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Sean Paul Kelley is a travel writer, former radio host, and before that an asset manager for a Wall Street investment bank that is still (barely) alive. He recently left a fantastic job in Singapore working for Solar Winds, a software company based out of Austin to travel around the world for a year (or two). He founded The Agonist, in 2002, which is still considered the top international affairs, culture and news destination for progressives. He is also the Global Correspondent for The Young Turks, on satellite radio and Air America .
If you are Indian, or of Indian descent, I must preface this post with a clear warning: you are not going to like what I have to say. My criticisms may be very hard to stomach. But consider them as the hard words and loving advice of a good friend. Someone who’s being honest with you and wants nothing from you.
These criticisms apply to all of India except Kerala and the places I didn’t visit, except that I have a feeling it applies to all of India , except as I mentioned before, Kerala.
Lastly, before anyone accuses me of Western Cultural Imperialism, let me say this: if this is what India and Indians want, then hey, who am I to tell them differently. Take what you like and leave the rest. In the end it doesn’t really matter, as I get the sense that Indians, at least many upper class Indians, don’t seem to care and the lower classes just don’t know any better, what with Indian culture being so intense and pervasive on the sub-continent. But here goes, nonetheless.
First, pollution. In my opinion the filth, squalor and all around pollution indicates a marked lack of respect for India by Indians. I don’t know how cultural the filth is, but it’s really beyond anything I have ever encountered. At times the smells, trash, refuse and excrement are like a garbage dump.
India is a mess. It’s that simple, but it’s also quite complicated. I’ll start with what I think are India ’s four major problems–the four most preventing India from becoming a developing nation–and then move to some of the ancillary ones.
Right next door to the Taj Mahal was a pile of trash that smelled so bad, was so foul as to almost ruin the entire Taj experience. Delhi , Bangalore and Chennai to a lesser degree were so very polluted as to make me physically ill. Sinus infections, ear infection, bowels churning was an all to common experience in India . Dung, be it goat, cow or human fecal matter was common on the streets. In major tourist areas filth was everywhere, littering the sidewalks, the roadways, you name it. Toilets in the middle of the road, men urinating and defecating anywhere, in broad daylight.
Whole villages are plastic bag wastelands. Roadsides are choked by it. Air quality that can hardly be called quality. Far too much coal and far to few unleaded vehicles on the road. The measure should be how dangerous the air is for one’s health, not how good it is. People casually throw trash in the streets, on the roads.
The only two cities that could be considered sanitary in my journey were Trivandrum –the capital of Kerala–and Calicut . I don’t know why this is. But I can assure you that at some point this pollution will cut into India ’s productivity, if it already hasn’t. The pollution will hobble India ’s growth path, if that indeed is what the country wants. (Which I personally doubt, as India is far too conservative a country, in the small ‘c’ sense.)
The second issue , infrastructure, can be divided into four subcategories: roads, rails and ports and the electrical grid. The electrical grid is a joke. Load shedding is all too common, everywhere in India . Wide swaths of the country spend much of the day without the electricity they actually pay for. With out regular electricity, productivity, again, falls.
The ports are a joke. Antiquated, out of date, hardly even appropriate for the mechanized world of container ports, more in line with the days of longshoremen and the like. Roads are an equal disaster. I only saw one elevated highway that would be considered decent in Thailand , much less Western Europe or America . And I covered fully two thirds of the country during my visit.
There are so few dual carriage way roads as to be laughable. There are no traffic laws to speak of, and if there are, they are rarely obeyed, much less enforced. A drive that should take an hour takes three. A drive that should take three takes nine. The buses are at least thirty years old, if not older.
Everyone in India , or who travels in India raves about the railway system. Rubbish. It’s awful. Now, when I was there in 2003 and then late 2004 it was decent. But in the last five years the traffic on the rails has grown so quickly that once again, it is threatening productivity. Waiting in line just to ask a question now takes thirty minutes. Routes are routinely sold out three and four days in advance now, leaving travelers stranded with little option except to take the decrepit and dangerous buses.At least fifty million people use the trains a day in India . 50 million people! Not surprising that waitlists of 500 or more people are common now.
