Be The Change : Indus Khaitan rides the bus

[ This is the first one I'm trying to do as part of stories about people who embraced change. ]

Indus is a batchmate from BIT Mesra, an entrepreneur and has recently moved back to Bangalore from the Bay Area. He settled into a huge townhouse, got a car and started rediscovering Bangalore.

I had mentioned to him that I had recently tried using buses again, and had found the BMTC services much better than they used to be and recently, was pleasantly surprised by his complete switch to busing! Over the last week, have met him a couple of times, and he manages to get there by bus each and every time. He waits for a Volvo - and yet has managed to keep his enthusiasm going even as his knowledge of the "inner workings" of the routes, names of stops, passes, etc continues to grow.

I'm impressed with the ease with which he's decided to bus around, and the fact that he's promoting it on Twitter as well!

Here's some answers from the enthusiastic convert himself:

What got u started ?

I always wanted to do bus. But, was scared initially of dust/pollution, people pushing, waiting etc etc. Then I had a scheduling conflict with the family -- They wanted to go somewhere and I had a meeting elsewhere. So, they dropped me at a bus stop and I got a Volvo. Life is better and now I'm on my own busing around. I had the alternative to take autos -- but I hate autos because they're open from both sides and you are sitting next to the tail pipes of other vehicles passing by.

Initial thoughts ?

1. The biggest problem is finding a schedule and the route. The BMTC website, however advanced it maybe, it's still a generation behind.
2. There is a slight chance of getting hit by a passing bike when you are getting-off as the 2 wheelers drive everywhere.
3. Figuring out where the bus would stop was a big pain, coz the bus stop is crowded with people who are getting onto other buses. However, the good part is that driver stops if you wave at him!

Experiment, or becoming a habit ?

It was an experiment - whether I can do it -- but I've found it convenient (esp. the Volvos).

Why did u persist ?

I had no option other than a car or an auto. I found that the car is a huge waste of resources for a one person going from a defined point A to point B. Moreover, if you have a driver then you are dependent on his schedule. Moreover, my first few trips were fun -- Also, I was able to chat with random people I met on the bus!

Isn't it painful ? Doesn't it take too much time ?

One may find it painful if he is forced to bus and lacks the enthusiasm. It takes slightly more time if you have to wait for a connection at a bus stop. But, if you carry a GPRS enabled phone and a book in hand, then your waiting time is utilized doing something productive.

What would u like seeing solved ?

1. I would like to see a system route map like this one

2. Not all buses have displays -- make it interactive -- auto display of the bus stop/area we are passing by (like the one metro trains have)

3. The GPS system of Volvos are not working because government has not paid the next years subscription fees. Someone needs to fix it.

4. Bus stops need to convey which routes are serviced by them.

5. A lot of morning buses are overcrowded -- I'm not sure whether the govt has a feedback system to increase capacity of those routes during the peak hours.

Why should people do it ?

It's fun, keeps few cars of the road and of course good for the environment.

Tips ? Advice ?

Look at the service related suggestions above. A map is needed desperately to get first timers on board. Lack of information is a major deterrent.

Indus, I wish more people would hop on, stop the excuses and be prepared to make it work. The benefits are huge - lower stress, much lower pollution and congestion, and if enough start doing this, maybe a few will engage with the government for improving things along the lines you've suggested. Hats off dude, and catch you on the next BMTC ride :)

Those Who Did It

Be the Change.

The soundbite is easy enough. The followup is often tough. Could be for the environment, could be for personal health, or choices one makes that are not the norm, non-conformist, even rebellious.

I'm going to try and do some coverage of people who've gone ahead and embraced change in their own small way. No major social impact, no media-interest stories - but more "I did it because it made sense to me" despite the reasons and excuses to not do it.

The change itself could be about the environment, or kids' schooling, or alternative careers, or different lifestyles. Anything - that takes some thinking through, conviction and courage to follow up on.

Format : I'll write a short note on what I thought impressed me, and answers to a few questions I pose to the person. Apart from this, no constraints. If you have some folks in mind, or want to ask a few questions for stuff you've been meaning to do yourself, let me know.

As a class, we in the GIMC are reasonably cynical and change/improvement are usually someone else's responsibility. Hopefully a few stories of small, one-off changes that people made will spark something off...

