Sunday, December 28, 2008

Glass is not Green.

A walk or drive in some of Bangalore's tech parks and industrial complexes can be a breath taking experience. Beautiful modern architecture complete with shining glass facades really make you gaze at them in awe. I did my internship at General Electric, which had four beautiful buildings, all of which had at least 75% of their walls covered with glass. Glass has become the new building material in Bangalore.

But what is the logic behind thus trend? The answer is that most of these offices belong to MNCs and that their offices in India also should also have an international (read American or European) look. Ah, the same old story of us Indians aping the West. So what is the cost of this stupidity?

A huge energy bill which implies a huge carbon footprint! In times when large parts of India have to put up with load shedding on a daily basis, here we have people who are virtually keeping hot plates in their refrigerators! The point here is that all these swanky buildings have central air conditioning. All of us know that glass structures trap heat very effectively and so, we have a tug of war between the cooling and heating processes of the building. What a waste! These buildings make a lot of sense in the colder countries where the heating needs are much higher than the cooling requirements and so it is a good idea to trap whatever natural heat they receive. But what sense it makes in India, specially the south, where the day time temperatures never go below 25 degree Celsius.

In fact in IISc we have brick and mortar buildings with windows that can be actually be opened!! We do not have AC and i do not even switch on the fan. Another point, digressing from the issue at hand, is the high incidence of respiratory illnesses in those building with central air conditioning. Buildings which have central cooling systems are estimated to be recirculating up to 92% of the air leading to the sick building syndrome where people, even sitting at great distances from each other, are at high risk of getting respiratory allergies and disorders from co-workers. Doctors in the city say that the number of people with respiratory problems are on the rise, owing to not just the pollution, but also cross infection inside buildings. So much for all the glitz and glamor of these glass marvels!

It is high time the govt. comes with some legislation banning buildings with glass walls. It can be the first step in reducing the insatiable demand for electricity in India's Silicon Valley.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pastimes at Red Light Areas

Red light areas are very common in Bangalore and I have been at them many times. No, I am not talking about the red light areas which most of you are thinking about now. I will never use such cheap tactics to make my blog more popular. I love my crap-loving fans. I have written crap, am writing crap (obviously!!) and will write crap till the end of time. Ok, that's a lot of blah to begin with. The red light areas I was talking about are the traffic signals. Boy aren't there many of those in Bangalore. In fact there is a stretch on MG road where there are four signals within 1 km.
So what to people do while waiting the eternity for the red light to turn into the magical green? How does one pass those endless moments of doing nothing in this fast paced world? Some people annoy the people around with their traffic-light-pastimes. Like those who resort to incessant honking! As though the sound of their horns will magically turn the light green! Some impatient asses rev up their engines, all set to sprint to the next traffic signal, even though the timer shows 145 seconds remaining. Others decide to create their own red glows, by lighting cigarettes. I think there is enough pollution in Bangalore and that you really don't need more smoke. I feel all the smokers should place their faces near the exhaust of the nearest BMTC bus if they really need some smoke in their lungs.

Some people are very conscious of their looks. They keep admiring themselves in their rear view mirrors; probably the only time they actually use those mirrors. They comb their hair or mustache. Some even start digging for gold in you-know-where. Gross! The musically inclined riders tap their feet (in impatience?) or start drumming their fingers on the fuel tank or even on their tummies sometimes!! So much for the India fattening campaign.

Some enterprising cool dudes decide it is the best time to practice their reading skills and do so by reading girls' t-shirts and end up staring at the wrong place! Why do girls wear t shirts with gyaan anyways, if they don't like the staring or reading rather. Or maybe Ramadoss can ban such t shirts for health reasons! I also was once guilty of staring, oops! reading, a girls t-shirt. It said "what's up loser?". Pretty apt for all the readers/losers! I think girls wearing t-shirts with literary material will be ideal in the teach India campaign! I must suggest this to the times of India! Then there are these always connected dudes who are always messaging on their cell phones. Probably telling their chicks that they will message again at the next signal, two minutes later.

Other ways of passing time may include meditating. That might be tough with the auto in front of you going TAT-TAT-TAT at a 100 decibels, spewing smoke in your face. Or maybe you could order a pizza and then hope the light doesn't turn green until your pizza arrives! You could also try road singing (like bathroom singing!) and maybe even ask the people around you to join in. What does this writer do at the traffic signals? He just looks around to see what other people are doing and makes a mental note to include it in his very popular blog. [:P]

And then the signal turns orange. Most people see it as green. (I don't know how that is possible as the wavelengths of orange and green light differ by 100nm.) And the 100 meter dash to next signal begins! The guys with powerful bikes take off! I start slowly with my less than 100cc bike and reach the super fast dudes already at the next signal, less 10 seconds after them. So much for the great pick up of these high powered bikes. And the whole process of waiting repeats itself.

