The traumatic experience of living at Tin Factory, Bengaluru, for about a year (originally published on my WordPress blog).
30 November, 2016
“Nobody said it was easy … no one ever said it would be so hard.” - Scientists, etc.
A few weeks into the month of August 2016, as I packed my bags along with my former flat-mate Ardra, little did I know what I really meant when I said to her, “My new place is at Tin Factory. It’s about five kilometres from the new office.” Ardra, who was then preparing to spend the next two years of her life at Carnegie Mellon University, all the way in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America, simply nodded.
“Apparently, the traffic there is really bad,” I continued. She nodded again, this time looking at me. We lived in BTM Layout at the time, which, despite being an abbreviation of the fearsome ‘Byrasandra, Thavarekere and Madiwala’, was really quite perfect. I can’t recall a happier time: birds flying high, sun in the sky, reeds driftin’ on, you name it. At three kilometres from my office in JP Nagar, and four from Koramangala, the epicentre of Bangalore’s culture and nightlife, BTM was central and convenient. The rent was cheap, the traffic tolerable, and the houses often astonishingly beautiful, arranged in neat rows in small, green lanes, interspersed with general stores that sold everything from milk and eggs to moisturising cream, near libraries run out of the second floor of some homes and parks. In these parks was more greenery, pitifully disguised by the smiles of colourful, earnest children and suitably placed benches for the elderly. Everything got along splendidly.
Now, the trouble with Tin Factory is that none of this holds true – it isn’t even within five kilometres of being true. When I moved into the new apartment I’d found at Aisshwarya Excellency, Tin Factory, along with two girls I’d spoken to less than five times combined, I found myself unprepared for, and unaware of, the hollow reality surrounding the area. It took me months to realise what was happening to me.
It started on one of my first few days back from work at the new office. Although I’d used Google Maps before moving in to check the average travel time from my potential apartment to my workplace and back, I’d never before encountered what the map showed: forty-two minutes, indicated in small yet definite font, beside a dire, serpentine, crimson-red line, as thick and inevitable as a vein, covering the five-kilometre distance from my office to my house. I shuddered, but told myself it was probably a one-off thing. ‘Can’t be like this every day,’ I thought, casually dismissing my suspicions like every victim at the beginning of a horror film.
I set out from work at 7:00 pm, in anticipation of getting home at 7:42 pm, and while Maps was only three minutes off in its estimation of my travel time, I can recall with sincere clarity the terrors that befell me that first night: It was as if I’d side-stepped into an alternate universe, where law, order and decency had no known precedents. Things I’d never believed possible were happening right before my eyes, unbeknownst to my disbelief, mounting as it was at the predicament of being alongside a hundred other pairs of oblivious eyes, behind steering wheels, behind helmets, behind people, behind carts, behind vegetables, behind policemen, behind animals.
I considered, at some point in those forty-two minutes, getting off my vehicle and walking forward to examine the source of this traffic – the root cause, as it were – ‘But,’ I thought, ‘it could be miles and days away!’ I imagined my stalwart figure wading through congenitally intertwined cars and lorries, in a headscarf and khaki pants, while a dust storm brew around me, for weeks and weeks, only to meet, at the mythical head of this infinite traffic, a wizened sage in mournful white. ‘There is no head of the traffic, gudiya,’ he’d tell me; I’d be flown home in a helicopter and presented to my family, decorated by the nation’s tricolour flag.
Several strange sights and occurrences since then have reaffirmed my deep-rooted awe for this phantom area.
Some way along the right turn from Tin Factory, towards Marathahalli, I was once accosted by a speed breaker. Almost immediately following another, wider one, it started from the right side of the road, extended leftward for about 3 metres, and then ended. Now this would have been alright – typical, even – if the road also ended there. However, the fact of the matter is, the road ends 3 metres later.
Every time I use the road, I remember to open my eyes a little wider around that portion. I remember to dutifully take the truth in. I remember to ask myself, every day, ‘Is there really half a speed-breaker on the road outside your house?’
As the owner and regular user of a two-wheeler, I’ve learnt, over time, to truly and fully wield it as an enormous advantage in a city like Bangalore. I don’t hesitate to take the road less taken, I don’t shy away from mountainous footpaths, I don’t dither over cutting someone off if it means I’m ahead even by a few metres. This is a cut throat world and one must survive. A rule of thumb I follow as much as possible is to stick to the left side of the road. It generally moves faster than other lanes by virtue of containing other like-minded two wheelers, and also allows proximity to pavements and other such portions of a road typically unused by many vehicles. In priceless little ways, I am certain, snaking ahead via the Left saves me precious minutes of travel time each day. However, like most tactics, it is not without its caveats: in Tin Factory, more than anywhere else, I have found that the Left endeavours to oust me.
Often there are two wheelers approaching from the other direction. One finds one’s headlight confronted by another’s. It is hard to determine the just solution in this situation; indeed, there is none sometimes, for both parties tend to find themselves blocked on either side by vehicles, people, wheelbarrows, and/or, in one case, an ice-cream vendor. ‘How did these guys even get here?’ one wonders and then immediately stops, because such questions can kill.
Another time, - and the nigh impossibility of such an event ever repeating itself is simultaneously dubious and comforting – I watched with my mouth foolishly open as a ten-foot long, unaccountably large, open-air goods transporter snuck its way out of a cavity in the bridge on one side of the road. When that cavity formed and how this labyrinthine truck fit in it were questions automatically cast out of my mind, as I witnessed monstrosity attempt to crawl its way out of a hole in broad, seething daylight, get stuck and break down, thusly delaying the lives of about fifty other drivers on the road. Cab drivers, car owners, truckers, rickshaw-walas and bikers were all reduced to a communal insignificance as they watched a guerrilla of bewildered men slowly descend from the behemoth lorry and begin to understand how they were the cause of this vehicular cacophony.
Tin Factory is the colloquial name given to India Tin Industries Pvt. Ltd., located on Old Madras Road, Bangalore. Primarily in the business of manufacturing metal containers, the plant has an installed capacity of 8000 MTPA and makes approximately six million metal cans a month. So, while it is no wonder that surrounding areas and a bus stop are now its namesakes, a search for ‘Tin Factory’ on Google Maps still accurately points you to the original industrial establishment.
This can lead to highly misleading time estimates even if all you wanted to do was get to the point opposite Tin Factory, on the other side of the road. No, it is not a simple matter of crossing over, or taking a U-turn just a few metres ahead. It is a battle against diverse, criss-cross, not-exactly-rule-breaking-because-there-are-no-rules traffic. People on the left side of the road try to catch a flyover on the right, people on the right side try to avoid the flyover and move towards the left. Alas, it is the same war on the other side of the U-turn – only in the opposite direction.
When I eventually got to work on the Day of Monstrous Truck Coming Out of Hole in Flyover, having spent twenty odd minutes admiring the sheer human effort that goes into pushing some extremely heavy things, a colleague who also lived in the same area asked me what had delayed me.
“Traffic at Tin Factory, yaar, nothing new.”
She laughed and said, “This is why I leave home at 8:00 am every day. The traffic where we live is simply unpredictable.”
“There’s traffic at 8 o'clock too, though, isn’t there?” I asked.
“Yes, but our stand-up is at 11:00. The day it takes me more than three hours, I’ll shift.”