Sunday, February 21, 2010

Making it big while staying small

If there were an award for a city that has remained static, despite the massive changes it has undergone, in terms of demography, industry and social culture, then the award should go to Bangalore. The last two decades has bought sweeping changes to Bangalore. IT has become an important part of the landscape both economic and social. Thousands of people have settled here, displacing the older population by 7 to 1. Yet the city has held firm. Not a single new road has been created. Nor a single gully carved out of its stubborn landscape, all thanks to a recalcitrant administration, that seem to have gone berserk collecting the windfall on the city.

Yesterday I witnessed a funny sight. An Innova carrying lots of expats was waiting by the side on Commercial Street. A traffic inspector came and started shouting abuses, typical Bangalore cop style at the driver. He was loud and rude and unnecessarily harsh. From behind the Innova, out popped a plump lady and pointed to the cop and shouted “Hey! We are waiting for someone. We are not blocking traffic.”
The cop shamelessly shouted back “Shut up you hag. Shut your bloody mouth”. If you think the lady was intimidated, she was not. She stood her ground and suddenly the cop realized that it was he who was losing face. He grumbled and asked the driver not to linger too long. What bought about the change in the cop, was the people staring at him in disgust and disbelief. Two decades ago, he would have got away with it. Bangalore can truly call itself a cosmopolitan city now.

However I noticed that Commercial Street has not grown an inch. It handles the increased number in shoppers by just slowing down. Everything is slow here. I waited for 45 minutes to swipe my card at the Levi’s showroom as the machine was busy due to the peak shopping time. Next time I take cash. Walking about the street, we noticed that all of us were totally exhausted. After three hours of browsing and shopping, we decided to call it a day. There was a time we could hang around this place the whole day. Now it is next to impossible.

As a last port of call, we decided to go to KFC. Wrong choice. The crowd of hungry shoppers was immense and we got to the counter after 30 minutes of leg aching, shin shaking minutes. I was so tired that I don’t even remember eating my Zinger. Got into the car, and thanked my lucky stars that I bought along the driver. Slept all the way home, hauled my carcass out of the car and crashed out to get up only today.

Now I don’t know whether to be happy or sad at the situation. The overcrowding of Bangalore, has strangely bought a semblance of dignity to this city, which was in the grip of parochial maniacs for a long time, who looked at you with contempt and told you at every instance that you were drinking “their” water, living on “their” land and so should shut up and or speak only in the native tongue.