Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cyberabadu, I am comingu

Jusht I hawe gaan for the Pearl city losht week. The dusty streets outside the airport that my taxi was crawling through made me wonder if anything had changed about it at all. I looked out of the window and saw the same dry rocky Hyderabadi landscapes, the same tumbledown buildings and the same people named NTRBSKV Maruthi Krishna Prasad that I remembered from my last trip many years ago.

I asked the taxi driver where the new face was Hyderabad was, and he very politely told me to shut up and wait. The crawling traffic was because of a flyover that would completely bypass most of Begumpet. As soon as we crossed the construction zone, my jaw dropped as I saw a huge field of petunias in the middle of a monstrous traffic island. Before I could react to it, we sailed down beautiful broad tree-lined roads with similar gargantuan traffic islands all the way. The sides had manicured lawns with buxom concrete maidens perpetually emptying their pots into gurgling ponds. Several multiplexes, restaurants and gorgeous roads later, I reached Banjara Hills, where my friends asked me anxiously if the traffic in Hyderabad was too stressful. I answered them with a half-awestruck, half-jealousy-crazed gurgle.

The 25 km trip from the center of town to Hi-tech city the next day was on similarly desi-ghee'ed roads. I dont think a teleporter could have gotten me across faster.The road dividers went completely crazy after a point, and housed dense artifically cultivated woods and japanese gardens. Huge flyover projects all along the way vied with each other for modernity. In fact one of them was going to be so modern that if you uttered the magic words "Jamakku thaa, Kasakku rro" into a mike at the top, robotic arms would swiftly pluck you off the flyover and place you on a vast mobile lawn where you could dance telugu duets with other commuters on your way to work.

And where do these splendid roads lead? Not really anywhere in particular. High Tech City (Cyberabad) at the end of the beautiful road turned out to be about 1/10th the size of e-city. Here is a shining example of a city that has geared up its infrastructure and is now rubbing its hands in glee waiting for business to pour in.

I was whisked off to the lake's edge by my lovely friends one evening for fun times and food. A huuuuuge food court on one side run by B.B.H.S.K. Rajasekhar Reddy and friends stretched out as far as eye could see, with tables all along the lake's edge. Spic and span, span and spic. Uff what a lovely. The pesarattu was ghastly but the view more than compensated! In the centre of the lake, a rather pointless looking Budhdha glowed yellowly at us while traffic buzzed about cheerfully on Necklace Road on the other side. Jushttu too beautiful I say. Chandrababu, pls come to Bengalooru. I'll even let you rename Cox Town V.V.S.B.S.U.M. Shastry Nagar if you wantu.

Hyderabadis have names 3 times longer than Bangaloreans and a third of their attitude. It's half as crowded and twice as efficient. Rents are low and the people laid back and courteous. Even auto drivers apologize for hours in charming Deccani Urdu about not having 1 rupee change. Commuting is a cinch, and the biriyani is, well, oily. The weather is slightly sad, the nightlife isn't spectacular and the Hyderabadi crowd is perhaps a little more mainstream-Indian than Bangalore's. But aside from that, why on earth isn't everybody moving to Hyderabad? Jusht I yam not undershtanding only.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Metro vs Retro!

I retrieved Tuesday's newspaper from the gutter yesterday, where my paperman had considerately left it. A box item at the bottom of the front page caught my eye. Work on the Metro rail is finally starting on MG Road. Yay. As a first step, the beautiful Bougainvillea lined promenade will be removed along with all its trees. Ah ok.

WHATTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!! Gulp, choke, gag! You cant "remove" the promenade!!! It's been there 75 years! I want the Metro very much but can you imagine MG Road without its beautiful promenade, the gorgeous pink bougainvillea bower at Anil Kumble circle and its tree-lined walkway? MG will turn into one of those dusty main streets in any old Indian town without it!!! You cant just "remove" a bangalore institution, Metro People!!

Surely we can do something to let both the old and the new survive?? We managed in 2005 though, when the towering mango trees in front of Bishop Cottons were being butchered. It was really heartening to see so many people keep vigil all night to stave off those timber contractors (who had obviousy greased a LOT of palms to get at the wood). Finally the corporation relented and spared 700 of the 750 trees that were slated for hacking.

If you hear of any rallies or protests, please please let me know. I cannot believe Bangalore can let this happen.


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The wind in the treez blowz a breez on me kneez

For those of you that thunderously applauded my last tree-blog, here is another. Those of you that did not, may kindly do the needful now. This blog is going to be about Bangalore's beautiful avenue trees that flower obligingly almost all through the year.

The Rain tree(Enterolobium saman) :Found everywhere in Bangalore, this enormous tree spreads a huge canopy over the streets and gardens it grows in. I’ve always imagined Enid Blyton’s Magic faraway Tree to be a cross between a giant Rain Tree and a towering Raspuri Mango. All year round, especially in June, it produces a gossamer web of delicate pink feathery flowers that slowly turn to giant seed pods that fall and melt into bumps on the roads. At night, the leaves fold into themselves, as the tree, along with all its resident bats, crows, mynahs, bulbuls and crickets, goes to sleep.
The most enormous Rain Trees in Bangalore certainly have to be the three giants at the Malleshwaram station, not to forget the goliath in front of the State Bank of India on St Marks Road.

The Rusty Shield Bearer (Or the Copper Pod Tree): (Peltophorum) Also ubiquitous to Bangalore’s streets, this big broad sturdy tree carpets roads and gardens with pretty yellow blossoms thrice a year. The flower stalks then produce rusty brown shield like pods that give this beauty its name. Caution: Ants – the big fat nasty ones, LOVE this tree, I couldn’t ever figure out why!

The peacock tree: (Caesalpinea pulcherrimma) This tough spiny shrub-tree produces bunches of beautiful yellow-orange flowers all through the year. It is especially fond of arid regions in North Karnataka and Andhra, but blooms with obliging regularity in Bangytown too. Right now, the small bunch of peeping out at the passing traffic on Chinnaswamy stadium road, is in full bloom.

The Champa: (Michelia champaca) Did you know that the Indian Champa is actually a magnolia? This tall beautiful mast like tree produces headily fragrant blooms through the year but mostly in the monsoon. A gorgeous lungful for all that pass by under it. Sampige road, named after the Champa trees planted along its side, especially in the 17th cross area, is the best place to view them.

Frangipani: (Plumeria) Definitely up there among Bangalore's beauteous bloomers . Blooms in a fragrant riot of colours all year round. This tree isn’t from India, and is often confused with the Indian Champa above, especially in the north. A huge copse of blood red Frangipani is in full bloom right now at the Nehru planetarium, as you drive past the Raj Bhavan towards Chalukya Hotel.

The Honge (or Pongam): (Pongamia) This stocky, unprepossessing tree-shrub is notorious for causing major skids on the roads with its carpet of oily lilac flowers. Interestingly, it has been proven to be India’s most cooling tree, and is therefore ideal for hot or dusty places.
The Queens Flower (Lagerstroemia): A beautiful specimen of this Western Ghat species sycophantically named named after Vickie Rani, is quite coincidentally in dramatic bloom in front of her statue at the beginning of MG Road.
Bauhinia (err.. Bauhinia) :This is an odd little tree that looks like a creeper that has coiled up around itself.It produces wispy pink and lilac flowers all year around. But its most beautiful features are its lovely heart shaped leaves. If I were Shakuntala, I’d write out my love note to Dushyanta on a Bauhinia leaf.