17 August 2014

The Ugly Indian. Underground Festival

If you're an employed citizen, you're already doing your bit for society by contributing your skills to an industry. But what would you have to do to be a more responsible citizen? A citizen who actually improves situations, rather than just complain about it and say that nothing is going to improve?

Three years back, a little group of people took things into their hands and started cleaning up filthy areas with a simple motto "Mooh bandh. Kaam chalu" (meaning mouth shut; begin work). They did no activism, no awareness drives. Just a humble cleanup activity. Today, people across the world are asking them about their technique (I heard that news has even reached Canada). They're the Ugly Indians.

I wrote to them sometime ago about my views on volunteering and got a simple reply 
"Kaam chalu mooh bandh is the motto. Just come and work on a spotfix sometime. There is no talking in this initiative."
Makes sense. It speaks a lot about how they were able to move forward. Debating about things causes a lot of politics. Here, you just join in and clean up your city. Simple! 

How they do it

What we get to hear and see through the newspapers and social networking sites, is just the cream of the cake. There's a lot of hard-work and planning that goes into a spotfixing activity.
Where does the money come from? Once the garbage is collected, where is it dumped? Who supervises the cleaning and painting when it's clear that it's a bunch of amateurs who are painting?
Firstly, as a citizen, you can't simply start a spotfixing activity. You might accidentally cut a wire or break a water pipe. Every activity takes place with the permission of the BBMP and help from the BBMP people who help you to clear the garbage. I hear that the BBMP has issued an official circular across Bangalore, stating that they're working with TUI. Every new person is free to pay Rs.200 (or more) to financially assist a spotfixing activity. To know more, register for a spotfixing with this form (if you're in Bangalore) and this form if you're outside Bangalore. There's more info in the book.

The Underground Festival today: Heritage Walk

The objective was to make the subways around K.R.Circle worth walking through. Basically, it's possible to go all across K.R.Circle without once having to face the traffic on the road, because there are subways you can use. 
After a walk from Victoria statue, Mr. Arun Pai took us on a Bangalore Walk around K.R.Circle. I was amazed at the historic information he shared. King Krishna Raja Wadiyar's 25th year of reign (he ruled for 40 years) was when they built the K.R.Market, the K.R.Circle and the K.R. institutions. We owe a lot to the king, as he encouraged the advancement of Mysore and Bangalore.
K.R.Circle, the roads there and the buildings there were designed and built in the 1930's by visionaries. No building there was built after 1940. When India became independent, we built the largest building in Independent India - The Vidhana Soudha. Construction began in 1952 and took just 4 years to complete (now-a-days even flyovers take more time than that). Thousands of workers including prisoners worked on it. At this point our mayor mentioned that it was Mr. Kengal Hanumanthaiah who contributed to the construction of the Vidhana Soudha (double road is named after him, and is called double road because that's when the first concept of a road-divider came). It is said that the dome and the arch of the Vidhana Soudha are an Islamic structure, the pavilions are like those of the Hindu temples and the emblem is a Buddhist icon. It created a representative building of India. At that time, they didn't know where to build it, as there was so much land. So they said, Mr.Cubbon has a big house (Raj Bhavan), so let's build it in the back-yard of his house.

Did you know that there was a time when all watches that India used, were manufactured by HMT in Bangalore? In the 1950's every telephone made in India was manufactured in Bangalore (ITI). India got BEL and BEML. Asia's biggest hydroelectric plant was created with the help of GE engineers, and Bangalore was one of the first cities in India to get electrified. KEB and BESCOM are historic centers for Bangalore. 

HAL is the biggest aerospace complex in Asia. It was setup with the encouragement of the Mysore king. Sea planes used to land on Bellandur lake. That's the kind of technology we had at that time! In 1945 the world war ended and Mr.Nehru said that India would be non-aligned, so the British took all their planes and left ; except for a few planes, the engines of which they put sugar into so that the engine corrodes and it becomes unusable. Some very smart engineers from Bangalore reverse-engineered and repaired those planes in Kanpur, and flew them from Kanpur to Bangalore. A German man Kurt Tank, came to help us. He became an employee of HAL and in 1953, India's first fighter jet was made in Bangalore and we had air-power which prevented us from possibly being swallowed up by another country. One of those first fighter jets made in Bangalore is still visible at the Airforce mess at Trinity circle.
The space-race began when Russia launched the Sputnik. We built ISRO in Bangalore just three years after that.

As we kept walking in and out of the sub-ways, Mr.Arun told us more. The IISc was setup because of Mr.Jamshedji Tata. At that time the British opposed it saying that India was a land of superstitions and there was no place for scientific research. But Mr.Tata had kept aside some money which was meant only for the creation of a research institute, and although many cities were evaluated for the creation of the institute, eventually Bangalore was chosen. With the setting up of so many industries, came the need for educated individuals. Colleges were setup for this. Bangalore has the most number of Engineering colleges. UVCE was one of the earliest such colleges.

During the days of the Perl Harbour attack, something many don't know, is that Madras and Calcutta were also bombed by the Japanese. Bangalore was one of the safe havens for the British, and they quickly used HAL as their air force base. Fighter pilots used to relax in Cubbon Park while their planes were being serviced at HAL. Cubbon park was created in the 1860's at approximately the same time the grand central park was created in New York, and with the same objective. For citizens to have a place of leisure.

Bangalore had almost all of the firsts in industrialization in the country, and that too before World War I. Only a nuclear plant couldn't be setup in Bangalore because it required sea water. Else, Bangalore would have had that too :)

The Underground Festival today: Walk through the subways at K.R.Circle

It was amazing to see how the filthy subways were cleaned up (by 300 people) and setup as art centers. You could stroll along and look at photographs and paintings and even pose for photographs which would be emailed to you for free. Have a look!

Even our dear Mayor was present (white shirt). He himself had participated in painting some of the walls! Way to go Mr.Mayor!

This subway was one foot underwater just a few days ago. Was also used as a urinal. The Ugly Indians put in two weeks of work to get it cleaned and pumped out all the water.

Some lovely abstract paintings

The pic on the right is what it looked like. The left shows the Ugly Indians doing the cleaning

Art on display at the subway. They plan to hope to retain it like the boulevard at M.G.Road

All the hard-work

Three cheers!

Pose for a free portrait

Aaaandddd Cheese!

The Underground Festival today: The music, mime and painting

We had some nice bands play music to entertain the audience. Personally, I felt the percussion instruments and Beatboxing were the best! I've even recorded some of the sound.

Some sweet songs

Awesome percussion!

These rappers sang to the beat of 50 cent

Some awesome beatboxing

Some of the paintings created on the walls by volunteers (including me) today

It definitely beats sitting at home, strolling in a mall or going for a movie on a Sunday. You get to meet new people, learn something new and expand your skills. I learnt something new about wall painting.

I also noticed how people tend to get demotivated easily when they see somebody else making a much better piece of work. A person painting with me simply gave up because our painting didn't seem as good as the one opposite us. I continued and made our painting look good.

But remember, the event you see here is the cream of the cake. If you want to replicate it, don't just replicate the parts that look nice. Make sure you do all the necessary hard-work that makes such an activity the real success that it is.

There were no snacks, juice or water (there were free brushes, paint, masks and turpentine though). Everyone who came, came with the intention to volunteer, and that was the best part of it. Only the most genuine people come forward to volunteer when there's no other incentive.

After returning from the event, a person asked me "So they didn't give any food in the end?"
Me thinking: * Oh man! You just don't get the point, do you? :-) *

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