Distances Are Measured In..

Musings as the monsoons approach….

 

How strange to live in a world (or shall I say, a city)

Where distances are measured not in units of length

But in units of time!!

So that when Kiran says

“I am at Bannerghatta. How far is your place?’

I say not ‘10 kms or 12 kms’

But ‘40 minutes–keep your fingers crossed’.

 

And distances depend on time of day and day of week!

So that when Pramod asks me on a Sunday afternoon

‘How long will it take me to get to your place?’

I say ‘I will put on the tea. You can be here in 10 minutes.’

But when his wife calls on Tuesday evening and asks me the same question,

I say ‘Oh, oh! Our other guests will be here in 15 minutes,

And its going to take you at least 45!’

 

They also depend on time of year

For after the monsoons, when the roads are more holes than road,

A 1 km stretch is a 15-minute ride

While in winter, with the roads freshly—if superficially—done up,

It is a whiz-past of 2 minutes!

 

And did you know, distances depend on who is in town?

For when the PM or the FM or any other M visits,

We count distances in hours, not in minutes.

 

My science teacher, who poor soul,

Lived in as high an ivory tower as is possible,

Will be most deeply disturbed

Because it seems

That nothing is absolute anymore!

 

–Meena Raghunathan

 

PS: I live in Bangalore, most notorious of all cities in regard to traffic. But many others are not far behind, unfortunately. When will we plan for sustainable cities?

CityScape SnapShots

Air–the poison we breathe Ads that sell Aspirations

Buildings Business Busyness 

Concrete jungles Crash Clatter Clash and Clamour

Dreams that draw millions from far and wide Dust and Depression

Emissions foul from Energy sources

Fast food Fast life Fast lanes at work and play

Garbage Garbage Garbage burying the Greenery

Heritage Habitats Hotels and Hovels

Islands of heat Islands of Isolation Islands of luxury amidst seas of slums

Job seekers Jump starters Jugaad makers

Kaleidoscope of colours, cuisines, communities and callings

Landfills Landladies Latchkey children Lifestyles

Malls and Multiplexes Mobile towers and Middle class aspirations

Noise Nightlife Non-functional essentials Nature in decline

Overload Overconsumption Overreaction…Over the top

Plastics Pavements that aren’t Parking battles where Parks used to be

Quality of life? Question mark indeed!

Roads with Roaring traffic Risks to Rare Ramblers

 Skeleton Scaffoldings Scavengers and Smog

Traffic jams Towers grow where Trees once stood

Ugly urban settlements Unplanned spaces Unruly crowds

Vendors Vandals  Vistas Vitiated

Windows that look out onto other Windows Water more precious than gold

Xerox shops at the corner X-ray shops   Xamination-prep shops   Xtremes of everything

Yuppies Yearnings Year-end discounts

Zero tolerance…road rage, warring neighbours, violence in speech and deed.

–Mamata

Rain, rain…

The Monsoon is scheduled to hit Kerala today, 29th May. Traditionally, in agriculture-based societies like ours, rain is a welcome phenomenon. Down the ages, music, art, dance, poetry in every part of India have celebrated the rains and the monsoon. There is a raga to bring rain. Lovers long for the rains. Literature celebrates the monsoons.

Even young urbanities, thanks to movies like ‘Lagaan’ will appreciate that rains are the lifeline for agriculture. And let us not forget that is not only the farmers who depend on the rains. The looming food crisis and rising prices of vegetables, fruit and produce has brought home very sharply that ultimately for everyone, it all goes back the land, to those who till the land, and to the rains.
In spite of all this, we urbanites have to admit that we are not happy to see the rains, except for the fact that it brings down temperatures. That could be attributed to two major reasons—(a) lack of preparedness of civic authorities to cope with the rains, and (b) our own increasing inability to put up with even minor inconveniences.
If the rains bring flooding to my street because the storm water drains are not kept in functional order; if manholes left open become death traps for people who are wading through knee deep water; if the roads are potholed and pitted after the rains and never mended; if improperly planned road dividers and badly leveled roads lead to stagnation and chaos—no wonder then that the normal city dweller fears the rainy season. If rains mean uncleared, rotting garbage all over; if rains mean frequent electricity cuts; if rains mean the threat of minor epidemics due to unsanitary conditions—no wonder then that we dislike the rains.
Is there anything unexpected about the rains? They come every year, on a fairly predictable date. The volume of rain is also forecasted—if not accurately, at least better than election results! Then why can our cities not prepare better? Should not every city and town worth its name have a regular plan of action to prepare for the rains? Civic authorities may say they have such plans, but isn’t the proof of the pudding in the eating?
Apart from civic authorities, we as individuals also love our comfort so much, that we cannot stand clothes drying inside the house; we cannot put up with rains disturbing our plans for an open air party; we don’t want the driver or maid to come in half-an-hour late because of the rain.
Rains bring joy; rains bring life to the land; rains are what make the world go round. Let’s bring back the joy of monsoon to our lives.
–Meena

DISTANCES ARE MEASURED IN?

How strange to live in a world (or shall I say, a city)

Where distances are measured not in units of length

But in units of time!!

So that when Kiran says

“I am at Bannerghatta. How far is your place?’

I say not ’10 kms or 12 kms’

But ’40 minutes–keep your fingers crossed.’

 

And distances depend on time of day and day of week!

So that when Pramod asks me on a Sunday afternoon

‘How long will it take me to get to your place?’

I say ‘I will put on the tea. You can be here in 10 minutes.’

But when his wife calls on Tuesday evening and asks me the same question,

I say ‘Oh, oh! Our other guests will be here in 15 minutes,

And its going to take you at least 45!’

 

They also depend on time of year

For after the monsoons, when the roads are more holes than road,

A 1 km stretch is a 15 minute ride

While in winter, with the roads freshly—if superficially—done up,

It is a whiz-past of 2 minutes!

 

And did you know, distances depend on who is in town?

For when the PM or the FM or any other M visits,

We count distances in hours, not in minutes.

 

My science teacher, who poor soul,

Lived in as high an ivory tower as is possible,

Will be most deeply disturbed

Because it seems

That nothing is absolute anymore!

–Meena