midnightschildrenofbangalore

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Take our survey, help Bangalore evolve!

Dear Bangaloreans,

We’re proud to announce that our comprehensive Survey titled Night life in Bangalore is finally Live. You can access it here.

While answering the questions herein, please keep in mind that we apply a broader meaning to the term night life. So we aren’t canvassing for pubs and bars to remain open till later. What we want is for every Bangalorean to be able to:
1)    Pursue legitimate employment and recreational opportunities.
2)    Efficiently respond to personal and medical emergencies.
3)    Utilize the streets of the city at all times without fear, irrespective of their gender, social status, age etc.

While Bangalore facilitates these basic needs with aplomb during the daytime, the same cannot be said of the night. Indeed, after 10 pm, the city wears a decidedly deserted look in most localities, causing life to come to a virtual standstill. This is the issue we’re quantifying.

By collating and analyzing the responses of this survey, Midnight’s Children of Bangalore will crystallize the wish-list of Bangaloreans. Once that is done, we will approach the city’s decision-making bodies (such as the police department, BMTC, Namma Metro, BDA etc) and request them to take appropriate actions. Additionally, we expect the survey to unearth hidden demands which the private sector might want to address.

On an average, it will take you around 8 minutes to respond to the questionnaire (which has 48 survey questions plus 12 questions related to demography). Please have no doubts that your response will go a long way in transforming our beloved city and bringing it on par with major global metropolises.

We request you to also share this Survey with as many Bangaloreans as you can. The more the respondents, the clearer the wish-list. Hope you have as much  fun filling out this questionnaire as we had creating it.

Also, we’re always looking for volunteers to take this initiative forward. Whether you’re a student, working professional, retired or housewife, we need your help. Do get in touch with us at midnightschildrenofbangalore@gmail.com. Our volunteers swear that contributing in this space enhances their own skills and personality – one of 15 reasons you should be part of this initiative.

Until next time, let’s continue to celebrate the uniqueness of Namma Bengaluru.

Confessions of an interviewer

First and foremost, let us apologize for not keeping you updated. We have nothing but familiar excuses to offer: it was the year end, we were finalizing deals, completing paperwork, dealing with emergencies. In short, we all had too much on my plate… oh so familiar! It’s time to put an end to those excuses.

Having said that, let us assure you that not everything was Quiet on the MCB Front. We were taking steps towards our goals. For instance, on the 9th of March, we went around downtown Bangalore, interviewing people thronging the streets. It was a Saturday evening, and the face of the average Bangalorean seemed as lit up as the showrooms of Brigade Road. In this backdrop, we managed to talk at length to around 40 people. Here are the highlights:

1) We were usually mistaken for salespeople. Most shooed us away at first glance and relented only when we explained our mission. One group of friends was convinced that we were part of a hidden camera show that exposed drunk drivers! A barrel-chested gentleman looked at one of us piercingly and said he doesn’t like Evangelists. And one quietly desparate gentleman asked me if I was a pimp and when I replied in the negative, wanted to know where he could find an udugi.

2) Even after being convinced about our mission, most people feared giving us their phone numbers. In fact, a majority of people who agreed to give us their contact details scribbled indecipherable email IDs and names on our notebook. We had to stop them and ask them to rewrite their email IDs – legibly.

3) One demure girl from the North-East narrated a harrowing experience of being dumped by an auto rickshaw guy in the middle of nowhere. She no longer ventures out in the evening without a male companion. She’d rather take a bus or Metro home.

4) We started off wanting to know how people travel in order to make merry and whether they’d like things to be different. Every person interviewed, without exception, stated that they would rather commute by public transportation after a few drinks. Of course, they had to resort to autos, or worse, drive home drunk only because public transportation does not exist after 10 pm. We declared the evening a success.

Overall, we found the process of interviewing challenging and thoroughly enjoyable. People saw leaders in us. And they peeped out of their armours long enough to convey their thanks.

And now, it’s time to introduce an online component to the interview process. What do we mean by that? You’ll know that soon. In a day or two, in fact.

