Tag Archives: bangalore

R, Windows, Mac, and Bangalore and Chennai Auto Rickshaws

R on Windows is like a Bangalore auto rickshaw, R on Mac is a Chennai auto rickshaw. Let me explain.

For a long time now I’ve been using R for all my data management and manipulation and analysis and what not. Till two months back I did so on a Windows laptop and a desktop. The laptop had 8 GB RAM and the desktop had 16GB RAM. I would handle large datasets, and sometimes when I would try to do something complicated that required the use of more memory space than the computer had, the process would fail, saying “fail to allocate X GB of memory”. On Windows R would not creep into the hard disk, into virtual memory territory.

In other words it was like a Bangalore auto rickshaw, which plies mostly on meter but refuses to come to areas that are outside the driver’s “zone”. A binary decision. A yes or a no. No concept of price discrimination.

The Mac, which I’ve been using for the last two months, behaves differently. This one has only 8GB of RAM, but I’m able to handle large datasets without ever running out of memory. How is this achieved? By means of using the system’s Virtual Memory. This means the system doesn’t run out of memory, I haven’t received the “can’t allocate memory” error even once on this Mac.

So the catch here is that the virtual memory (despite having a SSD hard disk) is painfully slow, and it takes a much longer time for the program to read and write from the memory than it does with the main memory. This means that processes that need more than 8 GB of RAM (I frequently end up running such queries) execute, but take a really long time to do so.

This is like Chennai auto rickshaws, who never say “no” but make sure they charge a price that will well compensate them for the distance and time and trouble and effort, and a bit more.

Market forces

This morning I refused to board an auto rickshaw since it had one of those old analogue metres. Most autos in Bangalore nowadays use digital metres, which is the regulation. Except a few like the one I saw in the morning.

Now, given that most autos have digital metres people have a choice to choose only such autos. I’m sure the driver I met this morning will realise soon enough that he’s not getting as much business as he can due to his old metre, and make the switch.

It’s similar with usage of metres. In some parts of Bangalore it’s the norm for auto rickshaws to ply by metre. In such areas any driver who tries to make a quick buck by negotiating a higher fare is likely to lose customers. When a customer knows that after letting go of an auto which asked for excess fare, he had a good chance of finding one that will go by the regulated fare, he is less likely to heed to the demand for excess fare.

You can think of this being a case of what Malcolm gladwell calls the tipping point – once markets have tipped to one side (let’s say using regulated fares for auto rides) there is positive reinforcement that leads to an overwhelming move in that direction.

To get back to the metre example, when the fares increased a few months back traffic cops in Bangalore ran a drive where they checked for auto metres and fined those who had not made the switch by a particular date. Maybe that’s led to about 95% of the metres getting recalibrated. The beauty here is that market forces will take care of pushing this 95% to 100% and cops need not spend any more time and energy on enforcing this! Similarly if cops want to enforce usage of regulated  fares they would waste time by doing this drive in areas where most rides are by metre – the focus should be on tipping the other areas over!

To summarise, some parts of regulation gets enforced by sheer market forces, and regulators should not be wasting their energies there. Focus should instead be given to those areas where market failure is extreme – for that is where regulation has a role to play.

Landmark mismanagement

Yesterday’s Landmark Quiz in Bangalore was a major waste of time. No, I’m not talking about the quality the quiz here – the prelims was among the better Landmark Quiz prelims I’ve sat through, and given that we just missed out on qualification for the finals (AJMd, as we say here in Bangalore) I didn’t sit through the finals though I was told the questions there too were pretty good.

I’m talking about the transaction costs of attending the quiz. The overall management of the event left much to be desired. First of all, we had to show up at the venue at 11:45 for a quiz that was supposed to start at 1:45 pm. Teams with confirmed seats were let in at around 12:30 and only around 1 o’clock were us “waitlisted” teams let in. There too, the organizers did a major show of letting in waitlisted teams, calling them in order and taking over half an hour to let everyone in.

The point is that even after all the waitlisted teams had been let in, there was plenty of room in the auditorium. This makes me wonder about the wisdom of waitlisting so many teams, and then making such a big show of letting people in. Given that the total turnout was much smaller than the hall capacity, things would have been much simpler if people had been simply left in, with volunteers only ensuring that the seating was efficient (without leaving gaps).

