July 31, 2007

In criticism of Airtel...

Friends, Hyderabadis, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to criticize Airtel, not to praise it.
The evil that Airtel does lives on and on;
The good is oft interred with their schemes;
So let it be. The noble Airtel
Hath told us their schemes were just:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
And grievously hath I answer'd it.
By dumping Airtel and their schemes, --
Airtel seemed an honourable company;
So are they all, all honourable companies, --
Airtel, Hutch, Tata Indicom...

Come I to speak about Airtel and the rest.
They pretend to be our friends, faithful and just to us:
But the world says they are righteous;
And the world is full of honourable men.
Airtel hath brought many hapless people into their schemes.
Whose pre- and postpaids did their general coffers fill:
Did this in Airtel seem righteous?
When that the poor have cried, Airtel hath laughed:
Markets should be made of kinder stuff:
Yet they say the rates are competitive;
And they are all are honourable men.

You did see that there seems to be no relationship
Between recharge, talk time and validity
Any which way we look at it, we lose: is this justice?
Yet our leaders say this is righteous;
And, sure, they are honourable men.
I speak not to disprove what Airtel does,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
We all did love Airtel once, --not without cause:
What cause withholds you, then, to criticize them now?
O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason! --Bear with me;
My heart is in the right place and my head too,
And I must pause till things get better with the wired world.

(With due apologies to William Shakespeare, and thanks too, for the inspiration)

July 10, 2007

Earth sold out, now for the sky…

The new buzz word in Hyderabad is Lanco Hills, a futuristic ‘world in itself’, with residential flats, malls, entertainment centers, et al., much like what one hears about Ambi Valley near Mumbai. There are hoardings everywhere showing something like the New York City skyline, newspapers are full of ads, you sit in a restaurant and you hear people talking about how quickly property in Lanco Hills is being sold out. How residential flats were sold for Rs 15 crore for floors 1-5, and get lesser as one went up, and how a flat on the 60th floor was sold for Rs 80 lakhs…you choke in disgust.

Lanco Hills seems to represent the final blow to ordinary citizens like me…people who have been living a reasonably comfortable life in this city for the last 30 years. There have always been roads on which one could drive, there have been convenient galli kirana shops for provisions; there have always been interesting theatre and art activities to satisfy one’s soul, there have always been good eating joints, parks, movies…

Suddenly, the roads are too difficult to handle; galli kirana shops have been replaced by impersonal supermarkets with complex computer software that makes billing extremely time-consuming; plays are staged in five-star hotels and cost the sky; suddenly everything is so much more difficult. Something as simple as going to a movie…the multiplex is convenient, but you pay so much more and end up in row 1, 2 or 3. Never in my life have I seen a movie sitting in the front of the theatre, that too after paying the highest price. And this seems to be the accepted thing; no one seems to find anything wrong with it.

I just read an article in Outlook (16 July 2007) titled, “That side of the street” by Jeremy Seabrook. Talking about the trend to “bring Manhattan to Marine Drive, reshaping Bangalore or Hyderabad as Singapore”, he says, “It seems a pity that India, land of villages, cannot invent or imagine a city that is Indian, without reference to some gilded outstation of fantasy.”

Much as one wants to take change in one’s stride accepting it as inevitable, one does wonder, should change necessarily be in the direction of Lanco Hills? Is there no other way to do it?

Who is Lanco Hills for? Why does it make me feel that I am being driven out of the city?"

July 03, 2007

Madhumalai in April

I took this picture from the car, as we drove up the Mysore-Ootacamund road. The first sights and sounds of the Bandipur/Madhumalai forest, even though it was very dry, were exciting. And to spot an elephant walking on the road or a bison suddenly cross the road before you are worth the effort one puts into travel.

There are plenty of guest houses in this area, and it was difficult to choose one. We found one on the internet – Forest Hills Farm and Guest House, off Masinagudi in Madhumalai (http://foresthillsindia.com/). A little distance after Masinagudi, we took a right turn from the main road (there are signboards) and then drove deep into what was actually the jungle. There were large patches of emptiness, and other guest houses here and there as we drove closer and closer to the Nilgiris. Then suddenly everything was green, as we neared Forest Hills Farm.

We did not quite like the idea of going to a place not ‘tested’ by someone known to us, but the place turned out to be great – very homely atmosphere, with the owners, the Jains, coming over to talk to each of their guests, a bonfire in the nights, table tennis, swings, trekking guides, friendly dogs...and the food! I would go back there just for the food…it is awesome! Not five-starish, but delicious in a homely kind of way; the menu as though lovingly planned out by the wife/mother for her family.

We saw animals on and off, on the main road as we drove up, and during the safari we took – peacocks, deer, langurs, a bison and a family of elephants (these belonged to the Forest department).
The trek was great fun, and a bit scary too. We first saw a family of wild pigs. Then as we walked along, we kept spotting elephant dung here and there...immediately arose the question in one’s mind, ‘if there is dung, can the elephant be far ahead'?! Much as we were animal lovers, the thought of coming face to face with an elephant in the wild was not too welcome.

Then we came to a water point…it was a gorge, green and shady, and since it had rained the previous night, there was a small trickle of water coming down the rocks. It was beautiful. We rested there for a while, taking in the fresh air and the quiet, and then began climbing up the rocks once again. And then, suddenly, a carcass of a bison all eaten up, the hide hollowed out, with just the head, horns, legs and hooves intact. Again the question, ‘if there is a carcass, can a tiger or a panther be far ahead’? Our guide gently told us that the bison must’ve been eaten by a tiger…that it could be around somewhere, but since tigers were shy animals, nothing to worry. What?!!

We trekked back, sweating it out as the sun went higher, seeing nothing else as exciting as the dead bison, but spotting a porcupine quill, animal scratch marks on a tree, a lot more elephant dung and yes, even tiger dung!

The elephants and the tigers were, however, far far away…I guess.