Clear and present dangers of social media overreach

Last week, it was a post on the popular social media platform of #Facebook that flared communal
tensions in the eastern Indian state of #WestBengal. The post made by a #ClassTwelve student from the majority community had hundreds of people of the other community spilling on to the streets. Before one knew it, a mob of supposedly thousands of angry rioters damaged public property, burnt shops and fearing that the situation could turn ugly the government decided to call in #ParamilitaryForces. While the government in Bengal accused the opposition (read the #BJP) of stoking communal tensions and creating a situation that could lead to violence vocal critics of the government have in turn pointed fingers at the apparent appeasement of the minority community which has emboldened some mischievous elements. While that is a matter for debate and discussion what is worrying happens to be the way in which the virtual world is being used increasingly to create trouble in the real one.

Last week was also significant for social networking giant Facebook as it hit the magical #TwoBillion mark as far as #MonthlyUsers worldwide go. Now this comes a good thirteen years after it first came on the scene but more critically just five years after it reached one billion users. Clearly this is a #Behemoth that is growing exponentially with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. And it is not just the entrepreneurs and business community that realises the potential of this platform. Enough trouble makers are clued in to social media and these are trying times. It was only last year that the government in #Israel brought in legislative steps in order to keep a check on those who use social media for inciting violence. In fact, a delegation from Facebook visited the country where both sides discussed ways in which those acting against the law of the land could be thwarted.

The trouble is basic. Though the internet has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade lawmakers in countries of various parts of the world have not been able to match up this speed. #Cyberlaws were hazy back then and strangely enough continue to be so even to this day. For example if the perpetrators of a crime are away in a foreign land while the crime takes place elsewhere it makes catching up with them difficult and punishing them almost impossible. In the last few years #SeriousCrimes linked to social media have gone up quite drastically. Sample this. In the #UK alone statistics from the police reveal to us that there is a serious crime (murder, blackmail, crimes against women & children) reported by social media users every 45 minutes or so. Now those are worrying numbers, for sure. So what is the way out or should one say forward? What are the checks and balances that need to be put in place?

The need of the hour is to act swiftly and decisively against wrong doers but at the same time governments in these places must be careful not to use this as a pretext to curb the freedom to express free and fair opinions. And surely not to use this settle scores with those critical of the government by getting vindicative. So striking the right balance is key. Social media has the potential for making the world a better place. For every stakeholder, be it the business people, the end user customer and the casual internet surfer too. As long as it continues to be safe, reliable and trustworthy. It is important that people who use the internet use it responsibly and if they do not action has to be taken and appropriately. Be it the real world or the online one, some rules are meant to be.

Sao Joao – The Goan festival of flowers, music and jumping into wells

One of the more popular #Festivals of #Goa is that of Sao Joao. And that is saying something because the tiny state of Goa perhaps celebrates more festivals than any other state. Unlike most other states of #India where festivals are mostly on religious lines Goa has enough festivals that are all Goan. Now consider the fact that it is home to close to 200 villages (182 at last count) and a lot many of these have festivals that are unique to that particular #Village. Now that is a lot of revelry and fun. There is the #KazuchemFest that celebrates the making of the local #Cashew based drinks of #Urrak and #Feni. There are festivals that pay tribute to Goa’s rich fishing tradition as well as those dedicated to various types of bread (yes you read that right!) that only get made in this state. There are even festivals celebrating the craze that Goans have for the game of #Football. In short, Goans #Celebrate #Life and all it’s gifts, big and little. Without favor or bias.

Sao Joao is celebrated by the #Catholic community to celebrate the #Baptism of #Jesus by #StJohn in the river #Jordan, an event that is considered the most historically important event for believers (along with #Crucification) That is why as part of the various festivities, Goans take a dip in local water bodies (read ponds & wells) as a symbolic way of #Cleansing. And by default as with many festivals that originate from here, music, dance & drink are an integral part of the whole experience. And then there is the timing of it all. It usually happens on the same day every year, #June24 (though festivities go on all week) which interestingly is the period when the #FirstMonsoon of the season arrives in the state. So in many ways Sao Joao is also a celebration of the onset of monsoon and a quiet prayer for #a good Harvest (backed by the rains) As part of the ritual a distinctive coronation of flowers (#Kopel in local parlance) adorn the head of revellers. This began with the local practice of newlyweds visiting the bride’s home with a fruit as gift. Those days!

