When the big and attractive Forum Mall opened in a busy and well connected(!) area of the town like Koramangala, it was evident that the Bangaloreans who just want to be out of their homes in the weekends are going to throng the place. So when a friend told me that she wanted to check out some vcds at Landmark in Forum on the first weekend of their opening, I warned her that it is likely to be so crowded that there will be more people than the number of vcds they have. It turned out pretty much that way. There were people on every inch of floor space and queues in billing were long enough to discourage us from buying anything at all. But fortunately we found some parking at the top floor and we were spared of the agonies of finding parking space. And we were glad to get out of the place very soon.
A few months passed and I was careful enough to avoid the place in weekends. Having been working in a place nearby means that I could visit the place as frequently as I wanted in the weekdays, which I did, and did not bother to look that way in the days of the rush. Even when I did go there in the weekends, it was in the morning hours or late hours which was alright. But my memory is not as good as it should be, and with the passage of time, I forgot all about it. And one day when I wanted to watch this movie Polar Express, I happened to choose a Sunday evening.
The movie was about to start at 7.30. I started from my place early enough keeping the evening traffic in mind. I reached the mall 10 minutes in advance and then the realization dawned that I had made a terrible mistake. All roads leading towards Forum were jammed. Traffic was moving at snail pace and the biggest problem - I see there was no parking space when I reached there.
The Hosur main road in Koramangala is like a maze. You get into it and then you see there are no escape routes. You get stuck with 'no right turn', 'no U turn', 'no left turn', nowheretogo boards at every inch of the road and you will be left with no options but to follow the traffic and desperately hope to reach someplace where you need to be. I ended up doing just that. I kept driving for next 30 minutes in first gear traffic and finally managed to reach the other side of the mall(diary circle entrance). What could well be 100mts and 2 minutes walk turned out to be 4kms and 30 mins journey in the car. Finally I parked on a shady lane and walked into the mall. I was in for a shock first when I saw the crowd inside the mall. You won't believe it - I had to wait in a queue to get into the escalator! I was already 15 minutes late for the movie, and then followed the frantic effort to call my friend who was waiting for me somewhere in the mall impatiently(“all lines in this route are busy” - what else do you expect with such big crowd out there?). Another 5 minutes and several attempts later we finally made it into the movie hall. And what a relief it was - to get into the comfort, air conditioning and quietness inside the hall! But it still remained that we missed the initial part of the movie. And now, trust me not to venture that side on a weekend evening!
It must be more than a month ago since I bought home a shiny new computer. Naturally the next thing to do with it was to plug it into the internet and start zipping on the information highway. 'Zipping', it turned out was not exactly the word. Expecting to spend lot of time online, I decided that I should go for a broadband connection. And since I did not have a landline, there was no question of getting a temporary dial up connection or making any other kind of stop-gap arrangement.
So I decided and thought of calling a few companies that offer broadband internet connection. I started with airtel, since they had many packages to choose from and I could go for the one that suits me well. And a friend had said that the speeds are good. So I call them, and they say a sales person will get in touch with me in a day's time. 3-4 days pass by and there is no response. I call again and then there is a new promise for the next day. Another 3-4 days pass by. Finally as I had given up on them, someone calls up and says that they don’t have facilities where I live.
Next I hear about bsnl's broadband services. No matter how much I try, there is no way to figure out whom to approach or what number to call. I give up.
There was a lull period when I got busy and more or less forgot about it.
Then came Tata Indicom who never bothered to respond. I called them thrice. Finally someone called back and said they can give me a connection. Wowee! After some desperation it seemed like a favor. I did not care for the fact that their tariff plans nowhere suited my needs and they asked bomb of a money as installation charges - non refundable. And I agreed - 'let me just get something in the first place, even if it is nonsense'. And then came the catch - they needed anything like 15 days lead time to come and install it! Well, thank you. Sometimes I get government jobs done faster!
