Friday, July 30, 2010

Traffic, the talking continues

Responding to The Bride's comment, I realised I might as well write a new post.

Bribes, here is my problem: the point of fines is to punish people for contravening a social contract, and act as a deterrent from making those violations. By this definition, yes it doesn't matter.

I'm letting my objection to violating said social contract stay out of this.

The other thing with fines is, they are a source of income, along with taxes, which many people evade in India. Those fines end up paying for flyovers, repairing potholes, building pavements, buying buses, etc. Granted, with corruption etc possibly half that money reaches its destination, if not less. Again, set aside the problems with corruption and suchlike. To have the kind of infrastructure one wants from a city, to have an MTR, you need the fines to go to the government, because the more that goes in, the more that eventually makes it way to the destination.

That's why I always pay fines.

They went through this period where they were writing down the license numbers of cars who ran traffic lights, parked illegally etc. But of course we were all bothered by this because frankly what's to stop someone from just making up a number or randomly picking numbers to have a quota filled? Camera surveillance is the best option there. But cameras are expensive to install at traffic intersections etc, and don't work for parking violations and so on. They did install a few here and there, but they hit upon the simple yet brilliant solution of giving the cops digital cameras. So one is now treated to the sight of a policeman slowly walking down the street in a measured way, taking a photograph of every car that's violating parking regulations. Some time later said person will receive a complicated legal letter that allows him/her, among other things, the option of compounding the offence* by paying the fine. Hilarious, no? But effective.

They also have them at major intersections with a lot of violations in a particular direction. By them I mean the skinny cop with his trusty digital camera, taking pictures of people running lights, etc. I've often wondered if I could just take a few myself of people driving the wrong way, making illegal u-turns on the flyovers, etc., and submit them. The next step maybe? Perhaps if Chandrababu Naidu was around with his e-obsession.

One thing that worries Appa occasionally is how, if you promptly pay the fine, you seem to get more. Of course they have photographic evidence of the violation, but there are about 5 people committing it at the same time as you, so do they send you the ticket because they know you'll pay? While I agree that if you've committed a violation you should indeed pay, the trouble is that half the time it's extremely difficult to know you're committing one. Many of the major traffic lights in our side of town are off most of the time, with a policeman directing traffic. Often there's one directing even when the light IS on, and if the cop is waving you through to run the light, can they then ticket you for it? There are lots of these weird lights on T-junctions, where the people going along the top of the T shouldn't have to stop, but the light will be red, and if you DO stop a cop will furiously wave you which of those lights are supposed to be obeyed and which aren't?


*Yup, compounding. I did a few double takes myself, and though wait they DON'T want me to pay? But BBot explained to me that there's a complicated and clearly archaic nomenclature in place that defines offences are compoundable and non-compoundable, where compoundable offences can be adjudicated by the police inspector/superintendent and can be settled by pootling down to the station and paying your fine. Non-compoundable ones have to go to court.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Traffic. No, really, this is RIDICULOUS!

This morning, driving to work at a more normal hour than my usual 1pm, I found myself stuck in traffic. Insane traffic. I travelled all of half a kilometre in 40 minutes. Really. Mind you, this wasn't technically rush hour, it was past rush hour - 1030am. Granted, it rained and everything falls apart when it rains, but for heaven's sake! All that road widening and we're still stuck in traffic as bad as it was when they were building the flyovers...

Anyway, there I was, sitting in standing traffic, unable to read my book, and cursed with racing the engine since Roxy's new trick is to protest stop and go traffic by dying if left in neutral after about half an hour. Once I finished swearing in six languages, I began to think of solutions.

The first one that came to mind was the good old, odd numbers on M, W, F and evens on T, T, S. anyone on Sunday. That's a little hard to implement, as is anything in Hyderabad, because well who's going to catch the people breaking the rule and fine them and not let them get away with a bribe? These solutions only work in internally panopticonised* worlds, and India is definitely not one of them.

Then I remembered those glorious two days when the call centre cabs were on strike. The roads were empty. I tried desultorily to google information on this, but I couldn't find any (BBot, DiscoDancer, volunteering?) so I'm going to say one third to half of the four wheelers on the roads in Hyderabad are owned by companies who provide transport to the multinationals who have their BPOS in the city, and spend their days transporting copious quantities of call centre workers to and from various points. These guys are hellions, and commit on average one traffic violation every ten minutes. How about if we averaged that to about two an hour and totted up the amount of money the city should be getting in fines, and imposed it as a tax on either the companies who run the cabs, or the ones who use them?

Half of that money could go STRAIGHT into upping the salaries of traffic policemen. That would give them some incentive to not accept bribes. One quarter could go into snipers who shoot tranquilizer darts at every two wheeler that commits a violation. Said driver will wake up bound and gagged somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Ok, ok, I'm kidding. Though I think we could also apply the average violation tax to two wheelers and autos... So, one quarter could go into infrastructure - drains, maintaining the roads, building pavements etc. The rest should go into building an overhead light rail metro.