The same Kopels aka coronation of flowers are used to crown the cross at the end of #BoatProcessions that are more a regular sight under South. From simple wreaths made of roses to those with plaited palm leaves (the more creative folks use fruits and vegetables in making them) there can be an entire piece written only by these ‘Kopels’ Here must mention that as Goa was ruled by the #Portuguese for over four hundred years a lot of that #Culture has become ingrained in the #GoanEthos. So it is inevitable that every Catholic festival has come influence of the Portuguese tradition. After all the festival of Sao Joao is celebrated with equal fervour in #Portugal and various other parts of Europe. Though in Portugal this is more like a street festival with #Bonfires, barbeques, fireworks and dance parties (read raves) that go on through the night. History tells us that these festivities go back to pre Christian #Pagan times (many have to do with #CourtshipRituals even) In Goa it must be mentioned that it is in #NorthGoa that it is celebrated with gusto and if you are in this part of the world be sure to head towards this part of town. And it is a good idea to leave a little in advance. After all on this day all roads lead to #Siolim (a village in North Goa) Viva Sao Joao!

The strange, fascinating and dangerous world of selfies

The cliffs at Cabo Da Roca in #Portugal overlooking the #AtlanticOcean offer astonishing views from the top.Which is the case with most #Capes as they are usually a raised mass of land extending into the sea.What makes the #CaboDaRoca a wee bit more special is that it is the #WesternMost point in all of #Europe but that is about it. In recent years it has become (in)famous for the ghastly incident of 2014 when a #Polish couple who were there with their two young children (aged 5 & 6) fell to their deaths when they inadvertently stepped over the safety barrier. All this with the kids watching, hoping for that perfect #Selfie. This is not an isolated incident. Far from. People are standing in front of approaching #Trains when they are not climbing on top of them often meeting with disastrous consequences. There was this person who drowned while trying to get a selfie hugging a #Walrus while another lost almost an entire arm posing with a #Rattlesnake. There are even folks naive enough to pose with a live grenade hoping to live to tell the tale.

Come to think of it the idea of a selfie is nothing new. What else is a portrait? To capture an image of oneself for posterity (though nowadays it is more for the #Likes) is nothing but an exercise in #Narcissism. And that has been done for centuries now. References of the word ‘Selfie’ in popular usage date back to early 2000s and users of the pioneering social networking portal #MySpace would know all about it. By the end of the decade, digital cameras and phones (with front facing cameras) as well as the immense popularity of photo sharing Apps ensured that selfies became the toast of social media on the internet. So much so that in the year #2013 the #Oxford English dictionary called Selfie as the word of the Year. A survey in #2014 showed that no less than a third of all photos that young people (under the age of 25) took were all selfies. Clearly a lot of people all over were hooked. And it was quite sad and ironical that the first reported death related to taking a Selfie photo was in 2014 – the Year of the Selfie.

In the last couple of years the death toll has only risen and alarmingly so. Statistics show that over hundred (127 at last count) people all over the world have died in their foolish (sometimes) pursuit of a ‘killer’ shot. Of which half have been reported from India alone and not suprisingly the authorities in the city of #Mumbai have identified upto 16 areas as #No-Selfie zones. Last year the government issued an advisory to all states of the country to identify such zones in their respective places, especially those popular with tourists & is running several innovative awareness campaigns in this very regard. Similar guidelines are being issued by various countries to it’s citizens and visitors alike so that this madness will ebb somehow. In #London there are many landmark locations where the use of selfie sticks (that make taking these photos easier) is strictly prohibited. Disney has banned the use of these selfie sticks at all of their world famous Theme Parks. Even researchers at Universities in the US and elsewhere are digging deeper to get a sense of what causes these deaths. And how to prevent them.

