The first thing that struck me was: how very difficult it is for pedestrians on this city's roads. Crossing the road in front of IIM was an ordeal by itself; every four- and two-wheeler seemed intent on getting ahead, mowing down any luckless person in their path. Well, I made it in one piece.
The next wonderful thing was the pavement (sidewalk to the Americans.)If one could call it that. Certainly there was no paving at any point in the 2 km stretch; I walked through the mud and dust, climbing up and down little hillocks and valleys where either debris had accumulated, or drainage channels had been dug. Sometimes granite slabs over the drains were of a little help....
And even more intriguing is the list of what I shared that pavement with:
1. Of course, several other luckless pedestrians. Bangalore Mahanagara Palike which is now Brihat (Great) BMP (why add a Brihat if it is already a Mahanagar, a Megalopolis?) have ensured that only those who cannot afford any other mode of transportation would choose to walk on the city's pavements. So my companions were mainly domestic servants, returning home after the day's work, agricultural labourers, and other daily wage earners.
2. Several buffaloes, some of whom came running at me, and to avoid which I had to step on to the road. They were driven by young, scrawny-looking cowherds. I wonder if the milk is sold directly to the consumers...
3. Several motorcycles who thought nothing of doing the circus-type ride to get ahead of the traffic. Of course there was no policeman to stop them from using the pedestrian area!
4. Helmet stalls, bookstalls, and fruit (watermelon) stalls set up in a temporary fashion. I needed to skirt both these and their patrons.
5. Several pushcarts selling various fried snacks.
6. Building material being stored in preparation for future construction.
7. Electrical transformers which the electricity company have helpfully erected so that they completely block the footpath.
8. 18, yes I counted, stray dogs which were there in spite of all the brouhaha about them recently (some dogs formed packs and bit two children to death and BMP had been catching and killing the dogs; animal rights activists and concerned parents are now at each other's throats over this.) They made other pedestrians very nervous indeed as they ran alongside. But none seemed particularly fearsome to me.
9.Saplings and trees. Amazingly, I saw several young saplings planted along the footpath. They might block it, but I was happy to see them. Some of the other young trees which have also been spared made a cheering sight.
I also imbibed the traffic exhaust and the kicked-up dust as I walked. At times the footpath was just notional; and sometimes I had no choice but to walk along the edge of the road.
Crossing the road at the 100 ft Ring Road junction was another nightmare. I think BMP's idea of a zebra crossing is if at tourist goes to Tanzania...it's not something one can ever think of finding, or being used, here. I was reminded of two jokes: One little boy asks another, as they are about to cross the road: "So...what would you like to be if you grow up?" and a tourist asking a little boy, "Where can I cross this road?" and the boy replying, "I don't know, I was born on this side."
I am so used to walking in these conditions that I still made good time...but I couldn't help wishing that pedestrians had more facilities in this city!