Ok, now for some serious gyann. I request all my readers who use bikes/cars to please turn of their engines at the signals. Idling engines are the most unnecessary contributors to air pollution. All cars, including most bikes, have electronic ignition nowadays. The engine can be started in a split of a second. But sadly I still see most people idling their engines while waiting at signals. I switch of my engine even though i do not have an electronic ignition for my bike. I have very strong legs and can kick start my bike faster than a bike with electronic ignition! [:P] Hope this post of crap and gyaan will make your next 'red light' stay more fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lumbini gardens - Bangalore's own Bird Sanctuary

The destination this past weekend was Lumbini Gardens, Bangalore. A beautiful lake in north Bangalore. This is actually a much better tourist spot than the more famous Ulsoor lake which in reality is a sewage dump. I arrived there with NAL's most famous ornithologist Vasudha. This was the first time she was bird watching outside NAL! But that doesn't matter to someone who cannnot distinguish between a crow and a dove!!

We walked along the banks of the lake. We spotted a black creature in the lake that quickly dove in. I thought it was the Loch Ness monster, or the Hebbal monster to be precise. Vasudha declared that it was a duck! I still think it was a crow because according to me, all black birds are crows. Full stop. The ornithologist also showed me pelicans, eagles and egrets. (Note: egret is not the young one of an eagle!) I was fervently hoping for some crow to show up, so that i also could show some knowledge of birds. Damn those crows. There are never there when you want them! In IISc you don't walk outside after 5:00 pm unless you want the crows to bless you. I even played Sheryl Crow's songs on my cell phone, just in case the crows are attracted to her music [:P]

Vasudha tried to act extra knowledgeable, on realising that I knew nothing about birds. She started giving her own names to those birds whose names she didn't know. Like zebra bird and rock bird. I guess she would call a peacock a rainbow bird. We decided to take a paddle boat so that we could get nearer to the birds. She declared that she was the runners up at the Mayem lake boating competition. I dug a little deeper and found out that only two teams had participated and that she was the non playing captain of her team. So much for her boating expertise!!

The guard told us to wear life jackets as there were no life buoys in the boats. I asked him if Medimix would do!!! (saddest joke ever!!!) We paddled quickly to the birds. But like a mirage, they kept moving farther away from us as we moved towards them. We quickly realised that nature is best seen on the Discovery Channel. We also saw a water snake gliding smoothly along the surface. The pelicans were quite impressive with their graceful flight, while the ducks were expert in catching fish. Quite entertaining.

On the whole its one of the better nature spots in Bangalore. Besides boating there are some games, a water pool, a rose garden and some stalls. For further details, check their site. A wonderful trip and an enlightening lesson on bird watching by Vasudha.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The bigger killers

First of all I condemn every terrorist attack. I express deep sympathies to all the victims and I commend the bravery of our security forces. Last month's terrorist attacks in Mumbai have woken up this nation. All sorts of promises have been made to combat terrorism. I hope these promises are kept so that this great nation will be a safer place to live in.

But in all this attention directed towards terrorism, in my opinion is unjustified. I am going to put forward statistics about three other silent killers which are killing our citizens at an astonishing rate behind the scenes. And no one seems to be bothered about it.

First is road accidents. Many people will say that terrorist killings are not accidental. I am not comparing the cause here. I am comparing the effect. Every tragic loss is mourned in the same way whether a person dies from a bullet shot or from a head injury in an accident. Last year in India, an astonishing 114,590 persons lost their lives in road accidents. (info from National Crimes Record Bureau ) And that number has been rising consistently. What has the government done to combat this killer? Mind you, even after factoring in the fact that India has a billion plus population, our country is miles ahead of the other nations.

Secondly, deaths from suicides. Many stories are discussing the impact of this terrorist attack on the economy of Mumbai and India in general. Besides the absolute loss in terms of damage to infrastructure, there is the unknown loss to the economy in terms of loss of business, investments etc. I am no expert in this subject. And you can never put a price on a human life. But any economist will tell you what a great loss suicides are to the economy. What is the government doing about this killer? More stats from the same source, the National Crimes Record Bureau. And you have got to check this out. Accidental deaths and suicide clock. It will give you a feel of the magnitude of the tragedy.

The third silent killer in India is poverty. I have not got any concrete stats to back me up here. But we all know how scores of children die from malnutrition, disease etc. These people don't make it to the news because it has been happening for a long time and its nothing new. It doesn't make that impact which the media craves for. What is the government doing about this silent killer?