In the meanwhile unaffected by all this, the selfie #Juggernaut rolls on. Popular photo-sharing
platform #Instagram reports that last year alone over fifty million photos were tagged with the hashtag #selfie. While there are smartphones that are being pitched to potential customer using the line – The Selfie expert. The stakes just got higher. Watch this space for more.

Triple Talaq – Is it a necessary evil?

  #German philosopher & socialist #KarlMarx famously said that religion is the #Opium of the people. What he meant that is that religion was but an escape, a temporary relief from the daily troubles of life. It offers no real solutions to any kind of crisis that one might be going through but a mere hope that the crisis will tide over. For years debates have raged about the very existence of a Supreme Being or God and these debates will perhaps go on till eternity. What makes all this more complicated is that over the last many centuries religion & mythology has been interwoven indelibly with the culture and history of most of the world as we know it. So these legendary stories that one grows up listening to become a part of who the person is, an integral part of their identity. No wonder that many at the summit of power have at various times in history used religion to manipulate the believers, the gullible masses. They only know too well. About the hold that a religion has on it’s followers.

A recent move by the present government in the largest democracy, India to try and discontinue the regressive practice of oral divorce (read #TripleTalaq) among the Muslim community has sparked off a huge controversy. Though one cannot fathom why. Any practice that gives a man the right to end his marriage with a woman by simply uttering some inanity orally cannot have a place in the modern world. Triple Talaq is something that has been followed over hundreds of years and whatever might have been the compulsions behind starting this practice back then, it clearly smacks of gender bias as well as violation of human rights. Over the years many oppressed women from the community have raised their voice asking for this regressive practice to be abolished but successive governments have not had the stomach to take the bull by the horns, mostly fearful of losing support of the community.

But what is wrong is wrong. Lest we forget it was in India itself that the horrible custom of #Sati was practiced by many from the majority community of Hindus. Where a widow immolated herself on the pyre of her deceased husband. And it was only by the #1920s that a law was put in place deeming the custom of Sati as illegal and a punishable offence. The point being that no religious text talks about oppressing others, they all advocate equal rights. And no religion espouses violence, they all talk of peace. It is some of the practitioners of various religions who have decided to interpret what is written according to their whims and fancies. Not surprisingly the #AIMPLB a powerful non government body that looks after Muslim personal laws in the country has cried foul. The line that they are taking is also a predictable one – Triple Talaq has been a matter of faith for Muslims over thousands of years.

Then there are those who say that there are enough regressive customs in the Hindu religion itself that need reforming. Like casteism that discriminates between Hindus based on their respective castes. In fact the killing of a low caste Hindu (read #Dalit) in the hinterlands last year by the powerful upper caste folks had made headlines. Yet the ruling party will not try and change the status quo because they fear they might fall out of favor with the people. And since the minority community do not really vote for them they are meddling with the faith of the community. Now that is as weak an argument as one has ever heard. Simply because two wrongs do not make one right. And Triple Talaq is wrong. Period.

Mr Tambourine Man finally accepts his Nobel Prize

A good five months (it was in October last year when the announcement was made) after he became the first songwriter ever to be awarded the coveted Nobel Prize for his immeasurable contributions in the field of literature, Bob Dylan finally accepted the award at a private ceremony in Stockholm. Thereby he put an end to all the ‘Will he, Won’t he?’ asking doubting Thomases, many of whom perceived this dilly-dallying to be impolite and even arrogant behavior. The ceremony itself took place at a secret (??) location in Stockholm with no members of the press or media invited to cover the event. The members of the Swedish Academy who were at the champagne-laced event must have been on tenterhooks what with April 1st (Fool’s Day) chosen by Dylan as the date on which he finally accepted the gold medal and Diploma. These come as part of the Nobel Prize as does the prize money of 8 million kronor (a little less than $ one million) The prize money imbroglio is a whole different story.