The rails are affordable and comprehensive but they are overcrowded and what with budget airlines popping up in India like Sadhus in an ashram the middle and lowers classes are left to deal with the overutilized rails and quality suffers. No one seems to give a shit.
Seriously, I just never have the impression that the Indian government really cares. Too interested in buying weapons from Russia , Israel and the US I guess.
The last major problem in India is an old problem and can be divided into two parts that’ve been two sides of the same coin since government was invented: bureaucracy and corruption.
It take triplicates to register into a hotel. To get a SIM card for one’s phone is like wading into a jungle of red-tape and photocopies one is not likely to emerge from in a good mood, much less satisfied with customer service.
Getting train tickets is a terrible ordeal, first you have to find the train number, which takes 30 minutes, then you have to fill in the form, which is far from easy, then you have to wait in line to try and make a reservation, which takes 30 minutes at least and if you made a single mistake on the form back you go to the end of the queue, or what passes for a queue in India.
The government is notoriously uninterested in the problems of the commoners, too busy fleecing the rich, or trying to get rich themselves in some way shape or form. Take the trash for example, civil rubbish collection authorities are too busy taking kickbacks from the wealthy to keep their areas clean that they don’t have the time, manpower, money or interest in doing their job.
Rural hospitals are perennially understaffed as doctors pocket the fees the government pays them, never show up at the rural hospitals and practice in the cities instead.
I could go on for quite some time about my perception of India and its problems, but in all seriousness, I don’t think anyone in India really cares. And that, to me, is the biggest problem. India is too conservative a society to want to change in any way.
Mumbai, India ’s financial capital is about as filthy, polluted and poor as the worst city imaginable in Vietnam , or Indonesia –and being more polluted than Medan , in Sumatra is no easy task. The biggest rats I have ever seen were in Medan !
One would expect a certain amount of, yes, I am going to use this word, backwardness, in a country that hasn’t produced so many Nobel Laureates, nuclear physicists, eminent economists and entrepreneurs. But India has all these things and what have they brought back to India with them? Nothing.
The rich still have their servants, the lower castes are still there to do the dirty work and so the country remains in stasis. It’s a shame. Indians and India have many wonderful things to offer the world, but I’m far from sanguine that India will amount to much in my lifetime.
Now, have at it, call me a cultural imperialist, a spoiled child of the West and all that. But remember, I’ve been there. I’ve done it. And I’ve seen 50 other countries on this planet and none, not even Ethiopia , have as long and gargantuan a laundry list of problems as India does.
And the bottom line is, I don’t think India really cares. Too complacent and too conservative.
Did you know this about Libya ?
Some other facts (that mainstream media will never disclose) about Gaddafi and Libya :
Loans to Libyan citizens are given with NO interest.
Students would get paid the average salary for the profession they are studying for.
If you are unable to get employment the state would pay the full salary as if you were employed until you find employment.
When you get married the couple gets an apartment or house for free from the Government.
You could go to college anywhere in the world. The state pays 2,500 euros plus accommodation and car allowance.
The cars are sold at factory cost.
Libya does not owe money, (not a cent) to anyone. No creditors.
Free education and health care for all citizens.
25% of the population with a university degree.
No beggers on the streets and nobody is homeless (until the recent bombing).
Bread costs only $0.15 per loaf.
No wonder the US and other capitalist countries do not like Libya . Gaddafi would not consent to taking loans from IMF or World Bank at high interest rates. In other words Libya was INDEPENDENT! That is the real reason for the war in Libya ! He may be a dictator, but that is not the US problem. Also Gaddafi called on all Oil producing countries NOT to accept payment for oil in USD or Euros. He recommended that oil get paid for in GOLD and that would have bankrupted just about every Western Country as most of them do not have gold reserves to match the rate at which they print their useless currencies.
Remember the last time someone had the “NERVE” to make a similar statement was when Saddam Hussein advised all Opec countries not to accept payment for oil in US Dollars. Well, we all know what happened to him .
Yes, they HUNG HIM , more appropriately said “Lynched Him“
The popular tale of Bengalooru (now Bangalore) getting its name from ‘Bende Kaalu Ooru’ meaning ‘Town of boiled beans’ after King Veera Ballala II of the Hoysala dynasty in 1120 AD was fed boiled beans by an old woman in the forest is historically incorrect. The name ‘Bengalooru’ was recorded much before King Ballala’s time in a 9th century inscription found in a temple in Begur village near Bangalore.