Eventually, buses should become free, and taxes on other vehicles should be enough to run the public transport system.

Of course, eventually, global warming will end, as will war.

Till such time, I think I'm going to telecommute.

P.S. I forgot, if they banned municipal vehicles and staff on the arterial roads between 6am and 11pm it would help a lot. The pyschokiller garbage trucks are terrible, the street cleaning trucks are terrifying and nothing is scarier than making a turn to have to screech to a halt cos there's a little old lady in a visibility "vest" wielding hr broom.

*I actually think this is fascinating. I alway thought the idea came from Foucault, but I think I might be mistaken. However, I think that this Panopticon has been so neatly internalised in Western society that one would never dream of doing something wrong even if there were no witnesses, because we each have our personal prison supervisor in our heads. This is also why, of course, the honour system works, and cheaters have so much to win.


Two news items in today's Hindu have provoked much argh, though one more than the other.

I caught sight of an article putting Sachin Tendulkar and Shah Rukh Khan in the same boat as being intrinsic to Indian culture. Now, I'm not arguing with the importance of film to pop culture in India (and surely they refer to pop cultura, not that I'm dissing pop culture either), but even to such a cricket non-enthusiast as me the idea of putting them on the same platform is a titch ridiculous. I can't stand SRK, but putting that aside, the man has some talent and a REALLY good sales pitch. He knows how to read the audience and give them exactly what they want. And let's not forget the PR. Sachin, on the other hand, is mindbogglingly talented and has honed that talent to such blistering skill that it leaves me fair gasping - and I don't even LIKE cricket! Subject them, I say, to the radio test. If we had no TV and only radio, would SRK be as much as a celebrity as he is? Would Sachin?


The second item was a heartbreaking piece on the planned and apparently now confirmed reintroduction of cheetahs into central India. The horror.

Now, any sort of environmental conservation effort should be viewed optimistically, because we are a country with limited resources and far more pressing demands, like poverty and education and so on. However, it pays to turn the occasional jaundiced eye on our efforts. There was the wonderful idea of reforesting Karnataka with eucalyptus, which isn't native, doesn't really provide much protection from erosion, and drains the groundwater so much that remaining native vegetation dies. That was stopped, mercifully.

The latest brilliant idea is this cheetah one. I'll leave the dissection of Mr. Jairam Ramesh's masterful articulation of WHY this needs to be done for later. Has it not occurred to anyone anywhere that reintroducing a powerful predator that was on the decline for several years before it finally gave up the ghost into regions that have now evolved without it might upset things a bit?

Secondly, why the North African cheetah? If you're going to spend Rs. 300 crore on a project, how about investing in some breeding pairs and trying to do something in captivity before introducing a similar yes distinct subspecies into the wild? Or maybe even do it parallel? Existing wildlife sanctuaries in India struggle terribly with poaching, and less dramatically, the spilling over of humans and livestock into sanctuary areas and of protected species into buffer areas. Why not use that Rs. 300 crore to rehabilitate people and establish a more enduring system of reserves? From what I can tell, Kanha is one of the few that succeeds and even they see some serious trouble with poachers.
(Feel free to yell at me if I'm talking through my hat.)

And now, of course, we come to the gem that emerges from the sainted lips of His Pompousness Mr. Ramesh:

“It is important to bring cheetah back to our country. This is perhaps the only mammal whose name has been derived from Sanskrit language. It comes from the word chitraku which means spots. The way tiger restores forest ecosystem, snow leopard restores mountain ecosystem, Gangetic dolphin restores waters in the rivers, the cheetah will restore grasslands of the country.”

I'm not going into the epileptic fit that grammar induced in me, and am going to lay the blame, probably rightly, at The Hindu's door. But really? We must bring the chetah back because it's name comes from Sanskrit? REALLY? THAT'S what we should base our conservation efforts on?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

L is for the Way you Look at Me

Ah supersize me. I have realised I need a pretty girl to attract men who will then be exposed to stunning by my stunning personality.

Written a long long time ago, back in 2006 I think, I never finished this post. But I still think it's true. BBot, before you freak out, I'm not on the lookout =)

But. I've noticed that, whether male or female, if one is not conventionally attractive, it helps to have a hot friend who attracts tons of attention and then you can get the leftovers. Only, it doesn't work for girls. By which I mean that if I end up in a conversation with a non-hot boy whose hot friend got my attention, then I'm quite likely to forget the hot friend if we connect. Never seen it happen that way to a guy.

I LOVE the transparent idea

in bloggers new templates, but I don't appreciate being forced to use their images. For now I had to choose between two. This is option one, and highly appropriate too. What say?

Edit: Yay, fixed it! Apparently all you need to do is go into your dashboard, scroll to the bottom and select blogger in draft under tools. You can keep the draft dashboard by checking the box on top once it reloads. Then, in the Template Designer, you can upload a photo. The size requirements are complicated, so go to Imgur and upload and resize as ye wish. Download the resized photo and then delete it from imgur.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Could it be that air travel in the US got a titch better?

