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Nature's been getting her hands grubby again. She's wiped out the yellow, rinsed her fingers, opened her paint-box, dipped into the vermillion and daubed a few tentative smudges. Gulmohars are just beginning to appear on the landscape as I write this — and by the time it goes to print, impatient Nature will probably have got bored of shell-pink and dabbed on red with a lavish hand — but it was only last month that the Tree of Gold overwhelmed me with its radiant burden. The tabebuia argentea (to give it its botanical name) brings to mind the inevitable fate of Namma Metro.Have you observed the blooms the day the tree gives birth to them? A glaring sunshine-yellow, almost too bright to bear. Second day, no perceptible difference. Third day, well, a patent ripeness has overcome it; Nature has added a dash of mustard. Hardly a day or two later,... Read more...
the petals look dun as they begin to wither. You only have to substitute months for days to get a sense of the metro's dimming allure. The unvarnished truth is that six months on, the metro has begun to display small but undeniable signs of neglect. It's not Nature but human nature that's at play here. Let me see. How shall I put this tactfully? Systems maintenance is not exactly carried out with military discipline. If the metro were a soldier I'd say he's turning into a slacker. His shirt is minus a button, his boots aren't always polished, and when he marches he misses a step now and then. I have to watch my words, for I don't want to cause trouble for those nice young men and women, the amiable faces I encounter when I enter or exit (as a seasoned traveller I've used every single station at one time or the other, night and day). What I am about to describe could have happened anywhere along the metro's limited route. Let's pretend it all took place on a single day, in a single place. I wander into a less popular station one afternoon. It is deserted. I place my hand on the handrail of the escalator. It is covered with a film of dust. Presumably it needs a steady flow of palms of numerous commuters to keep it clean. After I ascend a woman asks me, “The security was not there (at the entrance)?” I shake my head. Before I can dump my handbag into the scanner I hear a shout: “Not working madam.” I enter the frisking booth and wait for the woman to wave the hand-held metal detector over my body. Instead, she does reiki on me. I'm serious. Her fingers hover without even brushing against my clothes. “What happened to...?” I gesture. She points to the base of the wall behind her. The detector has been plugged into a socket. It's being charged, like a mobile phone! Get the picture? The soldier has been told to stand at ease. Here and there, on a platform, you see a burnt-out overhead light that has not been replaced. The innumerable sharp turns that the train takes make its wheels squeal agonisingly, and I am tempted to leap out waving a grease-gun. The turnstile misbehaves; it rejects my card with an angry red exclamation mark, and I have to try another one. After I pay to refill my card, the digital display refuses to acknowledge the transaction and I have to check the amount at another terminal. Yes, everyone is lax, even the travellers. We've stopped reacting to the continuous stream of trilingual announcements, not only the names of stops but also a litany of dos and don'ts: stand clear of the gap; don't insert hand, bag or tiffin-box to prevent doors from closing; no playing music; no smoking, drinking, chewing gum, gutka or paan; if you see an unattended article or suspicious object such as a toy, bag or transistor radio (do you even know what that is, Gen-X?), bring it to the notice of the security personnel. Yet there are occasions when a mild shock makes us jump in our seats, in a manner of speaking. Like the time a young man in a red tee casually leaned his folded arms above his head, only to hear a sharp admonition over the speakers: “Please remove your hand so it doesn't block the camera.” He hastily did so, and everyone laughed. There are eyes everywhere, blue and bulging. Speaking of shocks I was left gawping one day when a man actually opened the door to the driver's cabin and walked in! I looked at his two companions still in their seats: a young man, and an old man in a dhoti, carrying a cheap overnight bag. I tensely gazed at the closed cabin door. No danger of hijacking, anyway. “Take me to Tippegondanahalli” wouldn't work on a train that could run no further than M.G. Road. After a few minutes the man came out, but only to summon his companions. They all disappeared into the cabin. What on earth was taking place? A family gathering? The sheen has evaporated, but I foresee a fresh burst of golden yellow — when Stage Two is complete. Slowly, that too will fade, but you know what? I don't mind. I like dun and mustard.