Before the quiz yesterday i started writing a blog post on how the quiz registration process was itself flawed, and gave incentive to people to register zombie teams because the option of registering a team came free. So while the hall had been theoretically filled up many days ago, most of these registrations were zombie registrations thus leading to a long wait list and thus calling people early. Given that the quiz doesn’t have an entry fee, I can’t currently think of a good way to price this option.

But reaching the venue early was not the only waste of time. The written prelims of the quiz finished around 3 pm, including calling out the correct answers. The results, however, weren’t announced till close to 6 o’clock. In the interim time period there was the finals for school students, but that still doesn’t explain why they had to wait until 6 o’clock to announce the results of the senior quiz.

The way I see it, it was sheer disrespect on the part of the organizers of the time of the participants. Yes, Landmark might be a much sought after quiz, rated among the best in the country. Yes, most people come there for the questions and not just to win – and so stay on to watch the finals even when they haven’t qualified (it is indeed commendable that Landmark quizzes have managed to be great spectator events while not dropping quality). Yes, many participants have traveled from other cities and so having traveled the cost of their time might be “cheap” – in that they have little else to do in the rest of the day.

Even taking into account all these, the wastage of 5 hours of each quizzer’s time (2 hours for early reporting; 3 hours gap between prelims and results announcement; 4 if you consider that watching the Junior finals wasn’t a waste of time) is not a done thing. Given the quiz’s unparalleled reputation it is unlikely that market forces are going to tell the organizers that they are wasting people’s time, but the message has to go through.

Basavanagudi

Recently the Deccan Herald carried an article on how Basavanagudi was an extremely well-planned area. It showed the original plan of Basavanagudi (drawn up in the late 1890s in the wake of the plague that hit the Pete area), and showed how well planned it was – demarcating public spaces, market areas, clubs, schools and residential areas. What is remarkable to me is that an area that was drawn up in the late 1890s has roads that are mostly wide enough to take even today’s traffic (a contrast in Malleswaram, built in the same area, but with extremely narrow roads by today’s standards).

On Thursday, I had to go someplace in Gandhi Bazaar (in Basavanagudi) from my grandmother’s place in Jayanagar, and that was when it struck me how small Basavaanagudi is. South End Circle and South End Road actually demarcated the southern end of Basavanagudi, while the so-called “North Road” (also called Vani Vilas Road) marked the northen end of this area. And I ended up walking from my grandmother’s house (about half a kilometer south-east of South End Circle) to National College in about fifteen minutes – and if you go by the map shown in the article linked above, it is the entire span of Basavanagudi! If this was one of the “major” planned extensions of Bangalore in that era, it goes to indicate the city’s population at that time.

It is interesting to note in the plan (as published by Deccan Herald) that the area that is now MN Krishna Rao park was demarcated as a “public square”. While the area is still being put to public use nowadays I couldn’t help but think of New York’s Union Square, which is build on an area much smaller than Krishna Rao park, but which has multiple uses to different sections of the population. Krishna Rao Park, on the other hand, is now a typical example of a “Jairaj Park” (nomenclature I’ve come up with after the former BBMP Commissioner, who was responsible for populating the city with a certain kind of park). I wonder if people still play cricket inside the park.

Until I saw the plan of Basavanagudi I hadn’t realized the symmetry in design. If you notice, at each corner of the public square there is a large roundabout which is somewhat off-centre (Armugam Circle, Netkallappa Circle, Tagore Circle and Dewan Madhava Rao circle). Of these, Tagore “Circle” is actually a square which doesn’t particularly serve the purpose of the roundabout thanks to which an ungainly underpass had to be built recently. And if you notice in the map, beyond each of these roundabouts is a “diagonal” road. The symmetry in design is remarkable. As an aside, while I was walking back to Jayanagar from Gandhi Bazaar on Thursday, I realized that large roundabouts are pedestrian-unfriendly! Unless they allow the pedestrian to cut across them (like in New York’s squares), of course.