Dylan had set the cat among the pigeons in December of last year when he skipped an event organised to present him with the Nobel Prize citing ‘pre-existing commitments’ as the reason for not being present in person. But not too many people bought it and one cannot really blame them either. For two whole weeks after the Nobel Prize for literature was bestowed on Dylan he did not utter a single word. No customary thank yous, no press statement, no reaction at all. The silence was just deafening. Dylan who was bang in the middle of a tour at the time when the announcement came could have said something from the stage even but strangely enough chose not to. And all this while there was a heated debate on to question the wisdom behind awarding the Nobel to the mercurial troubadour in the first place. When Dylan finally did speak the reason he gave for his befuddling silence was that he had been left ‘speechless’ It was vintage Dylan.

But when Dylan failed to turn up and receive the Nobel Prize in person, it sparked off an acrimonious controversy with the Swedish Academy issuing what some would call a veiled threat to Dylan. They reminded him that he had six months (from December) within which he HAD TO give a lecture failing which he would not see any of the $900,000 prize money. And for good measure the Academy threw the rule book at Dylan while giving him the option of either delivering a lecture or as an alternative do a gig for them. Not too many artists would think twice before getting this done with. After all it was almost a million dollars that was at stake here. But Dylan being Dylan would simply not take the bait. A rebel in every sense of the word, he was as anti establishment as they come. And one suspects he still is.

And lest we forget it were his songs from the 1960s like “Blowin’in the Wind”, “The Times, They are A-Changin” and ” Masters of War” which became anthems during the civil rights movement. Sample these lines:

How many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?

How many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?

How many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?

The answer,my friend,is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

These are lines that resonated with folks back then, resonate with folks even today and will continue to do so. For a long,long time. Forget the lecture, forget the prize money. For Dylan it was never really about hankering for awards, even those as prestigious as the Nobel. Hope the Swedish Academy realises this, sooner than later.

“India makes me to come back again….”

India is one of such kind of places that unbelievably attract at the same time can disappoint people.There are  so many places in the world that are so appealing, wonderful and mysterious. In fact, whole the world is incredible and mysterious in our life. But India is specifically incredible country.

There are overwhelming evidence to suggest that foreigners, tourists and particularly students who are doing their studies abroad persuaded the fact that they love India as well as it irritates and tension them. It is very interesting to know here how it can give two controversy impression on  people. In most cases , people’s first impression about India do not come out the thing that they expected from…it’s usually desperation , frustration, irritation…

As a matter of fact, there are too many facts that make you sad and you can’t ignore, when we speak about country of romance and love.  The main one is that, most of the cities of India are polluted and dirty, more worse citizens do it themselves. Surprisingly, most of the people worship people, cricketers so badly that makes you think they are crazy. It’s a pity to see even after several years of independence people, in particular children suffering from starvation , eating leftovers in the streets, disrespect to women ,violence, protests, urinating outsides, spitting, big queues in  banks and  governmental offices…Regretfully, despite all these facts, people continue to live in  utter ignorance….  These are sorrowful reality that you come across in India, real life besides the curtain, besides the films that they produce where life is beautiful.

Here is the words of the student who came to Hyderabad for the first time to study: “After the pick  up of all students at the airport by EFLU university transport we started our way towards hostel. Everyone with emotions was looking around  to see what India shows about itself. Airport was amazing, however from the time when the bus came inside Hyderabad city, everyone’s eyes become bigger and bigger from astonishment….dark, dirty, slums, people sleeping outside; walking without shoes, cooking at the streets, men’s taking a leak outside without any shamelessness….    oooh, it is nightmare, where  we came? This is India we dreamed? “- everyone was asking these questions. Unexplainably, it knocked me out more , when I saw in people and experienced myself during the period of living , I loved India, I felt like my home. When  first time I came to India for a short period, after some months of culture shock, it draws me more. It was difficult to separate with the place , where I was happy. It made me to come back again. And I know more people who do this…”

It is not only one person’s confession, many foreigners acknowledge that whenever they want to make a trip or change the atmosphere they come to India in spite of the fact that they have been here before.

India is magical and romantic. India is happiness. India is incredible. It ties down without the threads to itself. It’s colorful culture, various delicious cuisine, beautiful landscapes, specialty of mountains and beaches, bright holidays and festivals that you cannot see in another place, different national costumes…. These are all the principal features that are unique and has brought India up in the popularity charts all over the world. Moreover, Indian nation are very friendly, lovely kind and hospitable, as well as there are more good people in India than anywhere else. You hear  anywhere that they habitually ready to help people, especially if it is foreigners.

