Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why Bangalore is not a metropolitan ???

It pains me as I write this. I wonder a 100 times if I do want to write this but then to "call a spade a spade" is no crime and here I let go.
It is said that travel broadens horizons, and how. Lately, I have been doing some amount of travelling ( to the extent of bankruptcy) to the 2 truly metropolitan cities in the country, Mumbai and Delhi, with the effect that I decided to sit back and take stock of the situation prevalent on home turf.
People may argue that I am no authority to talk about Bangalore, being a "outsider" and of course, the fact that grass is always greener on the other side. I cant get into a justification mode, just read the post and decide for yourself.
Bangalore was always the retired man's paradise. With lush gardens and laid back lifestyle, you couldn't ask for more at the age of 60 to rest till you are handed back to nature. But then something happened. With the economic forces of globalisation and cheap skills coming into play, it was but obvious that Bangalore, with its strong educational framework, will be the fulcrum of activity for all knowledge based industries. Bangalore rose, and how, in the books of all corporate houses and with the government all the more happy to oblige, we witnessed a growth unheralded, unbelievable and most importantly, unplanned.
With the increase in economic brawn, Bangalore witnessed a strong influx of people from all parts of the country. Not that the city wont welcome us with open arms, it did but what it lost in return was its tranquility and innate serenity. Soon Bangalore was bustling, not in the arms of traditional theatre and drama but in the sweaty pubs and discos.
The scene with Mumbai and Delhi has been different. They have been the big cities, always. The growth of these cities had little to do with a cost-cutting phenomenon in the West and more with the genuine surge in economic and political rise of the country. As such, the growth story of these two cities has been more organic and as a result, more planned.
The present day Bangalore is a picture perfect example of what can go wrong in urban planning and development. The overcrowded roads, the new airport controversy and the haphazard construction of the metro are only aggravating the agony of old-timers in Bangalore.
Bangalore suddenly looks like the illegitimate child of the Indian growth story, trying to earn brownie points with one and all through cheap labour and cheap liquor, while the "real" family is the toast of many a high-society dinners. This is not to blame the city for its current state nor am I taking any credit away from the stupendous IT story that has become synonymous with Bangalore. I , like many others , have been the beneficiary of the boom that's Bangalore and am positive that Bangalore deserves its place in the echelons of the high and mighty but its still a long way from the home run in that race.
And so here I left my story a month back... time to pick up the threads again...
Lot has changed in the period though, I am destined to go to Mumbai in a couple of months and now my observations on the city will be derided as a parting admonition and act of selfish what-might-have-been stories... but as I stated before I cant afford to get into justification mode.
Adding to the turmoil, the political environment has displayed a distinct distaste for public welfare (don't get me started on the Airport thing...reeks of small town conman ship). They have been distant from ground realities and mud-headed in planning. The resultant of their hubris is the dislike exhibited by old-timers, or should i say Bangaloreans, towards the breed that is us ... the new entrants or the immigrants ( isn't that the truth!!!).
That just about brings me to the actual reason for penning my thoughts here. I started at the time when MNS was wrecking Mumbai with a Nazi-like temperament and one day a colleague actually narrated a story about his friend being harassed by some locals. It seems the local people were not interested in robbing him, their only intention was to cause harm to the person amid almost violent chants of "you IT people". That really set my engine running... why are we being blamed for all this ? What is my fault if I am asked to report to office along with another 40 thousand people .. leading to traffic jams and packed buses ? Is it my fault that the flight costs have come down so I want to fly back home for vacation and hence the resultant high load on the old airport, has "forced" the government to shift the airport to a new place, which takes me more time to reach than probably the air journey itself ? Please tell me if it appears that I am having fun shelling out extra money for each and every auto trip, when funnily the trip costs more because of my profession rather than the distance travelled.. ?
A metropolitan is a term used very loosely these days... population has, for all practical purposes, been used as criteria. But then at the rate India is growing in numbers we can look forward to many metropolitan cities can't we ? A metropolitan is a microcosm, which when we enter showcases the whole country for us...
Bangalore, unfortunately, is going nowhere with that. If it is truly representative of the country then it can be worrying for India. It shows a cluttered country where the old-order dislikes the new and the new could care less... where the host is distrustful of the guest and the guest has become indifferent, a feeling arising from the fact that no amount of persuasion will work with the host. The life goes on with a under current of distrust, which will one day find expression under some stupid pretext. And till such day we'll pretend that we live in the country's coolest metropolitan...
The staunch believers ( and I hope there are many) will refute me stating the recent events in Mumbai... so should Mumbai be stripped off the metropolitan status too ? Maybe yes, that would obviously depend on the level of involvement of the real Mumbaikar in these protests, which in turn tells us how much the real Mumbai believes in the cause and thus we can gauge whether the same under current, that I talked about here, exists there too. In that that unfortunate case, we can sadly label Mumbai too as an impostor. Maybe someday I would sit and analyse Mumbai as a metro after I have spent some considerable time there.
But even then I would love to come back to Bangalore and check out if it has outgrown its regionalist robes and donned the real colors of a metropolitan city...