside through invite only system. I grabbed the opportunity of promotional offer through my friend On Ali who works at Reliance Jio.

Key Observations:
  • I have using the service for over a month. The network connectivity so good I have never bothered to connect the phone to home WiFi.
  • Voice calls which works on VoLTE is decent. But sometimes when the network connection is jittery the calling app fails.
  • Major minus point is that you can use the network only on LYF+ smartphones. There have been occasional crashes. But it is pretty decent phone.

Instances where the service was truly a boon
  • One day in evening, I was all set to leave office and was planning to catch up 2nd innings of IPL qualifier match between RCB and Gujarat Lions. Suddenly, I get a call from one of directors that there is some escalation on a deliverable and we are supposed to have an urgent fire fighting call with a WebEx session. I had to stay back in office itself by projecting my screen on WebEx. I didn't have room to see latest scores in Cricinfo :). But the hotstar app on my LYF Jio came for rescue and I was able to witness the ultimate chase led by AB deviliers on my mobile in the meeting room !
  • Recently when we shifted our home, the broadband FTTH from ACT took more than a week to be set-up and 4-5 days to reactivate. The Jio connection with mobile hotspot turned out be back-up connection at home
  • Due to delay in shifting of DTH connection, I used to play the TV channels thru Jio play on mobile and cast the content on home TV thru Chromecast. I ensured that my mother doesn't miss out her daily soap serials.

Looking forward:
  • Speed of the Connection: Currently I am getting around 20 Mbps (sometimes 30 Mbps) speed at stationary location. Not sure this speed can be sustained post public launch when more number of users will be alive on the network.
  • How the pricing will be post the public launch. I currently have two months to experience complementary service.
  • Experience of buying new connection: I felt the executives at Reliance Digital didn't look that prepared for handling customer avaling new connection. There were quite a few tedious things to be done on Reliance's enterprise apps before activating a connection.

Screenshot of the network speed through Netvelocity



Note: This entire blog post was composed and published on LYF+ phone on jio connection.

 
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