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Saturday, September 3, 2016

10 intra-Bengaluru trains that could hugely decongest road traffic, if introduced [ especially #8,#9 & #10 ]


Okay, so this one's a serious post, after quite some time. And this is about something that has been on my mind since years - ever since the Garden City of Bangalore, where one could go from anywhere to anywhere in not more than 30 minutes, became the IT-City Bengaluru, where no one can go from anywhere to anywhere in less than 30 minutes. Growing up in this home city, even as I've seen the Metro rail from start to the state it is in right now, I've always wondered why this was never done. But I never gave too much thought to it, until today, when I read this article by Srikanth Ramakrishnan for Swarajya.

My friend Tejaswi had also written an article on this a while ago.

Image via gaadi.com
When I read that, I really felt like I should write this out. Over the years, we've seen Bengaluru just submerged in congestion, traffic and chaos. What's the reason? The IT Boom? Population explosion due to massive immigration? Unprecedented real-estate growth thereby? Apathy by the administration? Fundamentally ridiculous urban planning? All of the above?

Even as clueless successive governments have been looking at flyovers, adding more buses, looking at metro rail etc etc without managing to significantly solve the problem, hardly a day goes when we don't hear of perennial traffic at Silk Board, Jayadeva Flyover, Electronic City, KR Puram Bridge, Whitefield, Marathalli, Bellandur, Airport Road, Yeshwanthpur, Malleshwaram and so on. In other words, there is hardly a big area in Bengaluru that is bereft of traffic congestion.

It pains one to see that people are living away from their families these days, in areas close to their offices because that's just how unbearable the commute in traffic is.

We need to address this problem alright, but it is more important to address it fast. REAL FAST. The more slowly this is acted upon, it only gets worse, because by the time the problem is really solved, the sharp rise in population by then would itself render the solution close to useless. A classic example is the Namma Metro Purple line that has been opened. The line was planned for the late 90s or early 2000s, when the city limits of Bengaluru did not cross Nayandahalli and Baiyappannahalli. But thanks to its painfully slow execution, by the time it was up and running, the city had expanded far beyond these 2 stations, leaving residents asking for a lot more than this stretch. The same thing will happen with the Nagasandra - Puttenahalli stretch - people have already occupied areas like Nelamangala and Jakkasandra.

So what really is a practical solution to Bengaluru's seemingly unceasing congestion on the roads?
More use of public transport? Carpooling? Ola Share / Shuttle? Bicycles? Sure, sounds good on paper. But is it practical? No, you can't expect every citizen to follow all these things. We don't live in an ideal world.

More metro rail lines? Sure! I stay in Rajarajeshwarinagar and if I've to get to MG Road or Indiranagar, I don't think twice at all. I head to the Mysuru Road metro station and go tension-free on the Purple metro line. All lovely. But more metro lines only mean that if we start in 2016, we're only going to have them by 2026 - this effectively means a repetition of the Purple Line error. Considering the sheer pace at which the city is expanding, it wouldn't be the best solution.

Although not flawless, the most practical as well as cost-saving solution at this point is, yes, you've probably heard this a million times by now - Suburban Rail. The thing with metro lines or light rails is - you again have to invest in a LOT of things - acquiring land, felling trees, digging underground, constructing the rail line, procuring coaches etc etc etc.

But with suburban rail, these are the advantages:
1. You already have the rail lines.
2. No worries about land acquisition.
3. No time wastage with regard to construction.
4. No felling trees / no digging underground.
5. No inconvenience whatsoever to existing commuters.

The ONLY and ONLY thing needed is - additional passenger trains. Compare the cost and time of introducing just a few additional trains with all that I listed above.
The choice can't be more obvious!

Sure, this means increase in rail traffic and more waiting at railway crossings, but this can definitely be and should definitely be traded off for the benefit it is going to bring to tens of thousands of commuters every single day! - and to the city itself thereby.