Streamlining the interview process

Friends,

Five people in our community have already agreed to conduct interviews for the project. That’s a wonderful start. By next Thursday, we will have conducted at least 50 interviews. This should help us streamline the process further and broaden our perspectives. For now, here’s the recommended Standard Operating Procedure while conducting interviews:

  1. Introduce yourself and the context in around 4-5 sentences. Make sure that you create the possibility of a better, more enabled, world for them.
  2. Ask the interviewee(s) if he or she would mind being interviewed. If they agree, ask if they need clarifications. Answer any and all questions they pose to you. Move to the next step once they’re satisfied.
  3. Request for the contact details of the interviewee (or interviewees if more than one person wants to join the conversation). This includes their full name, phone number and email ID. Many interviewees will be apprehensive about sharing this, but will agree to do so if they’re satisfied with the rapport you’ve established in steps 1 and 2. If required, revisit the above steps and put them at ease so that they share their contact details. Do assure them that we’re collecting their contact info in order to represent them in front of government agencies such as the police department, BMTC, Namma Metro etc. If you have our customized Survey software loaded on your 3G phone, use that to record the details. Else, record them in a piece of paper. You may have to identify each record with cues such as colour of attire etc.
  1. Switch on the camera.
  2. Request for personal details of the interviewee (or interviewees if more than one person wants to join the conversation). This includes their full name, age, qualification, monthly income, place of residence and place of work. If you have our customized Survey software loaded on your 3G phone, use that to record the details. Else, record them in a piece of paper. You may have to identify each record with cues such as colour of attire etc.
  3. Ask the interviewee to provide their problem statement. A typical problem statement will encompass one or more of the following spheres – transportation, food, pharmaceutical or other healthcare needs, women’s security after a particular hour, drunken driving induced by lack of transportation, crime on empty streets etc. Enquire if the problem(s) is a daily occurrence. If not, ask them to cite specific instances.
  4. Ask auxiliary questions about the restrictions the interviewees are imposing on themselves and their families as a result of the absence of public infrastructure after a particular hour.
  5. Ask open-ended questions regarding the solution they’d like to see implemented. If the solution they are proposing isn’t clear, ask supplementary questions. If the interviewee is more articulate in a vernacular language, ask him or her to restate the proposed solution in the vernacular. Do not limit this practice to Kannadigas alone.
  6. Once satisfied of having received sufficient inputs, switch off the camera.
  7. Ask the interviewee if he or she will be willing to support the cause. If yes, then ask them in what way. Would they be interested in working for the cause? If nothing else, ask them if they would be willing to spread the word. End the interview by giving them your contact details and thanking them for their time.

Needless to say, we need more enthusiasts amongst us to put their hands up. By setting aside just 1 hour per week for this activity, you’ll be able to make a world of difference to this project and the city of Bangalore.

So do write in. And meanwhile, we hope you lead a hassle-free life as a Bangalorean.

Interviewers wanted

Friends,

Our first video interview has been uploaded to YouTube. Here it is:

Since we don’t have a video editor in our ranks yet, the clip has been uploaded as-is. So contact details of the interviewees have not been chopped off from the video. And the clip is longer than it should be. Barring such details and the lack of technical finesse, I’d say the interview has been a success. Here are the findings:

1) Contrary to the viewpoint that local Bangaloreans are perfectly okay with the city’s self-imposed curfew, here we see average Kannadigas struggling to commute home from work. An hourly bus to Doddaballapur till midnight will make their lives so much better.

2) The impact is on women as well.

3) Mirroring the gentleness of the city, the men interviewed do not make demands. They simply want to plead their case to the government.

Let us never forget that these are the people we’re serving through our cause. In the course of solving their problems, the issues faced by more privileged citizens will automatically be addressed.

 

Meanwhile, we need volunteers to go around the city to conduct and record these interviews. All you need is a 3G phone, patience and the desire to make history. As mentioned before, we’ve already come up with a Standard Operating Procedure for the interviews. However, we daresay that this SOP will be fine tuned before long.

If you’re game for this fulfilling activity, please email us at midnightschildrenofbangalore@gmail.com. Given the interest our cause has already generated, we’re looking forward to an avalanche of responses. Till then, hope you have a great weekend.

