June 1, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to another round of random reflections. It is extremely hot in my part of the world; hope you are staying cool.

  1. Among the many solutions to growing transport problems in big cities, taxi aggregators like Ola and Uber seem to have captured quite a market in certain cities. If you are a short-term visitor in Bengaluru, you be prepared to ‘struggle’ to get taxis to get anywhere. My first day in that city brought me in touch with auto-rickshaw service in a pleasant manner; no bargaining, pay by meter, courteous drivers. However, once it rained in the evening, this facility disappeared from the roads. There are no taxi stands in Bengaluru, not even near hotels. So, you are forced to use an app to call one. Half the time such taxis did not show up, causing delay to reach appointed places. When they did come, most drivers did not know the direction to where I wanted to go; they did not even know how to use their smart phones and maps in them. When they turned on the oral instructions on their smart phones, the drivers did not understand anglicised stylish English voice. Take your time there?
  2. France is still struggling to understand why it has become target of terror attacks. There are many more security restrictions in Paris now. These arrangements are being further exacerbated by continuous strike actions, now covering oil and gas refineries. Socialist government in Paris is allegedly trying to improve the economy of France by reigning in organised trade unions. If Paris is the most visited city by international tourists, ease of travel may be reducing there now?
  3. Once a summer resort for many in the eastern region of India, temperatures in Ranchi are now regularly reaching 40C in summer. Though it is the capital of the new state of Jharkhand, it is somewhat lagging behind its compatriot cities which became state capitals at the same time—Raipur and Dehradun. A quick visual indicator of such ‘progress’ in cities is the density of use of smart phones, as noticed on the streets. Old style Nokia mobile phones are more commonly visible, in the hands of people and in shops selling mobiles. Other indicators?
  4. The desire to assert independence from the seat of government in Madrid (Spain) is still very fervent in the Catalan region. Flags of Catalan are fluttering all over Barcelona. The people are waiting to see the outcome of Brexit vote in UK; last time, they were disappointed with results of such a vote in Scotland, which voted against independence. Barcelona is one of the most beautiful and exciting centres of tourism and education in the world. It is also facing high rates of youth unemployment. It is a challenge to navigate such forces of identity, autonomy, economy and life-style!
  5. What do youth in poor settlements in cities like Jaipur enjoy most? Dance, Bollywood-style! Informal and self-organised spaces have sprung up in slums as well as middle-class colonies where young boys (and girls many-a-times) practice dance. Such dance studios have become a craze, and many of these youngsters have great talent and competence. The elders, including parents, of such communities tend to frown on such activities; another contentious issue, one more in the long list of issues that parents of teenagers are confused about!


Rajesh Tandon