Gone Away: To Germany & Austria – 1: Why our cities look disorganised and dirty?
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Gone Away: To Germany & Austria – 1: Why our cities look disorganised and dirty?

October 4, 2017

I guess time and chance happenth to all. One must bide his time patiently and grab it egregiously when opportunity presents itself. That was how I happened to make it to Munich’s famous October Beer Festival.

People from all over Europe and the world descend on Munich in very large numbers to witness and participate in the festival guzzling litres of beer in one litre capacity heavy, thick beer mugs. It was so heavy I needed to lift it to my lips with both my hands till it was half empty. Details of my visit to the festival later.

Time and chance happened to me to visit the festival when a visitor to my office mentioned with considerable pride that he was preparing to leave for Germany and it was going to be his third consecutive visit to this Munich Beer Festival. “Like going to Sabarimalai,” I guffawed.

“You must visit at least once,” he sounded persuasive. It was in fact a hidden persuader and I agreed to consider. Now it was my turn to persuade my son, who had already had his darshan of this festival, to take me and my wife. Like all good sons he did not demur. So it was.

Early booking or blocking, months in advance, has its advantage in hotel and airlines reservation. We were late. Yet, with effort we largely succeeded in getting the reservation, if not the concession. In future,  one may have to book air and hotel facilities not months in advance but years. In India, I thought people travelled only for pilgrimage and honeymoon  apart from business and visiting relatives. Now, people travel for holidays, participating in sports and adventure events or for watching. People travel to learn yoga, for education and even hospitalisation. Apparently, people have that extra money and time. So be it.

Our journey begins on 14th September early morning (astrologically speaking Brahma Muhurta) landing late afternoon in Berlin on the same date.  Time difference: Three-and-half hours behind India. It is the capital city where the destiny of Germany was made and unmade during the 20th Century beginning from World War I.  Monarchy in Berlin collapsed under the Versailles Treaty of 1919; large areas of German territories were conceded to other European countries, including France. Under a sinister, unjust ‘War Guilt Clause’ in the Treaty a demilitarised Germany was asked to make War Reparation Payment of an inconsiderable amount of US $ 31.4 billion. This was evil and evil begot evil in the form of Hitler and World War II. Weiner (Socialist) Republic was formed in 1919 and Hitler came to power in 1933. Let it be. Let me not write German history, let me go around Berlin…

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As I was told, it was cold, wet and dismal in a dim atmosphere. After checking in, we left our hotel for a walk around. After an hour I could not but remember Bengaluru. If Berlin is a healthy city, Bengaluru is a diseased city. If Bengaluru is a crowded dirty city, Berlin is sparsely populated clean city. According to our German guide, Berlin was built on a swamp land (hence the name) and had problem constructing buildings. For foundation, water had to be constantly pumped out. And we were witness to a similar situation even after many centuries now.

At various places along the road or overhead across the road we would see big pipes painted in blue or pink leading to the huge canal (or was it the River Spree) that runs quietly in the middle of Berlin City. This is to carry water from the construction sites to the canal. And the canal that looks like a river is clean (no need to emphasise) and used very purposefully for river cruise for tourists. This canal-river is also used for tourist boating, competitive boat-racing and such water sports. Look at our city Mysuru with the remaining four usable water bodies (lakes) — Kukkarahalli Lake, Karanji Lake, Dalvoy Lake and Varuna Lake. Not even simple boating is introduced here in a purposeful manner, forget about cruise boats.

One of the reasons why these cities in Western countries are dust-free and clean is that all open areas including the footpaths are paved. Footpaths and bicycle lanes (clearly earmarked) are kept absolutely free of any obstructions like in India ­— look at Bengaluru and Mysuru. Flag poles, kiosks, small temples, sacred tombs, advertisement hoardings abound creating sound pollution and nuisance to the pedestrians. It is obvious, the bureaucracy and the politicians are hand-in-glove either to line their pockets or for garnering votes from those who encroach these footpaths and public spaces.

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In a country where law is selectively or scarcely complied with, even Supreme Court’s orders are not followed in this regard, we cannot expect our city to be even a patch on the quality and beauty of these Western cities, old or new. Lacking in aesthetic sense, we are unable to regulate even the shop or building sign-boards.

When A.B. Ibrahim was the MCC Commissioner, he somehow, outsmarting our MLAs, MLCs and Corporators, managed to streamline the name boards of shops in the Devaraja Market facing Sayyaji Rao Road. However, he could not go further… Perish the thought.

Who will force the bureaucrats to implement these SC orders? The Government does not. MPs, MLAs, MLCs do not bother. The tax-payer should go to the SC again at high cost. Can he? So the vandalism of our footpaths go on…

In Western countries the Peoples’ Representatives are always under watch by their own colleagues and the law- abiding citizens. As a result bureaucrats implement the law and court orders. No wonder we find Western cities so clean, hygienic and orderly.