For a long time I used to wonder why there is a Muslim Ghetto in the south-eastern quadrant of Basavanagudi (area between RV Road, Patalamma Street and the extension of BP Wadia road towards “teachers college”). The plan explains this. In line with the sensibilities of those times, Basavanagudi had dedicated areas for different castes and communities, and this sector was probably the area “reserved” for Muslims. It is the same with other areas developed in that time – for example Malleswaram also has a “Mohammedan block”. What is interesting, though, is that even Jayanagar, which was planned post-independence, when secularism was in vogue, has its pockets of Muslim Ghettos. I wonder if they grew organically or were by design. Also, read the map carefully. You will see that different parts of Basavanagudi have been earmarked for different castes!

It would be interesting if someone were to dig up the original masterplans for different localities in Bangalore, and also in other cities. It would be instructive to see how cities were developed at different points in time (for example, immediately after independence came the massive localities of Jayanagar and Rajajinagar – neither of which can be walked across in fifteen minutes). Also, this plan for Basavanagudi indicates that there were no villages in the area where it came up – which was not the case with areas such as Jayanagar which were planned around such villages. Again it would be interesting to see how villages were co-opted into the city.

I can go on but will stop here. I encourage you to also take a close look at the map and make your own inferences, and share them in the comments section.

 

Ramzan Walks

Seven Arabic years ago, when I was still vegetarian, and a rather squeamish one at that, a friend had regaled me with stories of going on a “meat walk” on Mumbai’s Mohammad Ali Road, savouring delicacies (I took his word) like ox’s tongue and cow’s udders. It was Ramzan, he said, and it was the time of the year when delicacies which were otherwise hardly available would make their way to the markets. He was going to make it an annual ritual to “do the meat walk”, he had said. I’m not sure about him, but I know that people who accompanied him on that walk do make it a point to repeat it annually.

I might have documented elsewhere about my transition to a carnivore back on our vacation to Greece two summers ago. At a streetside cafe there, the vegetarian stuff looked insipid while the meat looked succulent, and I converted. “If I’m to lose my religion I’ll lose it completely”, I had decided and started my meat eating career with some beef souvlaki. In the intervening two years (mostly in the last one year), I’ve tried several species, and nothing makes me queasy in terms of the source of my food – though I might change my mind after I complete the holiday I’ve been planning to the Far East.

My first “Ramzan walk” was in Bangalore two Arabic years ago. These walks (in each city) have their own ritual to it. In Bangalore, it starts at Albert Bakery on Mosque Road in Frazer Town, then proceeds across the road to Fatima House where they procure Haleem (flown in daily from Hyderabad). Then round the corner on to Madhavaswamy Mudaliar Road for some kebabs and then across that road for chaat and kulfi. I’ve done the exact ritual twice over already, and have quite enjoyed it (though the first time around I didn’t get down to eating Albert’s famed Brain Puffs). But people had so far told me that I hadn’t done “the real thing” until I did a similar Ramzan Walk on Mohammad Ali Road.

So this evening I made amends to that particular deficiency in my meat eating career. A bunch of people from my client’s office were planning their annual visit to the famed road for this evening, and I tagged along. I write this on a sugar high, after having stuffed myself with sweets through the evening.

The waiter at Tawakkal Sweets, off Mohammad Ali Road, reminded me of the priests at Mantralaya (of the Raghavendra Swami fame, in Andhra Pradesh). Priests and temple officials in Mantralaya are famed for their “maDi”, and their way of keeping themselves clean is by not touching anyone. So you have this ritual where one of the monks there gives you a stole, but in which he throws it over you from about a feet above your shoulders to prevent touching you. I don’t know if the waiter at Tawakkal had similar constraints in terms of keeping himself clean, but he kept plonking our sweets from about a few inches above the table, just enough to make sure that the Mango Malai (something like mango souffle with condensed milk) didn’t arrive on the table perfectly set. But I’m sure I ate more than my fair share of the Malai that arrived at the table, thus giving me the sugar high, which persists.

In Kannadiga Brahmin functions, I’ve never understood the concept of adding plain (unsweetened) milk to the sweet obbatt (aka hOLige). “Why add something that is not sweet to a sweet dish”, I’ve reasoned. After tonight I begin to suspect that the concept of obbatt with milk is borrowed from Malpoa with Malai. I used to think that the Malpoa is something like the “kajjaya”/”athrasa” but here at Tawakkal and elsewhere it seemed like a reconstructed French toast – where wheat flour is mixed with eggs and sugar to make a batter that is deep fried. And it is served with unsweetened thick cream – which perhaps my ancestors adopted as obbatt with plain milk. ┬áIt is possible that all my previous encounters with Malpoa have been at vegetarian sweet shops, and hence the absence of the egg.