 

The exception that is the Empire

The administrative office of the Empire group of hotels on Castle Street is a beehive of activity. At the centre of it all, Junaiz Kizhakkayil, the General Manager of the group, is busy making decisions and giving instructions to his staff. He receives me with courtesy, escorts me to a meeting room and requests more details about Midnight’s Children of Bangalore.

I tell him and end thus:

‘In the midst of all the impact stories we’re doing, I see the presence of the Empire as extremely positive. The fact that your eateries are packed till 1 am tells me that there’s a hidden demand in the market for late-night food. And if more hotels remain open till later, Bangaloreans need not travel far to find food. So tell me, how did you decide to keep open till such a late hour?’

‘It just happened,’ he replies. ‘In the mid-90s, we had a sole outlet on Central Street at the entrance of Shivaji Nagar. We used to close at around 1130 pm, but as we were packing up, somebody or the other would knock on our shutters and plead for food. Give me 2 parothas, give me boiled eggs, give me whatever you can, they used to say. If no food was available in the kitchen, we’d give the person some of the food we had kept aside for ourselves. Sharing my own plate with tardy customers became a nightly ritual. The word spread. More people came knocking on our shutters. So we began keeping the hotel open till midnight. Midnight soon became 1230 am. And now we’re open till 1 am.’

I’m aware that the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act of 1961 does not explicitly impose time restrictions on restaurants. However, clause 31 (1)w of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, allows the cops to restrict operational times of entertainment centres. And it is by perceiving an eatery as an entertainment centre that the midnight deadline has been imposed on eateries.

‘So how have you managed to keep open till 1 am?’ I ask.

‘We got explicit permission from the Police Commissionerate. If you have a clean record and an excellent reason, the police will allow you to remain open. See, we do not allow people to smoke or consume alcohol in our premises. We have a great track record. That’s why we got the permission.’

As we talk further, I hear his words resonate with the cause of Midnight’s Children of Bangalore. But there’s one simple difference between us:

‘When we talk about this cause, we’re accused of having ulterior motives. Of wanting more business. Let me tell you, it’s far easier for us to increase the tariff by 5% or open a new outlet. That would give us far more revenue than keeping my eateries open for a couple of hours more. We’re not about profits alone. We want to offer quality, hygienic, affordable food to the middle class. And we’re proud that people say, “Chalo Empire chalthe hain. Wahaan kuch na kuch milega.”’

I ask him what he thinks is an apt solution to the city’s crisis of the night.

‘Why can’t we bring back night life on an experimental basis?’ he asks. ‘By allowing night life, the government can earn more revenue. It will collect more tax, and if required, it can impose an extra fee on us hoteliers. This city needs hotels like ours. We’re taking a stand here and saying that we’re willing to open new outlets wherever the public needs it, in whatever location the police want us to be in.’

I thank him for his time and I take his leave. Outside, the shawarma machine is being prepared like a bride. The night awaits.

We’re making inroads

A long day is coming to an end at this wee hour. We’ve made some inroads.

The Times of India has promised to look into our cause and determine whether they would be interested in it. Meanwhile, the Hindu has promised to interview us and carry our story. Thus, our media campaign begins.

Meanwhile, a crucial interview has been scheduled for tomorrow and one hopes to get more insight into the relevant issues.

Let’s at this point celebrate our achievements. We got close to 300 hits on the very day we launched the campaign. Since then, there’s sustained interest here and on FB. Five people have so far pledged their committed support to the cause. These are people who would provide either logistic assistance or physical presence in order to implement our plans. That’s a great beginning.

Stayed tuned. Larger updates are resting on the anvil.

Let’s bring back the night-life

It’s Valentine’s Day. A great opportunity to profess love. Not just to the important people in our lives but also to the city that facilitates those lives.

We’re calling all Bangaloreans to join our cause. All you need to do right now is Follow us on this blog/FB/Twitter and participate in the ensuing discussions. Over the next few days, you’ll get excellent clarity on how to contribute. The only piece of clarity you need right now is this: YOUR contribution will determine the outcome of this initiative. And what exactly is this initiative? Well, it’s nothing short of redefining the term night-life. Is night-life merely the freedom to top-up our brains with two extra drinks at our favourite watering holes? Or can we see rich dimensions of meaning in it? Can this term not stand for our desire to live fully, pursue opportunities in every realm, free from the tyranny of the clock? This is our cause. Actually, it’s more. It’s our opportunity to make history.