Otesha : Be the change

The Otesha Project: Take Action: Areas of action

The page discusses a lot of ideas one can try out - perhaps one at a time - towards a more responsible lifestyle. Not too much to ask, really.

Uncertainty Zone

I'm taking the-other road at the fork, and the amorphous mix of dreams, explorations, desires, fears and uncertainty ahead make it a very heady, exciting choice.

Hopefully it'll be mostly fun. Some of those journeys have started, and I'm already finding that the "lots of free time" is a myth :) But as the options evolve, and some emerge at the top of the "permanence table", that may solve itself.

I do hope to finish a few books, and network a lot more. I also hope to discover a lot more - of myself, of Bangalore, of Coorg, of the entrepreneurship space around here. And I hope to push myself into being more well-rounded (not physically!) and developing and putting to good use some of the skills I'd like to grow/see mature. More than anything, I definitely hope to do some stuff that gives me deep rooted satisfaction, and a sense of connectedness to the real world.

Life's a good school :)

Growing Forests

Organizations like Trees For Free and Hasiru Usiru are doing a commendable job of trying to enhance and protect our tree cover.

However, there is a basic contradiction in greening goals and urban landscapes - the latter is about "usage" of land - and that more in commercial terms than anything else. Everything else is secondary - and even the space legally, or voluntarily, created for trees and natural cover, is done as a major concession and something to be proud of.

Of course, it is something to be proud of. But its also something we should have realized by now that we depend on as a species - for keeping things cool, keeping the air fresh, and for keeping the water cycle going. Its not something that should be a discretionary afterthought, but the most important part of evolving urban landscapes.

Sure. But thats merely an ideal, and we're really really, really far from it.

In the hierarchy of needs and wants, the above ideal is pretty low. So while there's sporadic resistance, and occasional sparks of desire, and even action to see more green and less stone, prick, mortar and glass - its more or less a losing battle. The vocabulary is "cut as few trees as possible", or "try growing trees where it does not affect your foundations", etc. Can't blame anyone - thats how it is - and everyone's got fair reasons for it. N-thousand-per-square-foot is quite a compelling reason, more often than not. And pollution related disease and death is not that visible a counter-force. Sure the water's depleting, but our tanker guy manages to get us enough, and we're ok for now....

So ? We carry on ? What else could we do ?

So here's a whacky idea...

I've been vocalizing that the governement needs visionary goals, and one of those must be to grab back free land where available, not play the per-square-feet game, and afforest it with a manic zeal. But of course, I have little influence, and not too much hope that the government will formulate such goals and move in these directions.

Next best ? We do it. Me and you cannot go around buying too much land to afforest. But collectively, we could start building a layer of green defenses - perhaps within, and perhaps also around the city. A forest here, a green island there, maybe even an acre with a lake and a lot of trees.

A trust owns and manages the land. We legally ensure it can never be used for any other purpose. We try and ensure its marked as "forest" or "parks" in CDPs.

If 100000 people put in a 500/- each, thats a lot of forest land we could create around the city (25-30 kms away its still not that expensive). Sure there are legal hurdles, issues around policy formulation, long term goals, and financing issues. Worth a shot ? If it grows, I'm sure a few corporates would not mind pitching in.

Questions about loss of farmland and food security just in case this idea grows? Agriculture needs better techniques, innovation. As part of this effort, we can engage both for that as well as for conservation.

If 10 people respond to this, will create a mailing list, and a spreadsheet to collect "committments".

Idea? Non starter? Thoughts?

Your Own Little Space : Some Details

As the plans firm up, here are some more details.

  • No fences inside the campus
  • Duplex 2bhk+study/3 bhk/3+study/4 bhk homes
  • Sizes 1300-2000 sqft on land sizes of 1500/2400/3000
  • Price range 44-72Lacs + Regn, Deposits
  • Clubhouse with a pool
  • Rainwater Harvesting, Solar Heating for each home as well as common areas
  • Trees trees, trees
  • All details frozen this week (except proportions of the sizes - that depends on how many of the interested folks want what)
If you're curious, there's a place near Kengeri that you could visit to get a feel of what this community may look like.

Will send out a mail to all the interested folks by end of the coming week, and meet up someplace to switch from the feasibility mode to execution mode. Meanwhile, still looking for more like-minded people to participate. Do let me know.