I am not saying that the government should stop spending money on defense and internal security and divert all funds to these things. I am just putting things into perspective. One of my favourite books 'Freakonomics' discusses why deaths from terrorism and crimes make a much bigger impact than deaths from more dangerous killers like road accidents. It the human psychology that works that way. You decide what you want to fear. Terrorists or BMTC buses in Bangalore.

Further info: Times of India, December 12, 2008, Bangalore Edition


Planning Commission Puts Social Cost Of Accidents At Rs 55,000 Crore A Year

Road accidents are severally eating into India’s economy. According to the Planning Commission, the social cost of road accidents in India stands at Rs 55,000 crore annually. This constitutes 3% of the country’s GDP.

In 2006, Indian roads saw 1.05 lakh accident deaths — 290 deaths everyday. Of this, the provisional number of persons killed due to drunk driving stood at 8,313 and those killed due to defects in road conditions was estimated at 2,024.

According to K H Muniyappa, MoS in the ministry of shipping, road transport and highways, the
cost of road injuries is usually estimated at 1% of the gross national product in low income countries, 1.5% in middle income countries and 2% in high income countries. According to WHO’s estimates, the direct economic cost of global road crashes has been estimated at $518 billion with the cost in low income countries put at $65 billion.

Accelerated urbanization has led to alarming increase in rate of accidental injuries in India India has 1% of the motor vehicles in the world, but bears the burden of 10% of global vehicular accidents

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Kings go to Mysore!

I finally made the long overdue trip to the historic city of Mysore last Sunday. We set out from Bangalore at about 8am. The group known as the Mysore Kings consisted of Aditya, Clintson, Paritosh, Neeraj, Anoop, Dev, Gampa, Eldo and myself.

We first stopped for breakfast somewhere outside Bangalore. It was a 'drive in' restaurant, whatever that means. All I can say is it drove a hole in our wallets!! Our breakfast cost as much as a 5 star meal! But the food nor the ambiance was anything comparable to a 5 star place. But there were some hot chicks around. Was that the reason for the exorbitant cost?

From then on all roads led to Mysore for the Kings! First on the places-to-see list was Rangantitu Bird Sanctuary. Now we could actually do the real bird watching! No prizes for guessing the first bird we saw. It was the crow! I think the crow should be declared the national bird of India or at least of Karnataka! Then Clintson thought he had heard a humming bird. But it turned out to be Paritosh singing! We stepped into a boat and started paddling across the river. Anoop was lazily splashing the water when the boatman said that the crocs in the river were non vegetarian and he better keep his juicy arms to himself. We saw many bats who showed a lot of attitude because a joker like me had come near them. [:D]

Our next stop was the magnificent St. Philomena's church. It is built in neo-Gothic style. [picked that term from the net!] It is very beautiful. A must see if you go to Mysore. Next stop was for lunch. There i came across a guy selling hand fans made from sandalwood. At least what he claimed was sandalwood. He said Rs. 150 per piece. I said it was too much. He himself kept reducing the price until he came down to Rs 25 per piece. Now it was guaranteed that it was not sandalwood. Whew! One must be really careful when buying such stuff.

It was time for the highlight of the trip. The Kings had come to see their palace! It was enormous and beautiful. You could experience the opulence of the royalty first hand. Vast courtyards. Highly ornate architecture and beautifully carved furniture. For a moment I felt like a king. But then realized a freak like me could never be a king! But if I were a king, Himesh would be my court singer and Golden Star would be the dancer. [:D] Ok thats a little far fetched. Lets get back to reality. You can buy various souvenirs here. And everything seems to have some connection with sandalwood.

Next up was balmuri falls. The 'falls' turned out be a small dam with water flowing over it. All we could see where lots of pot bellied men frolicking in the water! Booze was flowing freely and many men came up to me asking if i wanted beer! Now neither do I look like a boozard nor do I have a beer belly. I wonder why they kept asking me. Oh BTW Kannada movies can be shot here for Rs 2750. Maybe one day i might return there as an actor!

The last stop was KRS dam and brindavan garden. We were not allowed to go on the top of the dam. That was a major let down as we expected to get beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. So we hung around the garden for a while waiting for the famed musical fountains show to begin. And boy, we were in for a major disappointment. The show was mediocre to say the least. I am sure the audience would have been more entertained if we had danced to the music instead of the fountains! We decided to leave after about 10min.

It was time to head home. The Mysore kings had a wonderful time. The palace and the church are the only worthwhile things to be seen in Mysore. But you have got to visit it if you are in Bangalore. And with this trip I have completed a hatrick of trips for the past three weekends!! Yo yo yo! Any suggestions for this weekend?