As of now, we’ve come up with the following tasks to launch our initiative:

1) Conduct surveys and polls on this site to solicit public opinion on Bangalore’s night life.

2) Conduct and record interviews of affected Bangaloreans from every walk of life. These interviews will document in detail how Bangaloreans are impacted by lack of public transportation and eateries after 1030 pm. We’ll use these interviews in isolation to create case studies, and also merge them into a montage that creates an awareness about our cause. Over the course of these interviews, we might find typical issues such as:

  • The lack of safety for women after a particular hour. Won’t they be safer if the streets are more alive?
  • Drunken driving.Will our roads have fewer drunken drivers if the city provided adequate public transportation, especially during the weekends?
  • The plight of the casual blue collar and low-end white collar worker, as described in our “About” page.
  • The extortionary practices of our auto rickshaw guys which can be seen as a corollary of the city’s early bedtime.

3) Find our media partners (print, FM and television). Using these media, we’ll disseminate the findings from our primary research.

4) Create a database of eateries around Bangalore that are open till late. We’ll need the name, location, contact details 4nd a one-line review of each such eatery. This document will become the go-to resource for Bangaloreans in the years to come.

5) Interview those eateries that already remain open till late (the Empire chain comes to mind). Their presence probably tells us that a hidden demand exists in the market.

6) Map out those areas of Bangalore that are most affected by the lack of public transportation after 10 pm. This will help us create a list of bus routes that the BMTC could consider keeping open till a later hour.

7) Work towards ensuring that every locality in Bangalore has a 24*7 pharmacy outlet. Like in the case of eateries, we will create a current database of such pharmacies (asssuming it doesn’t exist right now).

Once we have sufficient inputs, we’ll be in a position to approach the Police Commissionerate, the Mayor’s office, BMTC, Namma Metro and other decision-making bodies.

This is our plan as of now. With your inputs, we’ll continuously refine this plan and keep the movement in action mode. Please do not hesitate to mail us at midnightschildrenofbangalore@gmail.com or to leave your comments here, on FB and Twitter.

Until then, keep the love alive!

About Midnight’s Children of Bangalore

This blog strives to make Bangalore a night-friendly city. Before you raise a glass and toast us, let us clarify what we stand for.
We feel that the metropolis of Bangalore has the sleeping habits of a small town.For instance:

1) The last bus to many parts of the city leave the city centre as early as 930 pm.

2) Most eateries too close down by 1030 pm, if not earlier.

3) Even the much-awaited Namma Metro sends out its last shuttle at 10 pm.

While these restrictions are felt by almost every active Bangalorean, the most affected are the underprivileged citizens. More specifically, the casual blue collar worker and the low-end white collar worker. You’ll find them stranded on the streetside after 1030 pm, requesting – nay, begging – two-wheel riders for a ride home. These gentlemen will tell you that the clock comes between them and the pursuit of viable opportunities.

The rest of us – those who have private transportation and the money to eat a midnight snack in a star hotel – would have felt these restrictions while traveling long distances to find a 24*7 petrol pump or pharmacy.

For long, the honourable police department of the city has maintained that it doesn’t have sufficient patrolling resources to allow an active night life in the city. This raises the question: do more active streets foster more crime or less? We intend to get some crisp answers here.

Meanwhile, let us clarify what we are NOT about:
1) We don’t want to keep pubs and bars open till later. That’s probably somebody else’s mission.
2) We won’t get into the ethical/cultural/health-related aspects of staying up late. Instead, we acknowledge that urban society requires people who work late into the night. We will deal with this reality.

3) We aren’t here to blame the authorities or anybody else. Indeed, we believe in working in tandem with the authorities in order to reach a new understanding of the situation, thereby triggering changes that will positively impact the city of Bangalore.

Over the next few weeks, we will be on the streets of Bangalore, chronicling the plight of the most affected citizens. We’ll also reach out to diehard Bangaloreans through this and other platforms. We believe that, together, we can make our beloved Bangalore a more liveable city, no matter what hour of the day or night it is.

Till then, please stay tuned and send us your valuable feedback.