Now, before anyone nitpicks, let me tell you that this list is an inference based on just common sense and a cursory look at Bengaluru's railway lines map. This is not data-based: I do not, at this point, have any real data of how many users this could benefit and how much traffic could be reduced - there is no math, there are no concrete figures.

I'm just inferring based on what I've observed, so there is every possibility that I could be off the mark at some places. In other words, it's a bit like what most Indian journalists do these days - write narratives as opposed to facts :P

Anyway, here are 10 routes that I've come up with. Now, if trains are introduced on these routes, even as little as twice or thrice a day ( especially during peak hours ), it will go a long way in decongesting Namma Bengaluru. At least some of these routes can be introduced, given how underutilized some of the existing stations are.

1. Bidadi - Nelamangala ( via KSR Bengaluru, Malleshwaram, Yeshwanthpur )

This will benefit a large number of people residing on Mysore Road as well as those near Peenya. This will majorly connect 2 highways - Mysore Road and Tumkur Road.

Being in RR Nagar, I always cringe at the very thought of getting to Malleshwaram or Yeshwanthpur whenever I have to. There is absolutely no way I can get to these places in less than an hour.
I will always get caught at the Tumkur Road signal for at least 45 minutes to 1 and a half hours. You won't believe, I had to miss my close friend's wedding once, because of traffic at this signal!

Let's analyze the kind of people who would be benefited if this train is introduced, through these existing stations:

a. Bidadi: Factory workers, Innovative Film City visitors, Nithyananda devotees
b. Hejjala: Wonder La visitors.
c. Kengeri: All the residents of Kengeri Satellite Town, Big Banyan Tree tourists
d. Gnanabharathi: RV College students & staff, Global Village Tech Park employees, Bengaluru University students & staff, RR Nagar & Nagarbhavi residents. A HUGE number, this will be an important station
e. Nayandahalli: RR Nagar, Nagarbhavi, Chandra Layout residents ( makeshift stations - just 2 platforms constructed at RPC layout + ETA mall would be even better for residents there ), will benefit students & staff of PESIT and many other neighboring colleges - another KEY station.
f. KSR Bengaluru: Who will not be benefited by coming here? :)
g. Malleswaram: Again, an area that a LOT of people will want to go to. ( Just imagine, from Gnanabharathi, if I catch this train, I should reach Malleshwaram in as early as half an hour! )
h. Yeshwanthpur: Again, a high-importance area..a lot of people will be benefited by this.
i. Nelamangala: A lot of colleges and industries are in this area, will be greatly beneficial for students and workers alike.

Even just 3 trains - once in the morning peak hour, once in the afternoon and once in the evening peak hour would be very helpful in reducing traffic on Tumkur Road as well as on NICE road.

2. Bidadi - Whitefield ( via KSR Bengaluru, Cantonment, Baiyappanahalli, KR Puram )

This will greatly help all those on Mysore Road get to the Eastern limits of Bengaluru.
The very thought of going to Whitefield from RR Nagar makes me want to faint - I've to either go via Mysore Road, MG Road etc, which once took me 3 and a half hours! Or via Hebbal flyover, which might take over 2 hours, if I'm lucky. Either way, I will definitely incur the wrath of Tin Factory!

A train on this line, from Bidadi to Whitefield via KSR Bengaluru, Cantonment and KR Puram, the route taken by Mysuru - Chennai trains will greatly, greatly benefit a large number of people. This is much, much needed.

3. Nelamangala- Whitefield ( via Yeshwanthpur, KSR Bengaluru)

This will connect North-West Bengaluru to East Bengaluru
If one wants to travel from Nelamangala to Whitefield now in the least possible time, it's rather painful - somehow travel up to Nagasandra, take the green line from there up to Mantri Mall, take a bus from there to Majestic, take the Purple Line to Baiyappanahalli and a bus from there. Phew! Painful, indeed.

A direct train along this route will do wonders.