Bangalore was founded by Kempe Gowda I, who in 1537 AD built a mud fort in an area which is now K.R Market, Avenue Road and its nearby areas. Kempe Gowda built 8 gates for this fort:
* Yelahanka Gate (present Mysore Bank Square).
* Yeshwantpur Gate (near Upparapet police station).
* Kengiri Gate (now a police station is named after it).
* Halasoor (Ulsoor) Gate. (Now a police station is named after it).
* Kanakanahalli Gate (near Vokkaligara Sangha Bldg).
* Sonde Koppa Gate.
* Anekal Gate.
* Delhi Gate (at the Fort in K.R Market, which was rebuilt in stone by Hyder Ali). Inside the fort, he built the localities (pets) of Balepet, Aralepet (Cottonpet), Chickpet, Doddapet (Avenue Road), Upparapet, etc.
· To this day these areas bear their old names, and serve as major wholesale & commercial markets.
Kempe Gowda II came to power in 1585 and it was he who set the limit for Bangalore’s expansion by erecting 4 watch towers. These Watch towers still exist and are known as the Kempe Gowda Towers.
· In 1638, the army of Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur, led by Ranadulla Khan & Shahaji Bhonsle (Shivaji’s father) captured Bengalooru fort. Kempe Gowda II was then forced to retreat to Magadi, from where he and his successors ruled as Magadi Rulers. Magadi was later annexed to Mysore Kingdom in 1728.
· Bangalore was gifted twice as a Jagir and sold once. In 1638 AD, Adil Shah gifted it to Shahaji Bhonsle, thus starting the Maratha rule of Bangalore. In 1689, the Mughals captured Bangalore from the Marathas and sold it to Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar of Mysore for 3 lakh pagodas (gold coins). In 1759, Hyder Ali, commander of Mysore’s army, received Bangalore as a Jagir from Krishnaraja Wodeyar II. Later Hyder Ali declared himself ruler of Mysore Kingdom after Krishnaraja Wodeyar II’s death. Bangalore returned to the Wodeyars after Hyder’s son, Tippu Sultan, died in 1799 fighting the British.
· The British established the post of ‘Mysore Resident’ of Mysore Kingdom in 1799 and appointed Col.Sir Barry Close as the first Resident. In 1804 The Mysore Resident was shifted from Mysore to Bangalore. The Resident’s office & house known as ‘The Residency’ was first situated in the SACRED HEARTS SCHOOL (GOOD SHEPHERD CONVENT) building opp St.Joseph’s college in Bangalore. It also housed a jail, while the site across the road where convicts were hanged now houses the ST. JOSEPH’S COLLEGE. Many a ghost was seen wandering about before the College came up! The Road along the ‘Residency’ came to be called ‘RESIDENCY ROAD’ and even today it’s known as Residency Road though officially it has been changed to ‘ Gen. Cariappa Road ‘. In fact ‘The Residency’ later in 1881 shifted to what is today the RAJ BHAVAN, but Residency Road has retained its name ever since 1804 (now 200 years).
· The Raj Bhavan in Bangalore was built in 1840s & owned by Sir Mark Cubbon, who was Commissioner then. Cubbon was passionately fond of Arabian horses and used to keep at least fifty horses in his stable here. Lewin Benthem Bowring who succeeded Cubbon as Commissioner purchased the bungalow with its vast estate in 1862 for the British Govt to be used as the official Commissioner’s Bungalow. Later when the post of Commissioner was abolished, the Resident came to stay here and it came to be known as ‘The Residency’. But the road still was known as Commissioner’s Road, which is the reason why the road on the old Residency building continued to be known as ‘Residency Road’.
· In 1806, the British established a new CANTONMENT AREA in Bangalore (at Ulsoor) for its army and called it the ‘Civil & Military Station’. Till India’s independence this Cantonment area was ruled directly by the British. Thus Bangalore comprised two separate areas, to the West, Bangalore (Pettah) administered by the Mysore Maharaja, and to the East, Bangalore Cantonment, administered as a separate unit by the British Govt through the Resident. Soon the Cantonment area became not only a military base for the British army & its family, but also a settlement for a large number of Europeans, Anglo-Indians, missionaries, and Tamil speaking workers & traders from the neighbouring British controlled Madras Presidency.
