Bangalore fights back … the story of Puttenahalli lake.

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Puttenahalli lake today.

Twenty five years in Bangalore have made me a hardened cynic and a prophet of doom. I’ve seen this city deteriorate from a beautiful, innocent little hamlet into one of the filthiest, overcrowded, screwed up cities in the world.

I remember when this was a nice little town for pedestrians and pensioners. Now it’s a shithole filled with stray dogs and thugs. There were trees and parks lining every avenue here once. Now there are malls and brothels.

There were lakes and ponds filled with clear water once. Now there are open-air toilets and slums. Once there were flowers and birds everywhere. Now there are dogs, dogs, dogs, everywhere. Roads with more potholes in them than tar. People defecating in public view. Hooligans driving two-wheelers on pavements. And hawkers squatting on what’s left of those pavements.

Bangalore’s demise is inevitable. Investing in this urban nightmare would be a remarkably foolish business decision. But still, there are determined citizens who have chosen to fight back. And there are some victories.

Puttenahalli lake is one such. Once a delightful waterbody tucked away inside Puttenahalli villlage, on the southern outskirts of the city, the lake suffered the same fate as all other lakes across Bangalore. Encroached, surrounded by concrete condos, filled with garbage and human waste, infested with mosquitoes, vermin and local goons.

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The lake was written off, waiting to be swallowed by land-sharks and politicians. A small group of locals decided to do something about it. The Puttenahalli neighborhood improvement trust came into being about seven years ago, with the single-minded objective of reviving the dead lake.

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It took them a great deal of hard work, and a considerable amount of their own money. But today, Puttenahalli lake is a thriving waterbody, filled with clean water, a home to fifty species of birds and all kinds of flora and fauna. It’s not out of the woods yet, there is still a slum to be removed, but I’d say the worst is over.

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To a large extent, the battle is won, and Puttenahalli is now officially known as a “saved” lake. Considering what it used to be, this is a major achievement by any means. And across the city, other citizen groups have taken up the fight to save their local waterbodies.

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For a city that has been destroyed by political greed and corporate thuggery, and is in imminent danger of death, Puttenahalli lake is a small beacon of inspiration and hope.

As long as there is hope, I think Bangalore city still has a chance to survive, however slim that chance may be.

Take a look at my Puttenahalli collection.

Cheers … Srini.

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Where were you when your mother died?

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Our scriptures talk of ‘putradharma’ … the duty of a son.

Elaborate guidelines are given in our ancient books of wisdom, about the multiple responsibilities of a son. In modern India, the law is crystal-clear about putradharma.  Not just that, a son who is prevented from caring for his parents by his wife, has a legal ground to seek divorce.

No matter which religion it is, no matter which country it is, no matter which century it is. A real man takes care of his parents. Period.

An elderly couple visited me today, seeking my advice. Three sons. All three are abroad. All three are filthy rich. All three have abandoned their parents. Just abandoned them. They don’t give a shit if their parents are alive or dead. I was deeply moved by their plight.

It’s the same story with the parents of my NRI friends and relatives. It’s the same story with millions of elderly parents across India. Abandoned by their rich, expat children. Alone. Victims of abuse. Soft targets for criminals. Easy marks for con-men. And frequently found with their throats slashed in their own homes.

Some have formed support groups, some have sought refuge in retirement homes, some have wound up in ashrams. They are brutally exploited everywhere they go.

“This is not my India”, whines a popular music director, when some random crime that is totally unrelated to him, happens somewhere in the country. The “rationalists” and “secularists” rave and rant and organise rallies about “intolerance” in our country. A debate rages in our TV news channels, about a bunch of refugees from another country.

But no one talks about the millions of our own elders, who are abandoned refugees in their own country, left to die by their own children. It’s bad for TRP ratings, you see.

This is indeed not my India. In my India, elders are deified, they are respected, they are worshipped. In my India, parents are cared for. Not left to rot in a bloody “retirement” home.  In my India, a mother gets to die in the arms of her son.

I had a wife and daughter once upon a time. That wife and that daughter told me to abandon my parents, and migrate to the West. I told both of them to get lost. And they did. But not before they raped me in court though.