4. Nelamangala - Heelalige ( via Yeshwanthpur, Lottegollahalli, Hebbal, Banaswadi, Bellandur )

Apart from Whitefield, which are the areas in Bengaluru which are super congested now? Marathalli and Electronic City.

This route will be a direct connection between North-West and South-East. Just imagine the number of employees, especially IT employees that could be benefited by this route - this should massively reduce traffic on Old Airport Road. A number of people wanting to get to Marathalli from the north-west side and vice-versa will be benefited by this.


5. Bidadi - Heelalige ( via KSR Bengaluru, Baiyappanahalli, Bellandur )

Similar to the previous one - this will be a direct route linking areas near Mysore Road to Bellandur and Electronic City - this will massively reduce dependence on the NICE road as well as the Old Airport Road. A huge boost!






6. Bidadi - Banaswadi ( via KSR Bengaluru, Yeshwanthpur, Hebbal )

Should easily help folks wanting to get to Hebbal from Mysore Road side and vice-versa. Will massively reduce dependence on the ring road.












7. Whitefield - Heelalige ( via Baiyappanahalli, Bellandur )

A direct route linking 2 major IT hubs of the city - will be a great boon for the IT population.





















ROUTES TO THE AIRPORT: ( SHOULD BE INTRODUCED WITH HIGHEST PRIORITY )

As if there isn't enough traffic in Bengaluru City already, another worst nightmare of any Bengaluru resident is traveling to the airport. In most cases, flying from Bengaluru to another city / country takes lesser time than commuting from one's house to the airport - that's how ridiculously far it is.

Taking the BIAL bus is possible only when one has oodles of time at his disposal. Otherwise, one has to almost always rely on cabs, which can take anywhere between 1 and a half to 2 hours to get to the airport, depending on where one is staying

So what's the solution for a quick commute to the airport? AGAIN, it is suburban rail - we already have a beautiful rail route that goes by the airport. Why not leverage this?

Every major city in the world has rail connectivity to its airport. Bengaluru, despite being a world class city shamefully does not have direct train link to the airport - if this isn't a real shame for the city, nothing else is!

Apart from trains, the only thing extra needed in this case would be a small railway station at the airport. That is still fine. After all, how much would it possibly take to construct 2 platforms, a ticket counter and 2 station boards? The ideal location to construct this station would be this:

The KIAL railway station could be built on either of the 2 locations marked by the red lines.
These trains, while primarily serving the purpose of airport commute, can be extended up to Nandi Halt - if done, this would also serve the purpose of carrying all tourists to Nandi Hills as well. When you're doing so much, you might as well extend the train up to Nandi Halt, right? It is hardly going to take 10 minutes extra, commute-time wise.

It would be great if these trains are operational round the clock, with many international flights departing in the middle of the night. Imagine zooming to the airport in less than an hour, sans any traffic whatsoever! An absolute dream it would be, wouldn't it?

8. Bidadi - Nandi Halt ( via KSR Bengaluru, Yeshwantpur, Lottegollahalli, Yelahanka, KIAL )

The whole of Mysore Road can easily commute to the airport and Nandi Hills if this route is started. Imagine going to these areas in a matter of an hour, without worrying any bit about traffic!

There are 2 ways of implementing this connection - 1 through Yeshwanthpur ( recommended ) and the other through Baiyyappanahalli ( because this station will / should already facilitate the connection from Heelalige, check below )




9. Heelalige - Nandi Halt ( via Baiyappanahalli, Channasandra, Yelahanka, KIAL )

With a majority of the IT population residing in the Electronic City area and with the IT population more likely to take flights than the average Bengalurean, this link would prove to be extremely extremely effective.



10. Whitefield - Nandi Halt ( via KR Puram, Yelahanka, KIAL )

Again, this is as crucial as the Electronic City - Airport link. These 2 routes alone should be enough to get a lot of cars off the airport road highway.