· The Cantonment area under the British consisted of Shoolay, Blackpully (now SHIVAJINAGAR) , The Parade (M.G ROAD AREA), St. John’s Hill, Fraser Town, Benson Town, Cleveland Town, Cox Town, Richard’s Town, Ulsoor, Knoxpet (Murphy Town), Agram, Richmond Town, Langford Town, Austin Town (named after British Resident, Sir James Austin Bourdillon), Whitefield (Anglo-Indian Colony created in 1882), etc. Even today these Suburbs exist. The names given to the roads in the Cantonment were according to the military arrangement and campus. Thus, there was Artillery Rd, Brigade Rd, Infantry Rd, Cavalry Rd, South Parade (now M.G. ROAD), East Parade (near Mittal Towers), etc. The heart of the city in those days was the so called MacIver Town, the area around South Parade, St. Mark’s Road, Brigade Road and Cubbon Road.
· The Shoolay area (now Ashoknagar) still has streets named Wood Street, Castle Street, etc. The name ‘ SHOOLAY CIRCLE ‘, however, still exists near Brigade Towers. The famous Shoolay Police Station of the Cantonment was renamed Ashoknagar Police Station and now it has been demolished.
· COLES PARK is named after British Resident of Mysore Kingdom, Arthur H. Cole, who was Resident from 1809 – 1812 and again from 1818 – 1827.
· The British Cantonment area was also a host to SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, the future British Prime Minister who stayed in Bangalore from 1897 to 1900.
· In 1892, new extensions were added to the old town of Bangalore (Pettah) by creating CHAMARAJPET (named after Chamarajendra Wodeyar) and SHESHADRIPURAM (named after the Mysore Diwan Sir K. Sheshadri Iyer).
· In 1898, a plague broke out in Bangalore. The Bangalore Administration at once laid out 2 new bigger extensions to the City to meet the demand that had risen due to people being forced to leave their original areas that were affected. This resulted in laying out a suburb, named BASAVANGUDI after the Basaveswara (Bull God) Temple (also called Bull Temple) erected by Kempe Gowda I and another suburb, named MALLESWARAM, after the Kadu Malleshwara (Siva) Temple in the old Mallapura village.
· In 1901, VICTORIA HOSPITAL was established in commemoration of Queen Victoria of England’s Diamond Jubilee.
· In 1902, VANIVILAS HOSPITAL & SCHOOL was opened and the Road was also named VANIVILAS ROAD in memory of Maharani Vani Vilas Sannidhana, the Queen Regent of Mysore.
· In 1905, Bangalore became the first city in India to get electrical power.
During the post-Independence period KUMARA PARK area came into existence in 1947, JAYANAGAR was inaugurated in 1948, and at Binnamangala was created the INDIRANAGAR extension during the late 1960s.
· The large stone building on Residency Road, now housing L.I.C. adjacent to Devatha Plaza once housed The Reserve Bank of India. The present canteen of L.I.C. was once the strong room of the bank!
· One wonders why in the old records there is a reference to ‘ CENOTAPH ROAD ‘ in Bangalore when there is none to be seen. Cenotaph Road is today the NRUPATHUNGA ROAD named after Kannada poet Nrupathunga. The Cenotaph (Tomblike monument), was there at what is now the Corporation Circle . This Cenotaph was built in memory of Lt. Col. Moorhouse, Capt. Delany and about 50 soldiers who died in the siege in 1791, besides soldiers who died in different wars with Tipu Sultan till 1799. This monument was destroyed on Oct 28th 1964, by the Bangalore City Corporation and even the engraved stones are not to be traced! Only one broken small section piece has been located in the Corporation compound, used as a bench.
