In defense of my city

I unfortunately don’t have the looks or tantalizing voice to pull of an ‘in my city’ type cult classic song, but I thought it’s time I just say what I think when I read about posts from people who are temporarily residing in Bangalore, who go around tarnishing the name (or lack of it) of my home city. Now don’t take this as a ‘if you have a problem with this city, you can go back to where you came from’….no no…. I’m not one of those’ Simon vaapas jao’ type people. 

When you visit someone else’s city, you are for all practical purposes a guest in their city. You move due to lack of work options, marriage and a whole host of other reasons. And to you, the city you grew up in will always be the greatest thing ever….even if you were brought up in Delhi. *Ducks to avoid mob throwing chappals*. Okay, chill. And just as you won’t stand for people saying anything against your home, as educated folks, one would expect you to extend the same courtesy to others.

Yes, Bangalore is a city crumbling under the weight of all the people coming in search of dreams the relatively quicker pay and the onsite trip of an IT job. And if that’s the prime ambition, just go with that. Historically, Bangalore has never been a city with a lot of immigrants. Cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai have always been towns where people have wanted to flock to and settle there. And this has been the same since way back in history. Bangalore is a victim of this sudden influx of people from all over and it’s never really been able to catch up. Throw in a terrible set of porn-watching politicians, we never stood a chance.

I grew up in a very different Bangalore. A city where art flourished; a city that still held a lot of the older British Raj values that blended well with the local folks. And then the first wave of techies hit our shores. A city which was always a sleepy  military cantonment under the British Raj saw people from all over the country come in hoards as IT companies started recruiting by the thousands to meet the Y2K demand. Overnight, people from all over were looking for homes, places to eat, places to hang out. They all came here hearing about the laid-back somewhat sleepy culture of this city (and all the pubs). And that’s where capitalism and poor governance set in.

In a matter of under a decade, unknown outskirts of the city became almost a central part of the city. Parks vanished, more and more eating joints came up, not to mention terrible malls, real estate prices went up, cars tripled. And a government stood silent…actually they were watching porn. Couple this sudden growth spurt with people who aren't necessarily the most open minded in terms of accepting local culture (or what was left of it) gave us the current confused-crumbling avatar of Bangalore.

A city where a large part of the local population were left out of the IT wave and find a lot of what they identify with disappearing, resulting in violent anti-non-kannadiga sentiments. It’s only natural. I don’t remember having come across such aggressive behavior growing up. The first time I came across this was during my graduation. Add this sentiment to people who've come in who don’t want to blend in can only result in a general hatred in both directions. And please note its Kannada…there’s an ‘A’ at the end. That much you fellows can learn. It’s not Kannad. 

I don’t like the Bangalore I live in any more. It’s like a confused teenager that’s not sure of its emotions. And it just keeps growing in leaps and bounds before it can emotionally cope with what’s happening to it. Generally, growth is a good thing. But what’s happening to Bangalore is more like a cancer that neither the old-timers nor the people coming in are enjoying. 

So to all those who come from other cities and tell me how great their town is, please do realize that you are a minuscule part of why you don’t like Bangalore. I’m not saying you’re the problem, but there’s no need to whine about it as though the Gods have blessed you with plague. You can do your bit by helping out. Don’t drive a car everywhere, try and use the public transport. Don’t litter. Don’t whine that you don’t have holi celebrations here. Just as you embrace Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day when you go onsite from the bangalore-based IT Company, accept that things are different. You’re just ruining it for you. Be open-minded to the fact that you have changed the lives of people who lived here for many years and stop trying to make them feel like outsiders in their own home.

We’re not a great city at all. We close at 10:30 PM, food rates everywhere are up, traffic is insane, rent rates are insane, but then you are part of this evolution of Bangalore. And all evolution through economics is fairly violent and unpleasant. If you can’t help those of us who've lived here for ages, and feel really sorry to see this city being stripped down, at least don’t whine to us and boast about how your city is so great. I agree that we've not coped well at all with this economic growth, but we can at least cope a little better if you don’t keep dragging us down.

My friend’s dad once told me this story from history about how the residents of a certain country were against the influx of people from another country. The immigrants were also affected by the anti-immigrant sentiment and felt the localities were asking them to abandon their culture. The then King, looking at all this quarrel called for a durbar session where representatives of both groups were present. The king took a glass of plain milk and a spoonful of sugar. He put the sugar in the milk and mixed it. He then pointed out that although milk and sugar were together, each is known separately for their unique properties. And yet together they were a wonderful mix. And just as how the milk and the sugar could now not be separated, neither party could truly be separated. Each adopted properties of the other and resulted in a wonderful mixture and this was how immigrants should respect the culture of the local people and vice-versa.

Anyway, I’m not much of a political person to make grand speeches, but I’m just hoping people who live here who don’t like the city, help us make it better. We’re not a great city, but then, there really aren’t any great Indian cities. Each comes with its own set of problems and drawbacks. But since you grew up there, you’re willing to ignore those problems. So don’t come to my house and tell me it’s inadequate. This is the best we’we've got.

Food Mood – Italian Food Festival at Bene (Sheraton, B’lore)

The mandatory end-of-2013 post