One more  interesting fact is that, maybe it is the only country which have so much issues such as poverty, suicides, rapes, society problems…but the people consider it positive and take it easy. They know the way how to solve these problems; even though most of them are starving and have nothing to wear, they are happy.

All in all , it can be concluded with the words that India is a place of inspiration, plenty of inspiration. Everything inspires you , the Himalayas, holidays, people, the beaches, cuisine, culture, even the smell of the land…..


The art of sledging – A brief history

What do WG Grace, Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan and Jeremy Roenick all have in common? Apart from the fact that they were all legendary in their respective sports of cricket, boxing, basketball and ice hockey that is. These gentlemen were equally well known for their #VerbalGamesmanship turning it into some sort of a fine art. Ali widely regarded as the greatest boxer to have ever graced the game was known to verbally taunt his opponents both inside the ring & outside it with the sole aim of mental disintegration. #MichaelJordan would mercilessly ‘slam dunk’ his opponents as much with his intimidating #TrashTalk as with his fiesty moves on the court. And NHL fans back in the US would readily agree that all that #Chirping (the term for verbal heckling in ice hockey) by Roenick made for an enthralling viewer experience. So when some well meaning #Cricket writers became aghast at all the sledging in the ongoing series between the top two Test playing nations of world cricket, all one can say to them is – Keep your wig on, folks !

A doctor by profession, #WGGrace was an enigma in the truest sense of the word. Acknowledged by historians as one of those instrumental in the growth of cricket, W.G. (as he was affectionately called by fans) had a dubious reputation of refusing to leave the field when declared out by on field officials (read umpires) And there is enough evidence to suggest that it was not the Aussies but rather the English led from the front by W.G. who were the first to do the ‘yapping’ on a cricket field. W.G. would browbeat not just his opponents but even the assembled spectators with his incisive repartees. Now this certainly flies in the face of ‘Cricket is a gentleman’s game’ theory espoused by some purists to oppose the practice of sledging. If one of the founding fathers of the game itself was himself a motormouth of sorts what is all the fuss about?

There are those who reckon that sledging is something that happens quite naturally in the heat of the moment due to intense competition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sledging is a powerful tool of psychological warfare that can turn the tide in one’s favor as long as it is done the right way and with the right amount of finesse. Now using the words sledging and finesse in the same sentence might sound like an oxymoron but there is really much more to sledging than just cussing and swearing. Sledging is as much about wry humour as it is about timing the banter to perfection. Even the men from Down Under who have dominated world cricket (even in sledging) for the last couple of decades will readily agree that sledging is not such a bright idea when a batsman from the opposing team is in the form of his life. Or if that batsman happens to be a certain #SachinTendulkar.

Getting under the skin (of an opponent) Ask ex Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell the reasons for which sledging was usually done in the heydays and that is the reply you will get. He should know. Chappell was captain of the team in the 1970s that got dubbed as the Ugly Australians for brandishing profanity like a weapon that could get them out of sticky situations on the field. So when one read his statements in the last couple of days admonishing the hot headed Indian team captain Virat Kohli for giving the Aussies a bit of their own medicine, one can only smile at the irony of it all. The shoe, it seems, is well and truly on the other foot. Watch this space for more!

Goan Carnivals – An experience to behold

  It is that time of the year again. When flight and bus prices hit the roof, hotels and resorts are packed to the hilt and virtually the whole world seems to descend to celebrate. In Goa. No prizes for guessing that one is talking about the Carnival that will take places in different cities of the state over the next week or so. As things stand Goa is already a favoured tourist destination where festivals, parties and revelries are de rigueur. The annual event that is the #Carnival is what one would term the proverbial icing on the cake. And this is how it has been for past many centuries now. The Carnival was of course a gift or perhaps a legacy that was inherited from the colonial masters of the state, the #Portuguese. And though it has been half a century and more since the state attained independence, the locals have wholeheartedly embraced the Carnival. Today it is without a shred of doubt, the biggest festival of Goa.