· CUBBON PARK is named after Sir Mark Cubbon, who was the British Commissioner of Mysore Kingdom from 1834 to 1861. Sir Mark, incidentally, had never set his eyes on the park. He left India in April 1861, and died on his way back home at Suez on 23rd April 1861. Cubbon Park was planned in 1864 by Sir Richard Sankey, the then Chief Engineer of Mysore (SANKEY TANK & SANKEY ROAD is named after Richard Sankey). The park was initially known as ‘ Meades Park ‘ after John Meade, the then acting Commissioner of Mysore. Subsequently it was rechristened as Chamarajendra Park in 1927 and later came to be known as Cubbon Park.
· CHURCH STREET at M.G’s is called so, because the road used to lead directly to St. Marks Church. At one time the compound of the Church was much bigger and the Church could be seen as you walked along Church Street.
· MUSEUM ROAD next to Church Street was named so since the Museum was located there before it was shifted to the present Kasturba Road in 1866.
· MAYO HALL at M.G. Road was erected in memory of Lord Mayo, the Governor-General of India who was assassinated in the Andamans in 1872. Built with public subscription it was handed over to the Municipal Commission in 1883.
· LALBAGH (meaning Red Garden) is not the original name of the famous garden in Bangalore, which was established by Hyder Ali in 1760 as a mango garden. In earlier records it was referred to as the Mango Tope & the Cypress Garden. The reason why people started calling it Lalbagh was due to the fact that Hyder & Tipu had a beautiful garden called Lalbagh at their capital, Srirangapatna.
· THE HOLY TRINITY CHURCH at Trinity Circle, at the end of M.G. Road, was earlier the British Army’s Garrison church, opened in 1851. The beauty of Trinity Church is not only in its tall tower & unparalleled pillars, but also the British military memorials inside.
· In 1868 the construction of Attara Kacheri (present High Court) was completed. The Secretariat (with 18 revenue departments) was shifted to Attara Kacheri from Tippu’s Palace at K.R Market. Attara Kacheri literally means ’18 Courts/Offices’.
· The TAJ WEST END HOTEL is the oldest Hotel in Bangalore and still maintains some of its earlier memories!! The original Proprietors were Spencer & Co Ltd, Madras. Today it’s owned by the Taj Group of Hotels.
· Opposite the Telegraph Office near Bangalore GPO, is the compound of the most famous Hotel of the late 1800’s, The Cubbon Hotel. Today it is in ruins.
· Spencer & Co (where FOOD WORLD is now located) started by an Englishman, Mr. Oakshot, was the most sophisticated and only Departmental Store in B’lore in earlier days.
· On the West of Spencer’s (present FOOD WORLD) one used to find Liberty Theatre (today try Handloom House!). Before it was called Liberty, it was The Globe, and before that the Crystal Picture Palace.
· The very popular Funnel’s Restaurant of the 1800’s & early 1900’s stood where the present DECCAN HERALD Office stands at M.G Road.
· S.J. POLYTECHNIC & SILVER JUBILEE PARK (at K.R MARKET – KRISHNA RAJENDRA MARKET) was set up in 1927 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee Celebration of Mysore Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. The SJP ROAD thus got its name.
· J.C ROAD (Jaya.Chamarajendra Road) is named after Jayachamaraja Wodeyar the last Maharaja of Mysore.
· The TATA SILK FARM was established south of Basavanagudi in 1906. The farm no longer exists but the area however is still known as ‘Tata Silk Farm’.
· In 1910, a General Hospital was opened at Malleshwaram and named after Mysore Princess Kempu Cheluvarajamnanni. Today this Hospital at Malleshwaram Circle is popularly known as K.C. GENERAL HOSPITAL.
· Bangalore once had 141 lakes (tanks) of which 7 are untraceable, 7 are now small pools of water, 18 are illegally occupied by slums & private parties, 14 were dried up & leased out by the Government, 28 have been converted as parks, BDA housing extensions, & commercial areas and the remaining 67 lakes are in fairly advanced state of deterioration, save for two or three like Ulsoor lake, Sankey Tank, Hebbal, etc.
· Some famous water bodies (tanks) which no longer exist are :
Dharamambudi Tank (present SUBASH NAGAR, BANGALORE CITY TRANSPORT SERVICE & KSRTC BUS stands are built on the bed of this lake). That’s why we still have a road named TANKBUND ROAD in that area.
· Sampangi Tank (present KANTEERAVA STADIUM was built on the bed of this lake).
