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.


scorpiogenius said...

Another Mumbai in the making, you fear?

silverine said...

Scorpiogenius: No, that stage is over for Blr. That is what I am saying.

mathew said...

been a big fan of old bangalore actually..maybe coz i have find memories as a kid! And as the city grows the people change too...for e.g. the rickshaw drivers out there...they were not rude 15 yrs ago! While i lived in mysore and visited Blore over the weekends..sometimes to shop at commercial i used to get exhausted soon too..:( Though Blore definitely has been slow catching up with the infra, I think things are changing slowly ..atleast you can see a couple of new ringroads and a metro coming up!

Emmanuel said...

When I used to stay in Thippasandra, we used to go to the market there to buy fruits during weekends. If you don't ask them in Kannada (which obviously we didn't know!), anything would be charged 5 or 10 rupees extra. Some Hindi speaking ladies who also face the same situation will fight. The vendors will agree. For us, it was tough. They shout at us. Swear at us. Some even try to attack. Most of the times, we had to dump them and go to Hopcoms. I always wanted to help them by buying from them. But because of this hostility, we always had to move away from them. It's a bit sad situation.

Even now, I don't see the localites in main stream. Even among Kannadigas, all of them will be from Mysore, Gulbarga, Mangalore etc and I have not yet seen anyone claiming that they are from Bangalore. But I have seen some from other states who have come for jobs here, claiming themselves Bangaloreans after completing as low as just 5 years in Bangalore. So, it's always a question of who belongs here. The answer is that when Bangalore was not visible in Indian industrial spectrum (since it had only public sector companies), nobody wanted to exploit Bangalore. And noone was feeling threatened unlike now. Now everyone wants a piece of cake.

I think the development in Bangalore was halted since no one cared as it was not their own. Now only people are concerned when they find water logging even when it drizzles, endless traffic jams etc. So even though it's late, its good for future.

I worry for Bangalore as I don't want such a beautiful city to die. When I see the green cover is being removed bit by bit, it's a bit saddening. But I hope that nothing will happen to Bangalore as there are a lot of people who love Bangalore and keep it close to their hearts. Also I hope that Bangalore won't face a situation which Mumbai is facing now.

And one thing that still retains the old world charm of Bangalore is that I can call it "Bangalore" even when it is officially changed to "Bengalooru".

silverine said...

Mathew: Blr has not changed. But people have, specially the localities. This hostility towards outsiders is only in the city and that too among govt servants and middle class fostered by certain elements. The majority of Kannadigas, specially non Bangaloreans are least bothered. And the influx of lots of new auto drivers, new meters and plenty of bus services have changed the attitudes of auto drivers too.:)

Emmanuel: Difficult to believe that. Traders and veg sellers etc are least bothered what language you speak. All they want is a sale. What Mumbai is facing, Bangalore faced long time ago like in the 70's. It is dying out now. That what I was trying to convey in this post.

Gauri Gharpure said...

never been to b'lore. hope to visit pretty soon and see for myself if all i hear rings true :)

skar said...

Yeah, Bangalore is the worst of the metros as far as urban transportation goes. The former is slowly being remedied under the JNNURM. But the pace of remedy is set by the state initiative as you said. The center for its part has made funds available.

sandeep said...

i believe the infra is beginning to get better of-late. there are a lot of roads, which i regularly take and were mud tracks till a couple of years back. they are all looking good now. infra is definitely getting better ... but it needs to get even better :)

abt the attitude towards outsiders, i guess the change u r noticing is mostly from people who are outsiders themselves! and yes ... some natives, who work in IT sector ... etc, has seen too many outsiders and learned to live with it. but the attitude is same deep inside for the majority

Binoy said...

Bangalore is the 'chalta hai' city. Thanks to the Gowda clan who made sure the farmers and cities are screwed by their real estate mafia. It leaves people with good old memories and only that.
Is there any solution to this?
I dont know.
Is it that we cant have better cities?
No coz so many Indians have gone abroad and built better things there.
Then why not here?
People blame the system.
Which System?
Government system and politics.
So what can be done about it?
People say we should vote.
Will that solve the problem?
I don't think so.
Maybe coz our culture is like that. People say Delhi is good. I dont know why only delhi is good.
Any ray of light in that direction?
People say YSR was a ray of light, but dont know why God decided to take him back.
And Bangalore?
Will remain the sleepy city with a few Jet fighters taking off now and then to keep me excited.

Pink Mango Tree said...

Sadly, true! But I don't think there is ever a solution to this! It is like more than 1000 people sharing a gulab jamun! How can you satisfy all of them? Like me, there are lakhs of expatriates residing in this city!
However, forget pollution, forget poor infrastructure, forget traffic jams... I still love Bangalore.

Kamini said...

I was shocked to read about how the policeman spoke to the lady. Shades of Delhi there! I thought Bangaloreans were soft-spoken and gentle.
I visited Bangalore two years ago, and there are still pockets of charm and quiet. And the cool weather was a welcome relief from the sweltering heat of Chennai, where I'd gone from. Everybody I know who lives in Bangalore has only bad things to say about their city. Sad.

thomas said...

Not relevant to the post, but.....comment moderation + word verification means the blogger wants only those persons to comment who really have something to say......right right?

Arjun said...

You could probably go through this and gimme your opinions.

Bibi George said...

I guess Karnataka govt and the administration there are more bothered of the moral side of the city.

Bibi George said...

I am a chennaite and whenever i come to Bangalore i feel the world around me has shrunk. Bangalore is such a small place compared to chennai..i mean area wise..

silverine said...

Gauri: Yes, Blr is to be experienced! :)

Karthik: That's news. I guess that is why we had frantic road laying some time back.

Sandeep: The deep conditioning of "outsiders" by certain elements will not disappear overnight. And it is confined to Bangaloreans and Mysoreans only.

Binoy: Those last two lines summed up the city so well!

SS: Things are changing for the better actually, as far as attitude is concerned!

Kamini: Blr cops are the rudest people I have encountered and the most corrupt too!

Thomas: Word ver is to prevent spam.

Arjun: I will. Thank you! :)

Ann: They are not bothered about the moral side. But blackmailing people over personal liberties is due to age old hatred towards the educated class. They wont dare it with the poor. And Blr is a village compared to Chennai or Hyd. No comparison actually!