Pardon any racism I seem to emanate, it's not intentional.

Boarding my flight to Duffai, I noticed that somehow security chec doesn't suck so much anymore. Maybe it's cos we've gotten SO good at the stack belongings, pop out computer, remove belt and shoes, display liquids and shuffle in an insanely slow line. Maybe cos the TSA is nicer. No, wait, hear me out.

The TSA has changed so much! From being formidable and downright hostile white people we have come to the point where Sergio, the nice latino man who checked our passports today, and knows how to say hi, how are you in many languages, who chatted blithely with me, the Indian family in front of me, and smiled at every single person who passed him. He even told me to take care and have a good flight – and sounded like he meant it! It's funny to see the very large proportion of TSA employees who are now black, hispanic, or somehow people of colour – and by extension generally nicer, younger and far friendlier than in the past.

Cruising at 30,000 feet

and this is all I do.  An attempt to restart this blog. Bride, you want to send me tons of tags?

It's official. MinCat is a Bollywood whorejunkie. I'm sitting in a plane en route to Dubai and I'm wondering why the FUCK I didn't get around to watching Wake Up Sid while it was in theatres. Granted, I didn't know Konkona was in it, but even her stellar acting aside (oh man, I was just blown away in that scene when she's dripping form the water he's thrown all over her and he hugs her), it's such a fabulous movie. 

Perhaps it my adoration has something to do with it being shortened for a plane; or perhaps something to do with being an aspiring photographer, and being reminded heavily of college in Delhi (boasting alert, where I did work on a play with Konkona who was my senior and a total sweetie); or maybe I was just insanely amused by how immensely obnoxious Rahul Khanna's character is, having met several people who patronise other people for their tastes – whatever the cause I feel like I'm watching a movie tailor-made for me. I laughed. I swore. I giggled. I sniffled. I even cried a bit – though that might have more to do with leaving the beloved niece than the movie itself. Granted, there's no way she could afford that flat or to furnish it without a job; and hahah let's not even approach the seamless ease with which she jobs was found and passed on to him; but I think many people I know could identify with that life. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have never had a movie-watching experience that simple incorporated me into itself so comprehensively. I worry that nothing else will satisfy on this flight now.

Edit: no, nothing did.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Yes abandonment has happened

Or, as we'd say in my family, the blog has been ABONDENED.* But The Bride has shaken me out my stupor to put up this list.

First off, in terms of the larger aspects of stereotyping and questioning it, and speaking for a gender etc goes, The Bride and Broom have said it all for me, and I' too lazy to rearticulate what has already been done so well, so go read my disclaimers on their blogs before you ruffle any feathers.

My manly traits:

  1. Loud slapping laugh and filthy disgusting mind. Always making dirty jokes and sniggering at double entendres.
  2. I burp, I fart: I have bodily processes and I'm proud of it.
  3. Always carry my own stuff - luggage, shopping, whatever.
  4. Open doors for girls; put my arm along the back of the seat; drop them at their doors when it's late; generally look out for them.
  5. I can drink. A lot. I have yet to meet the man who can out drink me. 
  6. *If* I carry a child and give birth to it, I want it to have my surname - much along the lines of The Bride. But, since I plan to adopt it shouldn't be an issue.
  7. I swear like a truck driver. A Haryanvi truck driver. Though often enough it's in Spanish.
  8. I'm very loud and er physically expressive. I will smack and punch and shove etc.
  9. I hate shopping. This might have something to do with how difficult it is to find clothes that work for me, but even in Target and Old Navy, I like to come in with a purpose, and get out in 30 minutes or less.
My womanly traits:
  1. I LOVELOVELOVE to cook. Yeah I know, whoda thought it what with the food blog and all.
  2. I LOVELOVELOVE to keep house. Set it up, decorate, tidy, clean, grocery shop, etc.
  3. I LOVE kids. And mostly, they love me. As my father puts it, MinCat holds a strange fascination for those who are below the height of a dining table.
  4. I love romcoms. Seriously, if it's not Bollywood, animated, a romcom or in Spanish, I won't watch it.
  5. I'm very touchy-feely. This is extension of 8 of course, only in this direction it's girly. Hey don't ask me, I don't make the rules!
  6. Porn bores me. Really. It's not gross, or anything more than yawn inducing.
  7. I have always wanted to marry and have kids and run a house. I don't think I am incomplete without it, any more or less than someone who wants to be an astronaut but isn't is incomplete. I have considered running a guest house or bed and breakfast.
  8. I'm terribly social. I get along with everyone and have lovely pointless Stepford conversations.
  9. I'm always mothering people and worrying about them and trying to fix their lives.
  10. I love dressing up. It's just hard to find the right clothes sometimes. hee.

*This is reference to all the dilapidated railway buildings one sees, with the word abandoned stencilled on them. except it was often abondoned. or abondened.