We wouldn’t be done after the Mango Malai and the Malpoa. There was still space left for food in our stomachs and sugar in our blood streams for us to eat mango phirni (kheer made with mashed rice and mangoes). And it wasn’t even the first time in the day that we were eating sweets. The Mumbai equivalent of Albert bakery is the brightly lit Suleiman Usman Bakery, with boards everywhere claiming it has “no branches”. Except that round the corner at EM Road (perpendicular to Mohammad Ali Road) there are at least two other shops which call themselves “Suleiman Usman Bakery”, and which too prominently display that they have no branches.

We began the meaty part of our walk at EM Road (the one with the two Suleiman Usman Bakeries (with no branches). To celebrate the occasion of the holy month, the street was extremely brightly lit, and shops had put out makeshift tables and chairs under a canopy on the road to accommodate the extra crowds (normally, like at other Muslim establishments, food is cooked at the entrance but served inside the shop). Maybe to add to the effect they had strung up what looked like pieces of chicken in psychedelic colours, and for further effect, displayed cages with little chicks even!

Chicken has taken over the world. Traditionally, Muslim establishments are known for their mutton, and sometimes beef. In certain circles (again primarily Muslim) it is considered beneath establishments to offer chicken. But this particular establishment on EM Road only seemed to serve chicken, apart from the odd mutton dish. It’s not really worth writing home about. And the lack of a regular menu means that people who look like tourists are likely to be overcharged.

Soon we were back on Mohammad Ali road for the main course, which was at Noor Mohammadi. Nalli Nihari was consumed with Tandoori Roti and onions, and washed down with Thums Up. This is one of those old style establishments, and one that doesn’t get bells and whistles for Ramzan. There is this ancient Hussain painting hanging on the walls, and next to that is a large board with the menu. Service was quick and efficient and one was reminded of Bangalore’s Vidyarthi Bhavan as the waiter pronounced the bill without much thinking and with great accuracy.

I’ll probably do a formal comparison after I experience Fraser Town sometime later this month, but in terms of sheer numbers (of people) and atmosphere, Mumbai definitely trumps Bangalore. In terms of food, though, I’m not so sure. Those little paper plates of kebabs you get in that corner shop across the Mosque on Madhavaswamy Mudaliar road seem much better than anything Mumbai serves up. But then, your mileage might vary.

Political Parties in Karnataka

General consensus among pundits is that the Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) is going to struggle to cross 50 seats in the forthcoming assembly elections. The general discourse is that they lack a presence outside of the Old Mysore region. However, you might remember that not so long ago, in 1994, the Janata Dal (which broke up in 1999, one of whose offshoots was the JDS) had an absolutely majority in the state assembly. So I thought it might be interesting to see where the JD was strong in 1994.

I decided to go back another decade, to the 1983 elections, and for all elections from 1983 to 2004 I’ve mapped out how each of the 3 principal parties in Karnataka performed. I’ve grouped all the Janata Parivar parties (Janata Party, Janata Dal, and their offshoots) and coloured them green. The Congress has been coloured blue while the BJP is saffron. Seats won by independents/others have been coloured in black.

Source: http://www.partyanalyst.com/
Source: http://www.partyanalyst.com/

Notice:

