Monday, September 24, 2012

Disruptions to school, work and life!!!

These last two weeks have been disrupted to the point where I haven't known what day of the week it is!

We started with a state wide public bus strike. Apparently, this all stems from India's credit rating being down graded by the international banks. In order to reduce the national debt the government increase the tax on fuel. In a hand to mouth economy this has a major impact. If fuel goes up, bus fares go up (40% of the population get to work by bus) and also food and water prices will go up as both reach their destination by truck, tanker or train.

Parundar only lives 10 minutes away from Vista and travels back and forth by motorbike so he is not troubled by this. Sweetie takes the first day off work but the second day I decide I need her as we are headed for the weekend when she only wrks half a day and I hate washing up in cold water. I tell her I'll pay for her to get a rick.  The rick drivers are a canny lot. The bus strike acts in their favour. Not only do they up their fares by 300% but then double/tripe/quadruple up and charge each person on board the inflated fare. For her homeward journey we decided Parundar would take her in the car. Sweetie is all a quiver - this is a major excitement.

As well as public government buses (the ones on strike) there are private red volvo buses on the roads, which charge a bit more and have a/c. These are normally not as crowded as the public buses, but not the case on strike days........  Simon saw many buses with people on bus roofs, hanging on for dear life! For most of these folks a lost days work is a lost day's pay.... Apparently about 6,000 buses were off the road in Bangalore.

The following week not only do we have Ganesh holiday (Wednesday) but a national strike/close down (Thursday) Also caused by the fuel price hike. Simon gets told that Infosys will be closed for the day....hurrah!! but Saturday will be a work!! Indus holds out until the evening before to determine whether it will be closed or not. The kids are happy when we get the 'no school tomorow' e-mail!! Simon and I take a walk out of the neighborhood and it is sooooo quiet. It is very eery. India is never this or night. Our street is normally a hub of activity. Its always full of people, of traffic, of noise of dust. It was a ghost town. The manager of Niligris, our small neighborhood grocery was one of the few out and about and asks me if I need anything from his closed up shop. I say no but am so impressed he offered. 

We are registered with the American embassy and get emails warning us of possible disturbances or anti US sentiment in our part of the world. Its a courtesy service for citizens. The French families here have a similar service and were emailed by the french commission that the following day, Friday was also high risk, Friday being the Muslim holy day, in the light of the recent muslim activity and reprisals. However, I decided 3 non-functional days last week would be too much and I took no heed, Friday being my weekly tennis day.

Usually post our couple of sets of really good fun tennis, as Parunder has left for Infy to pick Simon, friend C gives me a lift half way back home and then I get a rick. However Parunder thinks a) I am generally overcharged by the rick drivers - which seems to be a consequence of my lily white - I do negotiate the price down and am usually quite happy with the final price and b) in any case the volvo bus is not only way cheaper but has a/c and the one mile walk home from the bus stop is nothing for me as I am always running or at the gym. So point taken I get the bus.

Yes, I am the only white person on the bus and the only person with a tennis racket - not sure which is the most unusual on volvo bus 355!! The fare is a massive 10rs, so a considerable savings in percentage terms over the rick fare, tho' in absolute terms not much!! And the mile walk home is mainly a bike and pedestrian only path so actually very pleasant.  And most of all, I feel very proud of myself. I get fed up of being in my ex-pat grey Innova chauffeured about so bit of independence by bus and by foot is all for the good.

Saturday, poor Simon is off to work but does leave late and return early and then for the moment we are back to normal. More upheaval in the not too distant is threatened both due to these fuel increases but also in Karnataka about precious water from the Kauvery river being used by a neighboring state. 

But for now I know today is Monday and Simon is at work and the kids at school!!


  1. The red Volvo buses are public buses.