The ex-wife got herself an extremely rich, extremely old NRI husband. The ex-daughter got herself an extremely rich, extremely old step-father, took his name as her own, and now enjoys the “luxury” of the West along with her live-in boyfriend.

“Wish her well and be happy for her”, I was advised by an “enlightened” relative of mine. Why the eff should I wish her well?

A full decade of being single, and I am content. Content to lead my mediocre life. Content to be a dutiful son.

Will God give me a nice pat on the back? Will I get a nice berth in heaven? Will I get my just rewards in the next life?

Of course not.

As it is, I get insults and jeers from the general public, and pointless advice from elderly relatives. And I still get outright abuse and slander from my ex-wife’s fan-club in Bangalore. I ignore all of them.  A man does what he has to do.

Many years ago, I was in a train to Hyderabad. A hijra (eunuch) got in and asked me to make room for her. During the journey, we had a nice chat about various topics. Just before she got off, she told me something that has stayed with me through my life. She told me that in her community, they take care of their old folk, till death.

A man who does not take care of his parents is not even fit to be known as a hijra, she said in parting. I couldn’t agree more.

The elderly parents who wept on my shoulder today, made me realise how much better I am than all my NRI friends who sneer at me for choosing to stay back in India. I may be an impoverished, underachieving divorcee with a bald head and two stents in my heart, but I’ve got more balls than all of them combined.

Next time one of your NRI friends brags about his mansion, his Mercedes, his heated swimming pool, his wife’s boob-job, ask him just one question.

“Where were you when your mother died?”

Cheers … Srini.

Yay! It’s Dasara!

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Na yotsya Govinda! I will not fight, O Govinda.

It’s my favorite time of the year – the nine nights of Dasara. And once again, it’s time for my annual visit to the home of the Ravindranath family.

Year after year, this sweet Iyengar family in Basavanagudi, Bangalore, puts up their remarkable exhibition of Dasara dolls. There are well over four thousand dolls in this astonishing display.

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Chakravyuha. Note the attention to detail!

It is truly a labor of love – and faith. They spend a fortune and they make no money out of it – although there are unscrupulous dickheads who make money out of them.

Each year, there’s a special theme. And this year, the theme is the 18-day battle of Kurukshetra. Each day of the battle has been recreated in painstaking detail. They’ve done their research thoroughly. In fact, they’ve created the battle formations used by both sides, on each day of the battle. They’ve recreated the key events of the battle – like the Bhagavadgeetha, the fall of Bheeshma, Ghatotkacha’s death, Jayadratha’s decapitation by Arjuna, and several others.

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The end of Ghatotkacha, slain by Karna’s Shakti weapon.

Why do we celebrate Dasara? You can read about it in my blogpost, here.

Simply put, Dasara commemorates the epic battle between the goddess Durga and the demon Mahisha. The battle raged for nine nights. Each night, She took on a different form to do battle with Mahisha. On the morning of the tenth day, Durga slew Mahisha. This day therefore, is called Vijayadashami.

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Vijayadashami is an especially auspicious day. On this day, Rama killed Ravana in battle. Since Rama cut off Ravana’s ten heads, the festival came to be known as Dasa Hara or Dasara.

In modern times, we do not cut off heads! Instead, Vijayadashami is considered a very good day to start any new venture, like a business project, a new course of study, music lessons, and just about any good activity.

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And even at my age, I always make it a point to start something new on Vijayadashami. This year, I will start a new business venture on Vijayadashami.

Dasara is a celebration and an affirmation, of our culture and our traditions. Nowhere, and nowhere, in our traditional scriptures and our epics, does the word “Hindu” appear.

Dasara is not a “Hindu” celebration. It is Indian. That’s all.

No matter what religion you practise, enjoy Dasara. Visit a golu display. Have fun.

You can see the entire golu display of the Ravindranath family, in my Google photo album, here.

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The Ravindranath family.

And remember:

All golu displays are free and open to the public. Do not entertain self-styled “experts” and touts. Just call up the host, and go. If you want to take photographs, it’s generally ok. But as a courtesy, ask the host first. And do not forget to profusely thank the host and her family. Golu displays take a lot of effort and time.

I am an agnostic myself. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying any of our traditional festivals – including Christmas and Id!

So. Screw the “rationalists”.

Enjoy Dasara. It is your festival.

Cheers … Srini.