I continue hunting. I call Sify, Hathway and Reliance. They all promised to get back to me within 24 hours. I wonder if broadband companies have a stretched perspective of time! The 24 hours never seemed to happen! After waiting long enough for each of them, I call them back only to get the good old response - sorry, sir! We don’t have facilities in your area! I started feeling that I may be living in a forest. Did anyone trick me to believe that I live in one of the old and well off localities of Bangalore? Was that all a dream? May be!
Sometime in the meanwhile, bsnl had announced broadband services kick off(again) and now at least they had published their call center number. There I see a ray of hope and call them - only to get engage tone forever. Very short-lived ray of hope!
Finally I have decided to buy a phone line and go for a dial-up connection, and one of the service providers have promised a quick action. Will I find some data trickling down into my comp in the days to come? Is there some hope left? Time alone can tell..
Some excerpts of what we heard from the tsunami hit areas. Non-verbatim, essentially summary of what we heard and saw. Not knowing Tamil, had to rely on getting summaries from other guys in the group who could speak Tamil.
"We would like to get back to work. We don't want to be in these relief camps for very long. We were all fairly well off people before the tsunami hit us but the waves have broken our boats and mangled our fishing nets. We would like to live normal lives and return to work at the earliest.."
"There were three huge waves. The first one was milder, water came to waist level. Fortunately this gave us some forewarning. We all went up to the safety of terrace of a house. And then the second big one struck us. It was as tall as the palm trees and brought death and destruction.."
"We quickly gathered ourselves behind a concrete wall that saved us from the waves. My daughter was almost pulled away by the tsunami. I got hold of her hair and pulled her back in.."
"We clutched ourselves to a palm tree. But the waves lashed so hard that my grand daughter's feet rocked repeatedly into a stone and injured the feet. She is getting treated in the hospital now.."
These were some of the things we heard at the villages we went to. After reaching Chennai and brainstorming for a few hours, we decided that it is better to head south to the areas that were most affected, instead of going around Chennai where lot of relief materials have already come in. We went to a few villages near Chidambaram and identified the needs of the people. Men were eager to return to work and in most need of fishing materials that were destroyed by the tsunami. With this in mind. we bought fishing nets and distributed among the people of Pillamedu village near Chidambaram. After consulting with AID India in Chennai, we also had carried a few sports materials such as cricket bats and volley balls to get the villagers to indulge into something and provide momentary relief from the aftermath. These were welcome very warmly by the people. We even managed to pitch in for a cricket match and a few more games with them. But the best moments turned out to be gathering the kids from a sea-side village and spending some time with them - getting them to draw something on papers with crayons and seeing them brightening up to their drawings.
Keep looking at the weblogs of Anita, Kiruba and Suman for more details. I promise to post a few pictures in the days to come.
There is still a lot of need for material help, donation and volunteers. AID India has been doing a great job in these areas and they have been very well organized and full of information. If you would like to help by any means contact them via their website - www.aidindia.org
Some of us will be traveling over the long weekend (Jan 14-16) to Chennai for the relief activities with a few friends. We will be working with Kiruba Shankar, who has been involved in such activities from Chennai. The activities will involve going to nearby villages, buy and distribute fishing nets, baby food, children school supplies, which Kiruba has already been doing for the last few days. Please check his blog for all the activities going on.
If you can, please do contribute for the cause. If you can help, please contact me immediately, before 13th evening at the email id - arunchs a t yahoo . com
The rough guide for South India said - "it is one of the best sunrises in the world that you can see". I figured they would not have been wrong when I was there. We jumped up with excitement("look! look!!") once we saw a pink ball of mass rising slowly on the horizon. In the moments that followed, we witnessed spellbinding visuals of Sun rising beyond the waves of hills painted orange by the sunrays. The hills and rocks of Hampi synchronized with the Sun and formed a picture in our eyes that I would never forget.
Photographed from Mathanga Parvatha, Hampi at the time of Sunrise.