Monday, April 13, 2015

A slightly ugly Indian

Sensational headlines rule the day. And maybe my post title is sensational too. But read on and let me know in the comments if the blog heading was warranted or not. Let me also make it clear here that all the views here are my own and only my own. Don't start frothing at the mouth and sending me hate mail. Correct something in this post and I will clarify it if I find it right.

This post is about the Ugly Indian. Yes, I know many of you have heard of them. Maybe some of you have even worked with them or even volunteered for a spot-fix. I'll admit that I was inspired by what the Ugly Indian stands for and does - basically to shut your mouth and get work done. This is usually done by getting together some volunteers and selecting a "spot" that requires cleaning and "fixing" up. The volunteers gather at the spot at the allocated time, start cleaning up and maybe even painting, fixing the area. As the work is completed, people just go back to their normal lives. There is no brouhaha about this work at all - no social activity like name taking, introductions etc. All this is very interesting from a sociology perspective. In this modern age where everyone wants to tag themselves to any activity on the internet and it is all about "scoring points", these guys are different.

Well, as I got an email for a spot-fix at a "major" spot somewhere near M.G Road and it being quite close to home, I opted in and confirmed my spot. Reached early morning and was happy to see someone from the Ugly Indian there already - a Mr. N. More people joined in and it was nice to see that we all were just given a few words of advise and the work started in right earnest. Appreciate Mr.N for overseeing stuff and putting in a real helping hand at times. Also, I would like to make clear at this time that they had provided many tools for us to use - gloves to protect the hands, hoes, shovels, trowels, paint, mugs, water, brushes etc. So we were never wanting for any particular tool. All in all, work went on well and all the people who volunteered had an equal hand in cleaning up and brightening up the spot. All in all, took around some 5 hours of solid back-breaking work.

Well, I was quite satisfied with the little bit of giving-back-to-Bangalore that I could and me and the last few volunteers left were casually chatting with Mr.N. It was then that I asked him if they would provide such tools and logistics support if we decided on a spot-fix ourselves. But Mr.N said that they don't. I was a little surprised by that but hey, there is nothing as a free lunch right? I really don't see any sense in the Ugly Indian providing such support either - but perhaps there is an enterprising soul out there reading this post and thinking up a plan of renting out such tools to anyone who decides to set up a spot-fix. Win, win for everyone!

But what quite honestly hit me quite hard was what Mr.N said next. I think - I am not sure - that what he said next isn't known to everyone. That they have a signed MOU with the BBMP. Now, this might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people. But it is to me. Why you ask? Well, it is simply because the Ugly Indian (in my sight at least) paled from being a warrior who took on the powerful government (whose work it was in the first place) and cleaned up sections of the city without expecting anything in return, to just another "NGO". That they request permission from the BBMP before they even started work at any particular area. In fact, this was also told to me by Mr.N that they have a list of "spots" - a list maintained along with the BBMP and that the Ugly Indian would send a request to fix a spot and once the BBMP approved the fix, they would go ahead and get it done.

I know I will face a lot of flak for the above observation. People will say that the good the Ugly Indian does outweighs the fact that they have an MOU with the government. And I agree. Totally. But for me, it just removes the "goodness" of the work that they have been doing and places them on some level that I would place a normal NGO on. The romantic view of the nameless warrior is gone to be replaced by some guy, though filled with good intentions, doesn't take on the government but requests the government's permission, to act like he does.

The MOU, for me, has changed my perception of the Ugly Indian. I thought I was the only one who might feel this way but after I spoke to friends about the MOU, they felt the same too. Perhaps I should have also Kaam Chalu, Mooh Bandh instead of posting about it up on my blog but hey, some people might think like me and see it from my perspective.

EDIT - 20/04 - Also, some people haven't seen it from this viewpoint - that we "volunteers" at "spotfixes" are getting the government's work done for FREE! Instead of forcing the government to do it's job, we have ended up doing their work!!


  1. I wonder why this was never brought up anywhere and if the same model is followed in spot fixes other than Bangalore.. certainly changes perspective..

  2. Adding in some comments that friends had made on my Facebook post...

    Nagaveni Gutta - God .. Never knew something like this exists behind this initiative.. I completely agree with you. Clever thought to get the city cleaned without any cost
    April 18 at 7:47pm

    Keerthi Rohit - So what does this MOU has in terms and conditions? Are these ppl fixing spots for BBMP so that BBMP can make more money and not have to pay their staff? Now, I have a feeling that Bangalore Mirror is also equally involved. They have this section where citizens can click pictures about bad road, unattended damaged drainages, uncleaned garbage dump etc etc, publish the news and a week or two after their news is out you see Ugly Indian fixing it. And the news again gets published of how after they reported the news someone else fixed it. Looks like the shit is deeper than we thought. A major scam in the making.
    April 18 at 8:06pm

    Naveen Roy - Yes, would love to know what the terms of the MOU are like.
    April 18 at 9:46pm

    Ben Geoffrey - hahaha, he is just another Indian ... than calling him ugly.
    April 19 at 6:54am

    Naveen Roy - Yup, Just Another Indian would have been an apt title.
    April 19 at 9:42am

    Rubert Jack - Made a fool out of everyone eh!!!
    April 20 at 8:57am

    Abhilash Nair - Mother of mangoes!!!! Really? WTF. Now thats the "Ugly" one.
    April 20 at 1:30pm


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