1. Before the Janata Dal split in 1999, the JD had a significant presence even in Bombay Karnataka, where it is now supposed to have absolutely no presence.
2. The growth of the BJP has been outward from the Mangalore-Udupi area. One needs to remember that the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts are extremely diverse in terms of religion, so perhaps the Hindutva card works better there than elsewhere? Also, the coastal districts are where the RSS first set up its roots in Karnataka.
3. In 1999 and 2004, the BJP actually won some seats in the old Mysore region outside of Bangalore. In 2008, though, the BJP was decimated in this region. It is unlikely it will regain some base in this area in the coming election
4. The Congress won a whopping 178 seats in 1989. And what happened? Intense jockeying for the post of CM. Three CMs over the course of five years (Veerendra Patil, S Bangarappa and Veerappa Moily) followed by a humiliating loss in 1994 when the Congress came third!
5. The JD split in 1999 hit it badly. In most constituencies both the JD (U) and the JD(S) contested. That probably played into the hands of the Congress which won a simple majority. By 2004, the JD (U) was virtually non-existent in Karnataka, and the JD (S) managed to consolidate all the Janata votes and did well.
6. Even in 2004, you might notice that the BJP was virtually confined to the western half of Karnataka. In 2008, thanks to the efforts of the Reddy brothers, in addition to Western Karnataka they swept the regions in and around Bellary, which pushed them past the target. With the Reddys in jail and their right-hand-man B Sriramulu having formed his own party, the BJP won’t come close to a majority this time.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get my hands on the shapefiles of the delimited constituencies (2008 and later), so I’m unable to include the 2008 results in this chart. If any of you can supply me the shapefiles, or at least the constituency map of the new assembly constituencies, I’d be most grateful.

KJP split is going to hurt the BJP hard

Most of you might remember that in 2008 the BJP didn’t actually get an absolute majority in the assembly, and had to rely on independents to form the government. This led to the now infamous Operation Lotus where the BJP got opposition MLAs to resign their seats and contest again on a BJP ticket. Successive rebellions kept the government on tenterhooks, and some say it is indeed fortuitous that it lasted its full term, but it must not be forgotten that the BJP’s “victory” was an extremely narrow one to begin with.

While the BJP ended up as the single largest party with 110 seats (with the Congress second with 79), the Congress actually had a larger share of the popular vote compared to the BJP (34% versus 33% respectively). However, it can be said that the BJP “picked its battles” concentrating on its strongholds in North Karnataka, Bangalore and the coastal areas, and thus managed to surge ahead of the Congress in terms of seats.

However, analysis shows that even this surge in terms of seats was rather shaky. It was a result of coming together of a number of forces – a united BJP under Yeddyurappa’s leadership, the support of the Lingayat Mutts and Reddy brothers, and good candidate selection. Today, we will analyze how the 2008 Elections would have gone if Yeddyurappa’s KJP and B Sriramulu’s BSR congress had split from the BJP ahead of those elections.

The KJP and BSR Congress played key roles in the recent urban local body elections. Based on the local body elections, we project in each parliamentary constituency how much of what might have been the undivided BJP’s votes have gone to these breakaways. We assume that all the vote that the KJP or BSR congress got came from what the united BJP would have otherwise got. Next, we look at the 2008 Assembly election numbers and for each constituency, allocate the BJP’s votes among the BJP, KJP and BSR Congress proportional to their performance in the urban local body elections in that area.

The results, given below are rather surprising. While the KJP itself would have won not more than a handful of seats and the BSR Congress would have won nothing, our analysis shows that the BJP’s seats would have almost come down by half, with the Congress getting the lion’s share of what the BJP lost!

Red bars show actual performance in 2008. Blue bars show what the seat distribution might have been had the BJP been without the KJP and BSR Congress
Red bars show actual performance in 2008. Blue bars show what the seat distribution might have been had the BJP been without the KJP and BSR Congress

It would be interesting to see where the BJP lost the seats. The following graph shows, by Parliamentary constituency the number of Assembly constituencies that the BJP lost thanks to the parting with the KJP and BSR Congress.

This graph shows the number of seats the BJP would have lost in each parliamentary constituency had it been separate from the KJP in 2008
This graph shows the number of seats the BJP would have lost in each parliamentary constituency had it been separate from the KJP in 2008

So what are the implications? The big insight is that it is indeed bad tidings for the BJP. Even if the party were to have the same public sympathy that it did in 2008 (highly unlikely, given its government’s performance), it is going to struggle to get anywhere close to a majority. Currently the Congress is in as much of a mess as it was in in 2008, with rampant infighting and a battle between Parameshwar and Siddaramaiah for control of ticket distribution. Our analysis shows that even if the Congress does as well as it did in 2008 (remember that our ULB-based analysis showed it would do better), it stands to gain an absolute majority. There is no surprise why there is so much clamour for tickets within the Congress.