"Bangalore is so civilized, yaar," drawls an old schoolmate from Delhi.
Civilized? Try absurd and surreal, like a Woody Allen movie – and, sadly, not the one that involves sexy blondes. Remember the little speech the self-appointed El Presidente gives in Bananas?
l am your new president. From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now 16 years old.
Yes, well, life in Bangalore is a bit like that. And each day, the morning newspaper offers fresh reminders of our tragi-comic fate. While our very own Nero partakes of "refreshing" Ayurvedic baths, we natives hum the new Karnataka anthem: "Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right... Here I am, stuck in the traffic with you."
Staying sane can be difficult when the inmates are running the asylum. But when life hands you a rich harvest of political lemons, it's best to make nimbu pani i.e. a facetious list that mocks our sorry state. Here then are my top five reasons why namma Bengaluru ought to be renamed San Marcos:
Five, the party-pooping police. It's hard to top those lathi-charging Delhi havaldars in gratuitous violence, but no one can outdo our brave men in khaki when it comes to gratuitous policing of non-existent crimes.
There's the time the cops rushed into a hip and happening bar and stumbled onto a den of iniquity: "Plainclothes policemen entered City Bar around 10.15 pm. Two female customers sitting at a table broke out in an impromptu jig around the same time. The police caught on to that and stated that we were running an illegal discotheque."
Doing a jig can be hazardous in my fair city, as can throwing a party. Just last month, they gatecrashed a 24-year old's birthday celebration and charged everyone with prostitution. The boys were let go the next day after being re-charged for "causing a public nuisance" – a law that clearly doesn't apply to our policemen.
Four, voodoo politics. Where the rest of the country sticks to mixing religion with politics, we Bangaloreans like to take it up a notch. Forget temple tours and yoga shibirs, our guys much prefer voodoo doctors and animal sacrifice.
The last time Yeddyurappa was in trouble, our state parliament experienced an epidemic of "headless chickens, pierced eggs, animal blood, lemons, and chillies" – and no one batted an eye. As for the reported arrests of tribals selling jackal heads to BJP functionaries, yawn!
Three, the long road to nowhere. As all of us locals know, getting from A to B in Bangalore requires heading toward G, looping around E, and doubling back to C. The roads are mostly one-way, run at odd angles, and liable to be closed without notice or reason. And just to keep it interesting for outsiders, they are labelled solely in Kannada. This will no longer be a problem if the Karnataka Development Authority gets its way. It recently demanded legislation requiring all non-Kannadiga residents to learn the language t0 Class VIII proficiency — within a year.
Several weeks ago, Google came riding to our rescue with its Street View cars that planned to map our labyrinthine city. On Monday, those hopes were rudely dashed by the city police who grounded the Google fleet. Unnamed sources cite "restrictions on photography by foreigners or foreign firms in India," but the real reason is to keep us exactly where we are: stuck in traffic, contemplating Yeddyurappa's ubiquitous mug.
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Two, beautiful BIA. Cities are like children. When the other kid gets a bright, shiny new toy, we want one of our own. This is how we ended up with the Bangalore International Airport after years of anticipation and fanfare. Never mind that planes are often diverted to Chennai due to mysterious reasons, or that most flights still require you to board a bus, 20th century style. Who cares after you've spent more than an hour in traffic and Rs 1,000 in cab fare just getting there.
BIA has been one long exercise in administrative farce, including the new access toll booths, finally unveiled after months of construction and testing. All of which came to naught when taxi drivers went on a rampage on the very first day of collection. The fracas finally spurred our transport minister, R Ashoka, to write to the Centre "seeking a clarification as to why the booth was constructed without the state government’s permission."
In Bangalore, giant toll booths can hide in plain sight, clearly visible to all and sundry except our politicians.
One, our great leaders, of course! Let's ignore Karnataka's record of corruption which is now worse than – ohmigod – Bihar. In Indian politics, integrity is merely a matter of degree – some are a bit dirtier than others, but no one is really clean. We are, however, clearly number one in producing buffoons. Sure, Karunanidhi has 2G, Kalmadi can pull off CWG, but no one can beat the Yeddyurappa/ Kumaraswamy combo when it comes to just plain cray-zeee.
Their latest antic is the 26 June "truth test". Both leaders plan to take an oath in front of Lord Manjunath in Dharmasthala to settle the pressing question we all want answered: Did Yeddy secretly try to kiss and make up with Kumaraswamy? Neither plans to testify on less important matters such as Bellary mining deals or BDA land grabs.
Asked for his views on the matter, Governor Bhardwaj said, "They should settle issues in the Vidhan Soudha, within the framework of the political system. That is civilized democracy."
There's that word again. Civilized.