Our guide was gloating over the greenery in Berlin. Berlin is only 1/3 city, rest is forest, garden and parks, he says and added winking at me with a smile “and this is the only city in the world with so much of green cover.” I smiled. For normal rains no road or open area gets water-logged as in Bengaluru or Mysuru. Wonder what our IAS, IPS officers, Engineers and Politicians learn after visiting these cities at tax-payers’ cost? Don’t they feel that cities in our country, which we call ‘Motherland’, should also be as clean, good and beautiful like these Western cities? If not, there is something wrong in our culture of public life and responsibility. Narendra Modi alone cannot remedy this problem by merely sweeping streets… My feeling is that we have compromised our Democracy to our own detriment. No wonder some epidemic diseases are endemic in our cities like Dengue, Chikungunya, Malaria, etc.

When I switched on the TV on completing our night-safari of sorts, the image on LG TV  came with the motto: Life’s Good. Indeed in Berlin. For India, LG TV should change its motto: Life’s Grouchy.

[To be continued]

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4 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Gone Away: To Germany & Austria – 1: Why our cities look disorganised and dirty?”

  1. theskywalker says:

    You visited Berlin now, I visited Berlin in early 1970s, to see West and East Berlins, from Mysore which was not so much polluted and we could still walk or bicycle. Cars were not the prestige symbol then. Mysore was fairly a quiet city. West Berlin then was not West Germany’s capital, Bonn was.Now living in West I visit Berlin many times, and it has become congested with ;people and traffic after it became the capital of Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. But in comparing ti Bangalore or Mysore, which are choked with people and vehicle, it is relatively a clean and quiet Western city., India is a third world country in all its facets, and will remain so in decades to come. No point in comparing any city with a Western city. The teeming hundreds of millions people did not happen by accident. When a tonga wallah in Mysore then could have 4 wives , because as a Muslim , he could marry as many women as possible-thanks to the bending -over backwards gesture of creating Muslim personal laws, the country encouraged breeding among a section of its population, which results in the rest of the population joining the breeding race! No wonder with over 1.3 billions of inhabitants, India is virtually strangled by the massive population growth, the resources disappearing fast, and filth and dirt taking over. In 1950 , as an young boy I still can visualise what clean and beautiful city Mysore was and what a beautiful city Bangalore was. Thanks to independence, I witnessed how degeneration settled so fast in 1950s.

    • Thethreewisemen says:

      Comparing the overpopulated, traffic-congested, dirty with street drains and plethora of street dog-infested cities like Bengaluru and Mysuru in a third world country with a modern Western city like Berlin of the developed world? Indian can excel in these areas: the corrupt politicians, the institutionalised corruption driven by administrators and greedy professionals like doctors and the massively corrupt and dishonest society to match them.

  2. Pradeep says:

    Majority of Indians are selfish! They all have only one question they ask when they do or don’t do anything! The question is “what is there in it for me?” So, they throw paper or plastic on the street or spit or pee on the sidewalk, they are only concerned about themselves ! Now, the politicians , we have been ruled by the majority of corrupt politicians and administrators for 7 decades! They are more happy yo see the funds alotted for the cause of cleaning rather than doing any work! Now, our PM sensed the need of Swatch Bharath Abhiyaan, even some of the opposition leaders ridiculed Jim, forget about co-operating! Secondly, if you try to take any polluters to court, you will face the wrath of the gang of the liberal advocates, media, politicians, benefiting industrialists, you name them! There was a joke about how media thinks , if Modi says, every person should wash his hand using soap after going to toilet, media will scream that modi is trying to promote the Soap industry, liberals will say, he is destroying democracy that people should have to wash or not wash their hands,Owaisis will say, he is trying to impose his will on Muslims, Rahul will say, he is trying to help big business ignoring the poor! When it comes to politics, our politicians absolutely don’t care. Even if it helps the public!

    • Thethreewisemen says:

      In other words, this third world corrupt country is in a mess. That should please those who gave up their lives and those who went to jail in the freedom movement. It did not take long for the politicians to destroy the country, staring from Kengal Hunumanthaiah in 1953 when he indulged in the mammoth Vidhana Soudha plan which was a scam. Generally, people deserve the leaders they get. India initially added the population of Australia every other year for a few years, and then it became every year’s growth, which adds to pollution of various kinds. Well, I do not see anything getting any better-except that these days I hear stories of my friends visiting India having to bribe in US Dollars to get anything done. Gone is the bundle of rupees as the graft currency which is US Dollars now!


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