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Kickstarting the Chennai bus route mapping project

This is one thing thats been a long time coming and much needed for Chennai. The MTC may be good at increasing their fleet, but they dont seem to know 3 paisa about giving its users usable information or even trying to do so.

You cant always use a bus to make your trip, and knowing weather you can or not is what helps you decide. In the current scenario, not only is there no information about where the bus stops are located, but no one even knows what buses will stop there or what route the bus will take. Even today, the most reliable  guide is the conductor of your bus and nobody else.  Even after three years of religiously using the buses, i have to confirm if the bus goes to my destination with people on the bus before boarding.

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Free detailed Chennai Divisions map

And more map goodies that you cannot find anywhere else on the net. The one thing that i love about being a wikipedia contributor is the research and net digging you do for the topics you write on and subsequently the knowledge that you gain from the process. I’ve always been confused by the different agencies and units that i’ve come across for managing the city, so after a year of collecting data from various sources, i have finally managed to piece the puzzle together. This is an extension of my previous work with the chennai corporation map . If you have ever wondered how the city of Chennai was divided, here is the answer in one simple graphic, ok three.

Chennai District Civic, Administrative and Revenue divisions map

Chennai District Civic, Administrative and Revenue divisions map

Its ok if you are confused, so is the government, and the government doesnt even have such a map to help them out 😛 Look closely and the 10 corporation zonal offices and the 5 taluk offices are also marked, but ive yet to verify the locations. Appreciate any help with that.

Im still cleaning up the list that goes with the numbered map, everything including sources should be up on wikipedia soon. Work licensed under CCbySA3

Living in troubled times

From the papers, its evident that world is facing a drought of good news. Now, thanks to some idiots who wanted to prove a point that didnt exist, the city is not as free as it once used to be. Its a shame that the one thing i love so much about living here is slowly disappearing. I can no longer walk around with my camera in hand without being looked at suspiciously or stopped. Who knows, maybe all this fear might make things safer, or it wont. But i do hope that the day will return when i can take a climb up the high court and enjoy the breathtaking view of Madras when im feeling bored at home.

Madras most famous landmark. I still havent seen a complete photograph of it

Madras' most famous landmark. I still havent seen a complete photograph of it

One thing i have always wanted to do was take a full facade photograph of central station from the General Hospital across the road. This, along with many other things that i have wanted to do and have done, may never be possible again.

This photo was taken after a reluctant nod from an inspector outside Central, November 30th 2008.

Diwali of gloom

People can call me an old granny, but i’m sick of it. The litter, the smoke, the sound, burn accidents. Is this what Diwali is all about? Firecrackers isnt part of tradition by any means, and its been doing more damage than good.

Chennai is right now one huge gas chamber with air filled with a nice mix of things your lungs arent particularly fond of.  People are going to suffer for their actions tonight and hopefully they will blame themselves and not nature for their breathing difficulties. Boycott the fireworks, you might as well donate that money to a charity and light up someones life instead.

Chennai city corporation zone and ward map

NOTE: As of October 2011, the Chennai Corporation area has expanded beyond the boundaries shown on this map. All the existing wards and zones have been reorganized for the October 2011 local body elections. For updated information, check the Chennai Corporation website (if it works)

Its just amazing the amount of gaping wide holes you find in the infromation that is made available to the public by our govt agencies. The lowest level of governance happens to be the civic agencies and the public is provided absolutely no information on how to approach them.

The city of Chennai is divided into 155 divisions or wards in 10 zones. All the civic works in an area is carried out from the ward office of the ward it falls in. In this office sits the councillor that you elected(or in most cases, you didnt bother to vote at all) who is supposed to listen to your grievances, the junior engineer who manages all the work and a host of other people who are paid tax money to walk along the corridors, drink tea and do nothing particularly productive. Why? because no one knows where the godamn office is! Why, people dont even know what division they belong to, the constituency, councillor, mla or even if they are within chennai city or not. Its really not a surprise that our cities are in the sad state that they are in, there just isnt anyone who tries to find out if the people who are supposed to be working for us even exists. And to top it all we groan about problems day in day out blaming the people in charge(but we dont know who they are or even bother to find out). I’m not really sure who’s to blame here. Read More…

Unconference baby, Barcamp Chennai is here

In the midst of all the chaos of activities the past two weeks, i almost missed this one completely. Barcamp Chennai is happening this weekend (Oct18-19). Funny thing is that even though i’ve attended quite a few unconferences and events in Bangalore, i’ve never actually attended one right here, and there’s been quite a few, like the wikicamp, searchcamp, filmcamp and more than a dozen tech groups that meet regularly.