So yes, that's that - In my opinion, if these trains are introduced in reasonable frequency, this should get a lot of people away from the road and go closer to making Bengaluru the free, decongested paradise that it once used to be. Please think about it, Shri Suresh Prabhu, Shri Siddaramaiah and the Railway Ministry officials concerned.

Please feel free to correct me in places where I've gone wrong or if I've said anything that is impractical, or even to suggest any other route that you think should be leveraged.

The other solution we could look at - taking a leaf out of Nitin Gadkari's book. No matter how bizarre this sounds, why not look into the possibility of having air-conditioned boats plying on the city's drains? That'll probably be my next post. Sure, laugh your stomach out at this idea, but remember - Bengaluru's traffic will have the last laugh if nothing is done :)

Thanks and regards,
Ashwin.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kudos, SPB!

I have not posted anything on this blog since Dec 2014 and that must give you an idea of how thoughtless my mind has been. Not really, actually. There have been several issues on which I've had strong opinions, but none that made me feel like spending the time to sit and write an entire blog post about.

And today, that long hiatus has been broken. I stumbled upon this video of my all-time favorite male singer (in Tamil at least), SP Balasubrahmanyam voicing his thoughts to Bosskey about today's music scene. With this one video, I'm sure SPB has touched a chord and resonated with more hearts than any of his recent songs would have.

Whatever I've written below has been there in my mind for about 2-3 years at least, ever since I started attempting popular film songs. But I just didn't feel like telling anyone about it, because I just didn't / don't feel anyone would even want to waste time reading it :P

But this one video of SPB really made me feel like telling this all out and getting it out of my mind.
It doesn't matter if anyone is going to read it or not, I just felt like writing this out, so here it is, anyway :D

Coming to the video, truer words have never been spoken. Especially his statement on Vidyasagar - echoed many people's thoughts, I'm sure! Just listen to Vidyasagar's recent Malayalam album "Anarkali" and compare it with the kind of music that's coming these days otherwise - that's EXACTLY what SPB is talking about.

I'm not musically trained at all, I've not learned music.
The very minuscule bit of what I'm able to do with my Yamaha keyboard and loud, noisy voice is mainly a result of God's will and some high passion from my end.

Yet, people sometimes ask me why I don't use a proper microphone, do studio recordings etc etc - this is precisely the reason. No offence intended to those doing these, but IMO, I find these so-called "cover versions" that come out these days, recorded and filmed in studios & then digitally altered, mixed etc etc slightly pretentious. Again, the singers who do these cover versions are probably really talented and skilled, no comments on them. It's just the process that I find a little pretentious.

It's very easy for me or for anyone to play and record music note by note, record my voice line by line (this is what I did in the so-called background music that I had done for a couple of short films) & accompany it with auto-tune, may be, while filming all of the recording process. And then when the recording is done, mix the recorded bits all up and then do a similar video compilation and publish it as a "cover version" and get tens of thousands of views.

But I just don't feel like doing so. I know I'm not some great singer or something, but I don't think that the little bit of what I hum will ever improve if I just keep on recording line by line. Likewise, I'm no Yanni, but I don't think my little bit of keyboard playing ability will ever improve if I kept recording line by line or note by note.

That's why in all my attempts of film songs (until now and in future), I always put a simple digicam in front of me, start recording, do the whole thing in 1 take and then stop recording. If I make a mistake somewhere, I stop and record all the way from the beginning. I then publish on Youtube, the final full take that, to me, is at least not pathetic even if not good :P.

Painstaking, I know, but this 1-take mechanism is the way songs used to be recorded long ago and that's how SPB and his generation of singers (Yesudas & the immediate next generation too, like Hariharan, Unni Menon etc etc) became such legends, who can sing so flawlessly at any stage, any time, without going off pitch even a teeny weeny bit.

I obviously am not and won't be a great singer ever, but I at least want to be someone who genuinely tried / tries to improve his stuff without digital assistance / technologically lazing or dumbing down.