Historically speaking, the Carnival has been celebrated for many centuries in western civilisations and be it Germany, Italy, England or far away Goa it always takes place in the period between the last week of February and the first week of March. It is said to take inspiration from the festival of #MardiGras. Talking from the local point of view, in Goa the Carnival began as an event that was specifically meant for the Catholic community . It is considered as a time for four days complete with unabashed music, dance, drinking and making merry before the month of Lent begins. And traditionally #Lent is a period of 40 days where the practice is to refrain from consuming meat and alcohol. What makes Lent significant is also that this month precedes Easter that is considered one of the important festivals as it celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Over the years the Carnival has grown into a festival that all Goans irrespective of caste, creed and religion come together and proudly celebrate. After all, it is this very vibrant culture that includes elements of all faiths that makes #Goa such a unique place.

Today the biggest Carnivals take place in Colombia, London and of course, everyone’s favorite Carnival destination# Brazil. The Goan Carnival is held on a very lavish scale with no costs spared and there is even a lot of prep work that takes place much before the D-day itself. Hundreds of floats (colourfully decorated stage that is usually built on a moving vehicle) exploring myriad themes are built and made ready a couple of months in advance. On top of these floats, you have thousands of performers, singers, dancers and artists taking part in a procession that is all immersive. Then you have some elements of circus with various men & women dressed in weird coloured costumes as well as some wearing funny & grotesque masks on their faces.The procession that takes place usually in one city every day passes through the heart of the city and moves slowly while onlookers and tourists gathered on both sides of the street to watch the Carnival jump in sometimes to be part of the whole dance and song and join the celebrations.

As mentioned at the outset, travelling and lodging options are likely to be expensive at the time of the Goan Carnival. So it is prudent to confirm dates for the event and book your tickets a little before in advance. The good part is that the event goes on for a good four days and in certain instances for a day or two extra. Now that is a lot of partying time. Best part is there is no entrance fee to go watch and be a part of the entire Carnival. Just get there early to get best vantage points for sitting & viewing. As this piece is being published, the first day of #GoaCarnival2017 took place in the capital city of Panaji. With over 50000 people attending (conservative estimate) the response clearly was rapturous.

The journey from Hyderabad to Cyberabad : Challenges

Since the IT boom in the 1990s the two cities that benefited the most, Bangalore and Hyderabad have been constantly compared. Which is a little incorrect because there is a lot of difference between the two cities at many levels. Hyderabad has a rich and diverse culture that is all it’s own. Equally Hyderabad has it’s own unique problems a few of which are enumerated below.

Traffic: If Hyderabad alone is taken into account in terms of size it is smaller than Bangalore. But usually a mention of the city of Hyderabad does also mean it’s twin,Secunderabad. That way Hyderabad is almost three times bigger than Bangalore. Yet in terms of population it is lesser than Bangalore. So Hyderabad has not has it as bad as Bangalore till recently. The other advantage for Hyderabad has been that the city was better planned with wider roads and better connectivity of public transport options like buses. Flyovers running through the heart of the city built back then itself ensured things were in control all these years.

But as business has expanded and floating population of youngsters looking for jobs from other parts of the state increased correspondingly, things have started worsening. To tackle this, the government is bringing in Metro Rail but in the meantime it might be worthwhile looking at pavements and footpaths that are encroached on by street vendors and beggars everywhere. Also when it comes to traffic sense, the average citizen has always been a little lax all these years. Might be worthwhile to look at tightening things there too.

Water: The biggest trouble in Hyderabad has to do with the scarcity of water. And this is not a recent phenomenon either. Only that matters have got progressively worse in the last few years. For the record, over twenty lakh households in the city do not have a tap water connection and in what has been a lack of foresight from successive governments, no water reservoirs have been built in over eighty years. Till date a large chunk of the water supply to Hyderabad comes through pipelines from the mighty rivers of Krishna and Godavari that are 200 kms away.

Recently when the four reservoirs supplying drinking water to the city started running alarmingly low, many houses stopped getting daily water making it a few hours every alternate day only. Hopefully with two water reservoirs being built on a war footing by the present regime, things will get better. A big step in this regard is the ambitious government project ‘Mission Bhagiratha’ that hopes to interlink both Krishna and Godavari rivers using a ‘Water Grid’. It is expected to see completion by next year.

