Whoever said Mohammed bin Tughlaq was dead?

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Ace Political Expert (APE) was taking a rhythmic walk in the Cheluvamba Park after learning about the new form of walking from “experts”.

With global warming, climate change and Bt Brinjal issues heating up debates all over the world to a new high, APE had quietly donned the hat of an environmental expert.

As we sat on the roughly mowed lawns of the park in front of a heap of sippe kadlekayi, I asked for his views on the proposal by “City Planners” to convert the JNNURM-funded Rs 14-crore freshly constructed bus station into a tonga stand.

“It’s an excellent idea,” chortled the APE. “No where in Karnataka or in India, have they thought of reviving tonga as the main vehicle to meet burgeoning traffic. We will be free from diesel and petrol fumes and the air will be that much purer. True, we have only a handful of tongas as of now. But when tongas outnumber KSRTC buses one day, surely we can easily solve the problems due to pollution. Of course, there could be some other issues….”

“Such as?” I butted in, mildly annoyed at his uncanny knack of looking for clouds on a clear, sunny day.

“The horses pulling the tongas will deposit some solid waste as they run through the city. But, mercifully, our City has one of the best solid waste management systems in the country which have bagged national awards. I am positive they will solve this problem in a jiffy,” he asserted.

“But the fact remains we have just spent Rs 14 crore on this swanky bus stand after inconveniencing the public for more than a couple of years. The paint is still wet, so to say. Why was this not thought of earlier?”

“There will always be ‘nay-sayers’ like you with endless grouses! What is 14 crore rupees when you have woken up and found you are going to destroy the environs of the Amba Vilas palace by having a bus stand, even if it is newly built after razing the old rickety one? It’s a pittance when you consider you have just averted a major ecological disaster.”

“What about cycle tracks? There is a move to create bicycle tracks on the City’s main roads so that people will be enthused to switch over to cycles after disembarking from their cars and scooters?”

“Excellent idea! People will automatically refrain from driving their cars and zooming around on their mobikes. Instead they will use cycles to flock to the “central business district (CBD)” and park their cycles along with the tongas. There will be no hesitation to switch over to cycles and to a bygone time and bygone era.”

“Do we have enough roads for riding cycles, especially main roads?” I asked.

“Of course, they will widen the roads if required, by chopping off trees which come in the way. I don’t think it will be necessary. In the absence of cars and scooters, the whole width will be available for cyclists, except a few tongas of course.”

“Since they have had a rethink about the JNNURM bus stand, do you think there could be similar rethinking elsewhere?”

“There could be. The subway at Sayyaji Rao road junction at once comes to my mind.”

“What could happen to the subway?”

“Look, I am no soothsayer. But with most people switching over to cycles, there will be hardly any pedestrians who would want to use the subway when they can easily run across the road. I feel one day, they will close one gate and convert this to an underground shopping complex, like Palika Bazar in Delhi. This will help bring revenue to the corporation.”

By that time, we had demolished the mountain of kadalekayi into solid wastes of their shells.

We disposed of the shells into a yellow dustbin, the size of a small letter box kept for such purpose in the park which draws hundreds of visitors each day.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News