Thank you for speaking my heart out, SPB! And for making me do it as well! :)

That's all. To those who actually read my long rant, thank you for your patience and time :)

- Ashwin.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Solo Tour Diary: Trip 3 - Coastal Karnataka - Day 3 - Murudeshwara Dhenu Atithya's "Gou Pooje", Gokarna

Continued from Day 2.

I woke up at around 6.15 am again. I had my plan ready:

Get ready by 7.30 am, eat breakfast by 8 am, attend the hotel Dhenu Athithya's "Gou Pooje" by 8.30 am and leave ASAP to reach Gokarna by 11.30 am maximum.

Once I reach Gokarna, I would cover the Mahabaleshwar and Mahaganapathi temples there, head to Kudle beach, have lunch there, take a boat to Paradise beach, trek back to Half-Moon beach, watch sunset at Om Beach and head back to the checkpost to catch my Bangalore-bound bus at 7.15 pm.

The good thing with a solo trip is that 99% of the time, things always go according to your plan. But sometimes, there's the 1% of the time where they don't :D ...Day 3 was one such day.

I got ready by 7.30 am, had 2 lovely idlis for breakfast at the in-house restaurant. I decided I would go easy on the last day and not hog much, because I had to travel at night and I would not have a good bathroom until Monday morning when I would reach home :P (I'm saying this because I had a not-so-good experience on the last day of my South Tamil Nadu solo trip! :D)

So yes, I was all set and waiting for the pooja to begin, but it began at Indian Standard Time :D - By the time it began, it was 8.45 am. But I whiled away time until then by playing with the cow and the calf :)





Getting a cow to pose for a selfie is an extremely, extremely difficult task on earth.


But getting a calf, not difficult at all :D



Anyway, the pooja began at 8.45 am. I was a bit excited - I'd never seen or performed this sort of pooja ever in my life. This was going to be the first time. It was quite good. A few other hotel residents too, took part.

For the first time in my trip, after the selfie overdose, I found someone else to click a photo of me :D Thanks to the hotel receptionist for clicking this:





By the time the pooja got over, it was 9.15 am. I rushed up to my room, picked my stuff and checked out. Across the road, there was a mini-van waiting to go to Honnavar. We reached Honnavar at around 10.15 am if I'm not wrong, passing through the Sharavathi river.


By this time, I knew that I had to change my plan a little, because both temples close by 12.30 pm. I decided to have lunch at Om beach and then witness sunset at Kudle beach instead. From Honnavar, I had to take another bus to Kumta. We reached Kumta by 11.20 am I think. From there, I had to take another bus to Gokarna. By the time we reached Gokarna, it was 12.15 pm.

I was amazed when I saw Gokarna - very very small roads, very very small buildings and foreigners all over! It was like stepping into some totally different, European country altogether!

Anyway, I walked along the street, it was quite hot. I finally reached the Mahaganapathi temple, which, to my pleasant surprise, was open. So I went in there and had my darshan. Men have to remove their t-shirts before entering the sanctum. The darshan costs 1 Rupee. That got over soon.


But the Mahabaleshwar temple was closed by then. The crowd of people waiting outside said that the next darshan would only be at 2 pm. I didn't want to waste time until then. I had only 5-6 hours in Gokarna, I had to cover as much as I could. I walked from there to Kotitheertha - it is about a 5-10 minute walk.


I also came back and saw the Gokarna beach. It wasn't great - it was a bit dirty and moreover, quite hot.


I walked back and decided to go to Kudle beach. This walk was longer than I expected and more tiring than I expected :D




It was hot and it was quite a deserted trail. Occasionally, a vehicle or two would go on the road. Else, it's a lonely walk. When you finally reach the beach, you go down another green-covered route which will make you feel like you're in the Outback racing track (NFS-2, anyone?)


You finally enter the beach, from right next to the Pizzeria cafe. I was too starved by then, so I decided to eat there itself. I would've ideally liked some curd rice somewhere, but this was like a European country :P So after going through the menu, I ordered a Cheese Mushroom Omlette.