Speaking at an unconference in Bangalore a year back was probably the one decision that had a major impact on my life, mostly because of the publicity i got and the people i met. Now, given that i have skipped my college placements (yes some 20+ companies, including IBM), i dont have any plans for higher studies, and with companies (and countries) all around biting the dust like it was chocolate truffle, it looks i’ll have to pull a few tricks out of the pointy hat to keep my immediate future at least partially afloat.

So considering the interest that my work with the openstreetmap project has been generating recently, i’ve decided to give a session at barcamp to give the project some much needed publicity. Those of you who are going wtf at the word barcamp, you should definitely come attend. Everyone learns something because everyone contributes something and that too totally free. Plus who doesnt love an event that requires your t-shirt size when you register 😛

No joy is better than this

To see people who you have inspired. To see them help in whatever way they can. This Sunday, Vinodh Sidarthan, his roommate Vimal and we were there again, this time with nothing in hand because we couldnt afford it and no plan for the day. It was a rainy morning and our only objective was to do whatever we could and enjoy the overcast weather at the beach.

When we started off by picking up shards of broken glass from urine drenched sands with nothing but a plastic bag in hand, i was beginning to think that what we are setting out to do was close to impossible. Others proved me wrong.

Others include a BPO employee, a 10th grade local schoolkid who brought four of his mates over, a couple of Neel Metal employees, and plenty of beachgoers who shook our hands and promised to help us next week. You come to realise that you dont need to pay someone for doing something that makes them happy.

These guys did an amazing job of replacing the sand at the base of the memorial so that it no longer reeks of piss on the side facing the road. Sadly we didnt have the time to do this on all sides. Next week i was planning to go to the corporation ward office and arrange for more cleaning tools so that we can finish the job. But it looks like i wont be able to make it since im heading to Tada for a trek. Anyone living in that area willing to do it?

And if you are interested in lending a hand on more such initiatives to improve life in the city, you should join the chennai ifix mailing list. We have previously dodged cops to fill potholes in the middle of the night, maybe you could put forth more such exciting ideas 🙂

Who painted the Schmidt Memorial?

It felt good to get up early after such a long time. Reminded me of my days last year when i used to go to the marina at dawn to play ultimate. I was at the Chola Sheraton bus stop at 0530 not sure weather buses operate this early on a Sunday. The MTC didnt disappoint, and i was at Elliots beach in 20 minutes, just in time for the sunrise.

I went straight to the memorial hoping to find some ultra enthu people with paint all over their clothes, but the only human was sprawled on the broken steps of the memorial, wearing a green lungi that revealed much more than his hairy legs. As i went round to the side facing the sea, i could clearly make out the partial paint job that had been done the week before.

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Painting Schmidt

Vinod Sidarthan, a Kerlaite staying here has decided to take it upon himself to give a new lease of life to the gloomy, crumbling monument on Bessie beach that doubles up as a pee target and a crack haven in the dark (I’ll admit to peeing on it too, on one occasion) by giving it a fresh coat of paint.The only thing missing would be some illumination and a sign to the nearest public toilet to restore the beauty and smell of this neglected structure.

From sources, i hear that half the job is half done and the remaining will be done tomorrow starting 6am. Gives me a great reason to get up early, catch up with the guys playing ultimate frisbee and watch the beach sunrise in addition to lending a hand to restore the respect that Mr Kaj Schmidt deserves. And for those of you not in the know, he was a dutch sailor who lost his life while trying to save another off the coast.