Monthly Archives: July 2008

Ad man by day, traffic controller by night

Vijay Kastoori, a of Andheri is the Director – Media Planning and Analysis for Situations Advertising and Marketing Services Pvt. Ltd. by day and controls traffic in Andheri by night.

Vijay Kasturi“It all happened one and a half years back when my neighbour had a fall and suffered a fracture. It took almost two hours for the ambulance to reach because of the traffic,” says Kastoori. From then, Kastoori began analysing the traffic patterns. He then bought a camera, clicked photographs and shot videos. “I then realised that the root cause of the traffic jams in the area is that people drive in wrong lanes hence blocking the smooth flow of traffic,” he adds.

Kastoori, armed with his photographs and videos, then began doing the rounds with officials of the Mumbai Traffic Police. “I met most of the officials to discuss the traffic problem and learnt the techniques of traffic control from them,” informs Kastoori.

Kastoori’s office which is located at Link Road, Andheri West, also witnesses frequent traffic jams. On his way back from office, either by the company bus or BEST bus, he alights from the bus and makes sure the traffic moves and then walks back home.

Kastoori controls the traffic every evening. His usual areas are the signals at Amboli naka, Andheri station and Andheri east – west flyover. He also stands at Andheri subway where there is no signal. According to Kastoori, the worst affected area is Andheri subway because if Andheri East is jammed then the flow of traffic from the west to the east is restricted. When that happens, motorists going to the east halt in the lane of motorists going straight on S. V. Road towards the station. Hence, the traffic continues even till Jogeshwari station.

“Whenever there is heavy traffic jam, I contact the traffic police and ask them to send a policeman. Within five minutes, a policeman comes and only then I move to another area where the traffic is held up,” says Kastoori. Kastoori cannot fine erring motorists as he is not authorised to do so. “Even the traffic police in this area do not always stop motorists unnecessarily because if he will end up spending almost five minutes on one motorist and in that much of time, the traffic goes haywire,” he informs.

Kastoori does not have a uniform but stands at the traffic junction armed with a whistle. “Initially I felt awkward when people used to stare at me and wonder who I was, what I was doing and with what authority I was controlling traffic but now I am use to it,” says Kastoori.

Controlling traffic is not an easy task especially when motorists are in a hurry and cut lanes. “I shout at some erring motorists but ultimately it is just a fraction of them who do not follow road discipline. Most of them are very cooperative and many appreciate the fact that at least somebody is doing something,” says Kastoori. “Now I have become a familiar face at traffic junctions so motorists listen to me and do not take me lightly anymore,” he adds.

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Retired doctor couple from Bandra adopt village to serve people

For Dr. S. Shrinivasan and his wife Dr. Usha Shrinivasan, life could not get any better at this stage of their lives.

DSC01759The 64-year old Dr. S. Shrinivasan and his wife want to make a small difference to the world around them. They have adopted the Khanavadi village in Purandar taluka of Pune district which is approximately 40 kilometres from Pune city. “We wanted to do something for society and we had two ways of doing it, either donating money or doing something ourselves,” says Dr. Usha Shrinivasan. “We could have done cheque book charity but we chose to do it ourselves as it was more fulfilling,” says Dr. S. Shrinivasan. Khanavadi is the birthplace of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule.

The couple met years ago during their MBBS course at B. J. Medical College, Pune. Dr. S. Shrinivasan further went on to pursue the MD course in Pharmacology while Dr. Usha Shrinivasan pursued MD in Pathology. The need to do something worthwhile for those in need brought them together. “We have fulfilled our family commitments and our two children are well settled abroad with good jobs,” says Dr. Usha Shrinivasan.

Dr. S. Shrinivasan took an early retirement from the post of Vice President at the pharmaceutical company Aventis in 1998 while Dr. Usha Shrinivasan who worked at Tata Memorial Hospital has set up her cancer diagnostic laboratory in their home at Bandra. In 2001, they set up the Shastri Memorial Foundation in memory of Dr. S. Shrinivasan’s father, Pandit K. A. S. Shrinivasan who was conferred the Rashtrapati Award for life-time contribution to Indian values in 1977.

The couple spend their weekend at Khanavadi village working for the village. During the week, Dr. S. Shrinivasan receives honoraria for writing and editing medical journals. He also conducts seminars and workshops on education, healthcare and human values while Dr. Usha Shrinivasan attends to her laboratory. “We need to earn in order to sustain our organisation. My father always told me to think high and live simple. We live a very simple life and we do our own household chores as we do not have any maids working for us,” says Dr. S. Shrinivasan.

The couple adopted Khanavadi village in January 2007. Prior to that, they have worked with several NGOs that worked in Kasara and in Raigad. Since then, the couple have set up an office at Khanavadi village and they provide uniforms, books, notebooks and other educational material to needy students. They also provide calcium and multivitamin tablets to needy women and children. In addition, Dr. Usha Shrinivasan talks to the women in the village about issue concerning women’s health.