Culture: Hyderabad was ruled for many centuries by Islamic rulers including the great Mughals that has influenced the culture of this city. As a result anywhere you go in the city you will hear as many as four languages spoken, Telugu, Hindi, Urdu and English. Also arts, culture, cuisine and literature form an important part of the lives of citizens here. Some of the top educational institutions like the Osmania University offer it’s students Masters and Doctorate level programs in dance, fine arts and language.

But with thousands of people from remote corners of the state moving to Hyderabad in search of greener pastures, this culture is undergoing a sea of change. The typical laid back dweller of Hyderabad is giving way to a new generation that is in a hurry. Not everyone is aware of the rich heritage of this place, not everyone respects it. As the old meets the new, expect fireworks. Is the unique identity of the typical Hyderabad dweller getting lost in all of this? The verdict is out on that one.

What is it that ails Namma Bengaluru?

A little more than a fortnight ago a shameful incident in Bangalore involving the alleged #massmolestation of some young women by a mob during New Year revelry shocked the whole nation. One uses the word alleged because in the last few days, police officials who have accessed #CCTV footage of that night have found little evidence on camera of any of it actually having transpired. But regardless of whether this incident happened or not, the damage is already done and the image of Bangalore as a safe city for women lies in tatters. That this incident is purported to have taken place in the iconic MG Road makes matters even worse. A perennial favourite with tourists and youngsters alike MG Road is home to some of the best eatouts, shopping arcades and watering holes serving not just the finest of spirits but playing invigorating live music as well.

It was the place where you went to ‘let your hair down’One was fortunate to grow up in Bangalore of the 1980s.This was a time when the roads had more trees than traffic. Mornings meant long walks in the fresh air of the pristine botanical gardens at Lalbagh followed by a hot cup of steaming coffee at quaint coffee bars in South Bangalore. Life in general moved at a languid pace, crime was sparse and it was not for nothing that Bangalore was known as ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ Weekends meant unlimited fun and entertainment with toy train rides while tucking into ‘cotton candy’ at Cubbon Park followed by an evening at MG Road. The nip in the air that was felt as one walked through the majestic boulevard right at the entrance to MG Road is something that evokes vivid memories to this day. #MGRoad also had half a dozen cinema halls (almost all have closed since) which all had English names (Liberty, Plaza, Lido, Imperial, Bluemoon, Blue Diamond) and exclusively played English movies only.

For half a century and more now, Bangalore has attracted young talents from all over the world to study at it’s renowned educational institutions. But it was only in the 90s that the #IT boom changed the demographics of this city forever. The mindboggling growth in the IT sector meant that, in just a few years this almost sleepy ‘town’ turned into a hub of business and job opportunities for a whole new generation. The problem was that Bangalore, or should one say the government of the day was completely caught unaware and seemed totally ill equipped to handle this mass exodus. Rapid urbanisation coupled with influx of migrants from all over meant that the garden city transformed quickly into a concrete jungle bursting at the seam. Real estate prices shot up, cost of living became expensive, unemployment and crime increased and by the time we entered the new century, Bangalore was by now rechristened to #Bengaluru.

The lackadaisical attitude of successive elected governments has only precipitated matters further. Today if Bengaluru were to look at itself in the mirror, it would see that it has become a shadow of it’s former self. Infrastructure has collapsed, public transport is abysmal and corruption is all pervading. That Bengaluru has become a city of outsiders means there is no sense of pride. No sense of belonging to the city. Respect for age old values and traditions has eroded and making a fast buck any which way is all that is paramount. The genteel, soft spoken #Kannadiga (the local citizen) is becoming an endangered species. In this very vitiated changed scenario, what happened on the night of 31st December 2016 on MG Road was surely unfortunate but not totally unexpected. It is a sad harbinger of how the erstwhile Bangalore has lost it’s former glory. And become the unfathomable mess that Bengaluru is today. But the night is darkest before dawn and hope always floats. Hope this too shall pass.