Sunday, March 28, 2010

If I Were to Write on Bangalore

The spirit of the city? What ever does it mean to capture that, I wonder? Maybe its like modern art. I don’t understand, or care much, for modern art. If that should make me aesthetically whatever, so be it. So this spirit of a city is another of those things I fail to understand.

What defines a city, apart from the fact that it is one? The weather, the expanse of its limits, the language/s spoken, now, those are geographical and/or cultural geographic factors. You can’t possibly call its people the spirit of a place they live in, can you? Won’t it then become subjective? I mean, as a migrant, Bangalore means different to me; my idea of the place and its history is far from what a person having lived here all his life might have. When you examine the variants of the idea of a place, factor in the lifestyle, the income level, the personal histories, if I may be so presumptuous, the ethnicity of the people, the place where you live, work and socialize. Many factors that might determine your response to the demands of the city, to the situations that life in a one way lane might throw up.

Within the precincts of these factors and the inevitable, unpredictable quirks of individual behaviour, how can you search for a collective spirit that, so to speak, could “define” Bangalore? I really don’t see the point of even attempting such an exercise.

But back to the spirit of Bangalore, rather, an attempt at working my ideas around that. Its been four years now since I moved to Bangalore. After the first six months here, I was already planning my exit, then I had hoped that it would be to Madras. I was very happy to be persuaded otherwise then. Four years later, that naughty impulse that sniggers in me once a while is thinking Madras again, the things that a break make you think! (For reasons or not, see the post below)

Four years now, also thanks to the profession I chose to put myself in, I can claim to “know” the city. Not that I like it much at all; I often say, there is in me a natural tendency to dislike the very concept of a city, any city. But I love the people, again not as a whole, just several that I have met and loved, and continued to love. Try as I might, I cannot fathom the spirit of the place though, getting back to that topic.

If I were to write about Bangalore, I am not sure what I would want to write about. Most surely not the clichéd to death IT hub part, maybe not the Basavanagudi, Malleswaram types either with the neighbourhood Brahmin families, dipped in generous sepia tones and turned over with nuances of nostalgia.

Nostalgia is the cushion people rest their elbows on when life gets on their nerves. A fellow blogger wrote this a long time ago. Isn’t relevant here, but I just had to write this.

Bangalore to me is the way I think New York would be. I have never been to NY, though I am dying to go there once in my lifetime. I guess that wish is the hangover of the image of the Big Apple in movies and books. I say Bangalore is akin to NY because of how much of a melting pot it has become. I cannot ignore mentioning the IT boom for this. And the weather, better than any other metro in the country, without argument. The migrant population is bigger than the true Bangaloreans, if you choose to call them that. As it is, there are more people speaking other languages than Kannada. The minority that Kannadigas are in, even these are largely from towns other than Bangalore. Like me. The new urban nomads.

If there was one thing that I would say defines this city, it would be how welcoming it is to people. Eavesdrop into any conversation among a bunch of young things in, wherever in the city, you will hear English. Or possibly, Hindi, which is the new English these days. Miles away from their home towns, these would be from the most far flung states and towns. When I think back on my bunch of colleagues in the old office, we had people from Bengal, the North East, Kerala, Gujarat, well nearly all the states and most major areas of Karnataka. That is Bangalore to me.

Sure, there are still the jacarandas, the lovely yellow hues in the parks and all the fading beauties of the once calm, unhurried town. But of course, it is more of the people now. Bangalore is also of the things that are disappearing, all those gems that are falling into the claws of the modern, the nouveau. Plaza talkies, demolished. Coffee House, shifted. Premier book stores, closed. The M G Road boulevard, torn down. Many others that I, as a non-witness to the city’s stories, wouldn’t know of.

If I were to write of the city, it would be of the arrogant neglect of its own history, the way Bangalore is shrugging its past frantically, the embrace of the future without at all dwelling on its necessary present. Only that future which is fired at from the shoulder of the past can be a future that will be mindful to the present as well.

My story of Bangalore would be of this. Of the people, for, no story can speak for itself without mouthing it through the experiences of people. Of the people who made Bangalore, the ones who joined the ranks much later, the melting of all cultures, peoples, ethics and ethnics. But not the “spirit” as such.

I still do not understand what “is” Bangalore. To me, it would be superfluous to simplify the myriad value systems, the factors that make a people into a collective quality and smugly market it as “that thing” that defines the city I live in. In a world of individuals and separate islands, it would be but a futile attempt to quantify the differences and give it one prosaic tag. No, as far as I would be considered, there isn’t one “spirit” to the city or its people. Bangalore is a wonderful place with great people, with many kindred spirits. For once, lets keep it simple and let it be that way.

1 comment:

sheela said...

Managed reading a long writing about bangalore. I never wanted to be in Bangalore for any reason. I am here for the past 2 years. I feel it is super natural power decides things which are right at the point of time. I am fine with the place now got adjusted. Learning Kannada as well.. Keep writing nice things....