I then took a walk up to the other end of Kudle beach and then walked back. Frankly, after seeing such deserted, calm beaches, seeing such a crowded beach sort of dampened my spirits. I saw groups of Indians and foreigners having fun, just relaxing by the beach side and enjoying beer. For the first time in my trip, I began to feel like I was a misfit there :D ...I absolutely didn't mind ogling at the bikini-clad foreigners though :P :P




It was about 2.30 pm I think. Once back to the auto stand, I took an auto to the Mahabaleshwar temple. The driver said that it would open only at 5 pm next. So I asked him to head to Om Beach instead. Now the drive to Om Beach is pretty long-winded through a hilly, curvy road and it takes about 20 minutes to get there. The auto driver charged 150 Rupees. Kind of a fleece, yes, but I had no choice! So I reached Om Beach. The driver said that he himself would wait for me there, without any waiting charge. I told him I would take at least an hour and a half. He didn't mind :)


So I went down towards the much-hyped Om beach and it was a good view. Once I got down, it was a similar feeling - quite a crowded beach, lot of foreigners and groups of friends playing frisbee, or sitting and enjoying beer or couples doing the same.






That's when I realized that Gokarna is simply NOT the place for a solo trip. Gokarna is the kinda place you should visit with your friends or with your partner. It's the kinda place where you just sit by the beach all day, enjoy your beer and do absolutely nothing. It's not the kinda place you want to do sight-seeing in. It's the kinda place that'll only make you feel more lonely, if you're a solo traveler :D

I walked along the beach to the other end, kept clicking pics and walked back. I briefly sat at Namaste Cafe and had a watermelon juice. I decided to cut out Half-Moon beach and Paradise beach from my plan, as I felt it really wasn't worth going all the way. I didn't quite enjoy the famed beaches themselves, there was less probability that I'd enjoy the ones that were known for being inhabited only by foreigners.

So I walked back to the auto stand by around 4 pm. The auto-driver showed me a cave near Kudle beach, inside which there was a temple.



He also showed me a famous hole in the hall that apparently has water 24*7*365.


From there, we headed to the temple. It was another 150 bucks :-/

I had half an hour to kill until the darshan began at 5. So I walked to the Gokarna beach and sat there in one of the benches. At around 4.45 pm, I headed to the Mahabaleshwar temple, waited in the long queue that had already been formed. The queue, however, moved fast and I was out by 5.30 pm. Males are supposed to remove their tshirts on entry. This was a very weird darshan - in the sanctum, people had to go on their knees, put their hands in some sort of a tumbler and touch the soaked lentils in the water. I had never heard of such a thing before :) Anyway, I was out.


My bus was only at 7.15 pm, so I decided to catch sunset at the Gokarna beach itself.


And as the clock struck 6 pm, I witnessed an amazing sunset, which FINALLY gave me some reason to cheer, in this otherwise, pretty lackluster Gokarna leg of my trip :)







After the sunset, I walked all the way back to the checkpost - at least 1.5 km and found my VRL bus waiting there. I decided to have a light meal before boarding. I found Hotel Shivaprasad there - I had read good reviews of this lodge while researching about Gokarna. So I went in and had 2 idlis. They tasted BAD! :-/ What to do? I had no other choice! :)

Anyway, I boarded the VRL sleeper bus - it was extremely good, far more comfortable than the Durgamba sleeper bus and we soon started off. I reached RR Nagar gate, Bangalore the next day`at 7 am.

Phew! That ends another highly memorable, highly refreshing, hugely satisfying, exhilarating and more than anything, amazingly detoxifying solo trip :) As I typed this travelogue series, I was and am still reeling in the travel hangover :)

But as I said earlier, the only way to beat travel hangover is to plan your next trip! :D
And I think I should get on it soon! :)

That's about it, folks. For those of you who've read until the end, thank you very much for your patience! :)

Until the next solo trip,
Cheers,
Ashwin.