Monthly Archives: May 2008

Bangalore BIAL is a breeze: at 1AM in the morning

I FLEW BACK from Bangalore’s new BIAL airport yesterday – but set off at Indiranagar at 1AM to catch a 6:45 fright.

While by day, Bangalore’s roads are a living nightmare, at 1AM in the morning they’re clear and I reached the airport in one hour and 15 minutes. Despite reports in the local press, the road to BIAL is pretty good, and the airport is a vast improvement on HAL.

Not everything is quite finished. The shops are half empty – the boys told me that the alcohol for the duty free area had yet to clear customs. Books don’t need to clear customs – the bookshop had hardly anything in it.

There’s a shortage of tags for hand baggage, so a queue formed of people who had almost got through security to be sent back and wait for the authorities to, presumably, print some more.

You can’t get through emigration without having a script called the user development fee which costs Rs 1,070 – you’re exempt if you’re under two years old. This has been “approved by the Ministry of Civil Aviation of India”.  And a leaflet says: “If you are paying by cash you are requested to provide exact change.” The taxi fare to the airport was over Rs 1,000 – to the old HAL airport it would have been about Rs 200.

In the small international area there’s a bar – we did fancy a beer believe it or not. Heck, yesterday was a “dry day”. What’s this in the bottom picture? Yeah, it’s a piece of “designer sculpture” set to bemuse on and all, and a stone’s throw from a Subway. Heck. The wonder that is India.



HAL says goodbye, BIA says hello

THE AUTHORITIES switched the Bangalore airports yesterday so at midnight tonight I will be wending my merry way to the new BIA airport, with the taxi fare estimated at Rs 1,500 and the journey time perhaps two hours or more, who knows…

That is not the end of it. Talked to a charming lady at BA Delhi who told me that I have to pay a “user development tax” for the privilege of using an airport without a high speed rail link or adequate roads.

This “user development tax” costs a cool Rs 1,070, so goodness knows what you do if you’re a traveller somewhat strapped for cash. Presumably you don’t fly.

I will let you know what this transport of delight is like after I’ve experienced its wonders. The PR engine at the Siemens-Zurich joint venture is already in full swing. The local newspapers are gushing about how wonderful it is, what with its extensive “shopping opportunities” at 3AM in the morning and the rest.

Some are still pushing to keep the old HAL airport going – at least for domestic frights. Many businessmen are switching to the trains instead of facing a drive of three hours to the airport, a two hour check in, followed by a 45 minute fright to, say, Chennai.

Auto matic writing

JAYANT, over at the IT Examiner, has written what I think is a really fab piece about the plight of auto-rickshaw customers. But he’s also had a word or two to spare for the drivers themselves.

With over 80,000 autos in bustling Bangalore, they’re hustling for business it seems. Yet you often see the drivers turning away potential passengers and many don’t seem in a hurry to scurry for business. Read Jayant Mishra’s piece here.

Turn the autos, tuk-tuks into designer carriages

WAS CHATTING to two of the young guys at the office here in Indiranagar and musing about the possibilities the auto-rickshaw might offer.

That was spurred earlier on this morning by the sight of an auto, or tuk-tuks as they call them in other parts of Asia, which had its music turned up way too high, destroying the early morning call of the screaming Hoopooh, or whatever it is.

We speculated on how we might create a designer auto, complete with all mod cons, and even toyed with the idea of a stretch auto-rickshaw. One of the guys came out with the idea of special big wheels for the autos, which would raise them way above the rest of the traffic, and with special alloy hub caps.

The sight of 500 taxi autos at the traffic lights here in Ole Bengaluru is certainly enough to cause awe, fear and shock as they all shoot off together in totally different directions, yet apparently never managing to bump into each other, a bit like the ideal dodgem drivers in the days of old fashioned fairgrounds.

One of my colleagues wanted to know why when you caught an auto, you always paid one rupee less than the meter said, yet in cabs you always paid three rupees more than the meter said. I hadn’t realised that meters worked in autos nor in cabs. The auto meters are never turned on for me, and the taxi meters are discreetly covered in a cloth, as if to say ‘don’t mention the price’.

We’re all a bit scandalised by cycle rickshaws and there still are human powered rickshaws apparently in some parts of India. Not in Bangalore, although we’ve seen pony traps and chariots being driven along the highways and byways.

Monsoons start in Ole Bengaluru

IT NEVER RAINS but it pours in Ole Bengaluru – but it certainly is pouring right now. The mausam started yesterday and will continue off and on for three months or so.

And Bloody HAL! Ole HAL Bangalore airport shuts down on the 23rd, so our return fright to London will be from the new airport.

We talked to our hotel manager – you remember we are at the Centre of Laundry Excellence – and our flight is at 6:45 on Sunday from the new one. He says this is the schedule. I leave from Indiranagar at half past midnight to get to the airport about 3:30AM to make my fright.

It will cost quite a bit more than the Rs250 I paid from HAL to get there. I suppose I can sleep in the car. The traffic might be less heavy at that time in the morning. Let’s look on the bright side.

No wonder most Bangalore businessmen are choosing to drive to Chennai rather than drive three hours to the airport to get there two hours early to take an hour to fly and another hour or two to get to their destination.

I hear you ask – how about the proposed Bengaluru Metro? There is no completion date for that. Must check out the hotels near the new airport so I can make a staggered journey next time round. ♣


Cock and Bull story discovered in Kandy

TO THE TEMPLE of Pattini, the shakti of Shri Shri Gorakshanatha Deva 108, which we surprisingly found in Sri Lankan foothill city Kandy, or EyeKandy as we decided to call it.

Kandy contains the Temple of the Tooth, a bit of the Buddha – born, enlightened and deaded on the full moon on the 19th that is to say today.

The guide waxed lyrical about Gorakshanatha, the founder of the pan-Indian Natha Sampradaya.  He said that Theravada had it that when Maitreya, the next incarnation of Buddha, visited our little planet, he would be a Natha. Maitreya will be a Boddhisattva, an Avalokiteshvara and a Lokanath.

In Pattini’s temple several cocks strutted around cock-a-doodle-doing. The guide said that very  often people would offer cocks, and sometimes other animals to the goddess – but they weren’t killed and were freely allowed to roam around.  Only male animals were allowed to be offered, but we didn’t see bulls, bull elephants, rams nor Billy Goats in the circumambulatory space.

Some person listening to this noticed there were only two cocks in the precinct of the Devi’s temple.  She observed, rather cynically we believe, that the same two cocks were offered to the goddess over and over again so that when they were led up to the niche where Pattini Devi lives, they thought to themselves, “oh no, not again”.