Miller’s Tank (now houses Guru Nanak Bhavan, schools, and several buildings).
· The Halasoor Tank (now called ULSOOR LAKE), is the only surviving tank built by the Gowda (Kempe Gowda) rulers in Bangalore.
· Gandhinagar area is popularly nicknamed MAJESTIC, because of the Majestic Talkies (Theatre), which still exists in that area.
· ANANDA RAO CIRCLE at Majestic is named after Shri T. Ananda Rao, who was Dewan of Mysore from 1909 – 1912.
· VIDHANA SOUDHA, which houses the state Goverment’s Secretariat & Legislative Assembly. It was planned & constructed in 1954 by Kengal Hanumanthaih, Chief Minister of the then Mysore State (Between 1951-1956).
· The Double Road near Lalbagh is now named KENGAL HANUMANTHAIH ROAD (K.H. ROAD).
· CHOWDIAH MEMORIAL HALL, opposite Sankey Tank, has been built in memory of T. Chowdiah, a noted musician & violinist. This building is shaped like a violin, the stringed instrument of Chowdiah. Also the road along the Nehru Planetarium near Raj Bhavan is named T.CHOWDAIH ROAD.
· RAVINDRA KALAKSHETRA, near K.R. Market was built to commemorate Rabindranath Tagore’s centenary. It promotes cultural activity. R.T. NAGAR is also named after Rabindranath Tagore.
· My tailpiece. Most of you would have read R K Narayan’s MALGUDI DAYS. Does anyone know where Malgudi is? It is actually the combination of the names of two areas in bangalore – one where R K Narayan lived and the other where his in-laws lived. It is the combination of MALleswaram and BasavanGUDI.
WHO AM I?
I was born in one country, raised in another. My father was born in another country. I was not his only child.
He fathered several children with numerous women.
I became very close to my mother, as my father showed no interest in me.
My mother died at an early age from cancer.
Although my father deserted me and my mother raised me,
I later wrote a book idolising my father not my mother.
Later in life, questions arose over my real name.
My birth records were sketchy.
No one was able to produce a legitimate, reliable birth certificate.
I grew up practising one faith but converted to Christianity,
as it was widely accepted in my new country,
but I practised non-traditional beliefs and didn’t follow Christianity,
except in the public eye under scrutiny.
I worked and lived among lower-class people as a young adult,
disguising myself as someone who really cared about them.
That was before I decided it was time to get serious about my life.
and I embarked on a new career.
I wrote a book about my struggles growing up.
It was clear to those who read my memoirs,
that I had difficulties accepting that my father abandoned me as a child.
I became active in local politics in my 30’s then,
with help behind the scenes,
I literally burst onto the scene as a candidate for national office in my 40s.
They said I had a golden tongue and could talk anyone into anything.
I had a virtually non-existent resume, little work history,
and no experience in leading a single organisation.
Yet I was a powerful speaker and citizens were drawn to me,
as though I were a magnet and they were small roofing tacks.
I drew incredibly large crowds during my public appearances.
This bolstered my ego.
At first, my political campaign focused on my country’s foreign policy…
I was very critical of my country in the last war,
and seized every opportunity to bash my country.
But what launched my rise to national prominence were my
views on the country’s economy.
I pretended to have a really good plan on how we could do better,
and every poor person would be fed and housed for free.
I knew which group was responsible for getting us into this mess.
It was the free market, banks and corporations.
I decided to start making citizens hate them and,
if they became envious of others who did well,
the plan was clinched tight.
I called mine “A People’s Campaign”.
That sounded good to all people.
I was the surprise candidate because I emerged from outside
the traditional path of politics and was able to gain
widespread popular support.
I knew that, if I merely offered the people ‘hope’,
together we could change our country and the world.
So, I started to make my speeches sound like they were on
behalf of the downtrodden, poor, ignorant to include “persecuted minorities”.
My true views were not widely known and I kept them unknown,
until after I became my nation’s leader.
I had to carefully guard reality,
as anybody could have easily found out what I really believed,
if they had simply read my writings
and examined those people I associated with.
I’m glad they didn’t.
Then I became the most powerful man in the world.
And the world learned the truth.
Who am I?
Life is an adventure to be lived, not a problem to be solved.