Dr. S. Shrninivasan is trained in Hindustani vocal music by Pandit Askaran Sharma and late Pandit Datta Kerkar. He has been an Aakashwani artiste for over three decades. He has now begun focussing on music as a tool for value based living through the lyrics of songs written by saints Tukaram and Dhyaneswar. Dr. S. Shrinivasan has also authored books such as ‘Value-based Wellness for the Service Sector executive’, ‘Value-based Management in the Indian context’ and ‘Health @ Your Finger Tips’.

 

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Mumbai resident creates BEST mobile phone app

Standing at a bus stop and wondering about the route the bus takes is a common occurrence. Imagine having a device that would guide you through all the bus routes in the city. Raxit ShethTo ease this difficulty, Kandivali resident Raxit Sheth has created a mobile phone application that helps you get the bus routes and bus route numbers on your mobile phone. “Bus routes are available on the internet but today everybody carries a mobile phone so they would prefer it that way,” says Sheth. This project is titled ‘Mobile 4 Mumbai’.

The idea struck Sheth about four months ago when somebody at the bus stop asked him about a bus route. “I am new to Mumbai and have lived in Gujarat all my life. If a local person is confused about routes, imagine the plight of a newcomer,” says Sheth. He casually mentioned his desire to create such an application to his colleague at Polaris Software Labs Ltd., Deepa Kapadia who liked the idea and the duo began programming the application two months ago.

Raxit Sheth and Deepa Kapadia had several options in mind while creating the prototype for the application. “We could have it SMS based where users could send the query through an SMS and get the answer through the SMS but people may not want to spend their time and money keying the SMS,” says Sheth. “The other option was through GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) but again not all handsets are GPRS enabled or even if they are, it may not be active and it is expensive,” he adds. Finally, Sheth and Kapadia decided to create a simple application that could be installed on Java enabled handsets. “Today Java enabled handsets are really affordable. The cheapest handset is about Rs. 3000 with a bill,” informs Sheth. Sheth is a C++ programmer while Kapadia is a Java programmer. Mobile 4 Mumbai will be very light and just requires about 180 kb – 200 kb free memory space on the mobile phone.

Even though GPRS users can access the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) website on their mobiles, the Graphic User Interface (GUI) is not suitable for mobile phone browsing.

Sheth and Kapadia, both computer engineers, have been working on the mobile phone application during the weekends and after office hours. Even though they have invested lots of time and energy, the duo will wants to give out the application free to their families and friends who in turn could give the application to others.

The duo has not decided whether they will present the prototype to the BEST once it is ready. “This is a very good idea. We did not realise that we could even reach out to mobile phone users. It will be good, if Sheth and Kapadia approach the planning department of the BEST. We can give them all the possible support,” says a BEST official.

The application is currently in its final stage of creation. By next month, the beta version will be out and only after three months the application will be available to the public.

If this mobile phone application is successful, they will adopt the same prototype for bus routes in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Pune.

 

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Bandra Fort now bears a cemented look

The 400-year old Castella de Aguada, popularly known as the Bandra Fort at Bandra Bandstand now wears a cemented look. The fort, a Grade I heritage structure was deteriorating. Hence, the state archaeological department undertook the task of restoring the ruins of the fort. However, during the process of restoration, they have completely cemented the walls.

“There were many small cavities in the walls which was destroying the fort. Since the fort is located near the sea, we had no choice but to use cement to strengthen the walls,” says an official from the state archaeological department on the condition of anonymity.

The state archaeological department and the Archaeological Survey of India follow the method of retaining the original look and feel of any heritage site while restoring it. Cement is usually avoided as in the past, cement was never used.

The fort was originally built by using rubble stone masonry and lime-mortar plastering which gave the fort is unique look. “We could not use lime as it is not available easily in such a large quantity. Moreover we had to carry out the restoration work immediately to save the fort. We plan to give the final touches using lime plastering when the stock arrives,” adds the official.

The restoration work began late last year with a budget of Rs. 60 lakh. The restoration work is supposed to be completed before the monsoons begin this year.

“It is good that the state archaeological department noticed the deterioration, took interest in the matter and started the restoration work. But being a Grade I heritage structure, they should have retained the original look and the character of the fort rather than using cement,” says P. Kapur, trustee of the Bandra Bandstand Residents’ Trust, the trust that manages the entire area starting from the Bandra Bandstand promenade till the Amphitheatre and the fort. “If not the entire fort, at least the original look of the entrance to the fort should have been retained,” he adds.

In the 16th century, the fort was used an important watchtower between the Salcette Island annexed by the Portuguese and the islands held by the British. Over the years, due to lack of maintenance and continuous deterioration, the fort saw a dwindling number of visitors and thus became the haven to couples and drug addicts.

“The fort was dilapidated and on the verge of collapsing. As a resident of the Bandra Bandstand area, I come here often. The fort does not look the same anymore. It does not look like a Grade I heritage structure; instead it looks just like a new construction,” says Nandini Joshi, a resident of the area.

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