Bangalore. The garden city. The Silicon Valley of India. Not to be confused with Nainital (the official city of lakes), this city has a lake everywhere you turn. It is also a city with several books written about it — I’ve read many of them myself (My Days in the Underworld: Rise of the Bangalore Mafia by Agni Sreedhar, Askew: A Short Biography of Bangalore by George, T. J. S., Bangalore – A Century of Tales from City Cantonment by Peter Colaco, and Bhais of Bengaluru by Jyoti Shelar) (Maybe I should start a series about the city-specific books I’ve read so far too). Needless to say, I am not going to share anecdotes of an era gone by; I am just another bird flying south for winter.
The Lift Syndrome
Traffic snarls, crowded locals, freedom, and fun —these are some of the ways people describe the extremely fast-paced and colorful city of Mumbai. Love it or hate it, Mumbai is something Indians just can’t ignore. I hear a lot of people complaining about bumper to bumper traffic in my hometown, something I’ve not been subject to a lot, considering that I’m conditioned to travel by local trains for the most part of my adult life when I lived there. It’s an art, they say, to get in and get out of a train alive during peak hours. Others just believe in going with the proverbial “flow” (log aandar le jayenge, aur baadme utar bhi denge). But after venturing out into the IT pockets of big bad India, with a fair share of linguistic bias, I feel proud that I mastered the art (of living) and it wasn’t just by fluke. The system, just like the famed dabbawalas of the city, has its rules. All you need to have a bit of civic sense and discipline to figure it out in no time.
Let me elaborate on how this divine realization dawned on me.
Before I moved out, I would often sympathize with those suffering from the morbid fear of traveling on local trains. Given that the tin boxes we call compartments are bursting at the seams with people, there are unwritten rules that everyone follows. What are these rules you ask? Imagine getting into a lift. You need to let people alight first, and wait near the sides of the lift doors so that people can get off and move away from the area. Once inside, you either go right in or move to a side; depending on which floor you need to go to. If you are stuck in a place that you can’t get off on the floor of your choice because of the crowd blocking your way, the others either need to make place for you to get off or alight and get back in. Sounds simple, right? But rules are built to be broken. What happens, in reality, is that people just take one mighty leap inside and stay put where their feet land. When these very people enter a Mumbai local, you can fathom their fate instantly. Much of profanities, in every possible Indian language, and a few choicest of words from English await. Instead of mending their ways and being humane (or just civil), the trains get branded as monstrosities instead.
The Cafeteria Syndrome
An extension of the lift syndrome is the cafeteria syndrome. If you have ever worked in an MNC of any sort, you know that there are some policies that you need to adhere to when you eat in office canteens. You need to stand in line to place your orders, move ahead, and make way for others to do the same. As the chain moves ahead, you collect your food and hunt for a place to sit and devour your tasteless meals. If you can’t make up your mind between the tasteless dal and the bland fish fry, decency dictates that you step aside till you choose your poison for the day. Then you need to get in the queue to look for cutlery. It isn’t rocket science—walk up, pick up and move away. Then once you are done with your meal, you need to pick up after yourself and dispose of your plates gingerly in the washing area (after disposing of the food waste). Now imagine this. You have a piping hot cup of tea (or coffee, which is more likely when in Bangalore), and you are waiting for the line to move ahead. You probably will end up spilling half its contents, as you peer ahead of the queue in anticipation for anyone to change their position. Yelling out instructions of any nature (like you do in an overflowing train compartment, aarey andar jao pura khali hai, despite it bursting at the seams), will earn you the Bangalore stare (the look of disgust when you see a centipede crawling around you). You will most likely hold your tongue, because you get the feel of standing in a chapel or a hospital, given the silence around you (because everyone is looking into their phones).
The Work of God
The Vidhan Soudha, the seat of Karnataka legislature, sports a motif that reads “Government’s work is God’s work”. Probably that is a major reason why you need to learn Kannada. You see, the god’s here seem to give instructions only in Kannada, and hence his workers see no real need to know any other language, even to make small talk. As a linguist, it’s a delight for me to learn a new language. In the 3+ years I called Bangalore home, I can manage a little bit here and there. I sailed through smokingly well in Pune, given my native Marathi skills (I studied the language formally from class 3 to class 10, and I managed to scrape through with my scores). But here, it is very easy for me to start with my broken Kannada and flow into Tamil. Despite hating everything North Indian (which in Karnataka means everything north of the state), they do not have such deep-seated seething for the folks down south. You see, Kannada and Telugu share the same written script, but are very different languages. Malayalam and Tamil may sound similar but are poles apart. But thanks to the Tamil hands that built Karnataka, our base is slightly covered.
The Crawl to Work
Bangalore, the erstwhile pensioner’s paradise, is known for its lethargic pace and cozy weather. But in the recent past, it seems to be drawing more attention to its traffic snarls. The traffic in Bangalore is legendary. What compounds this issue is the utter lack of alternate mode of transport. The metros take you to most of the pubs at Church Street, MG Road, and Indiranagar but only two of the lines are functional as of 2020. All the cabs, buses, autos (that have a meter for decorative purposes only) and two-wheelers use the same roads to reach the major tech parks. There are times when you’d take 45 minutes to an hour, but to get out of your tech park with a campus of 2 km, which is almost every working weekday! So the Pune stare would make its appearance when I’d tell someone that I’d travel 12 km to work sometimes and visit friends 30 km away to anyone from the city. Your friends have to be extra special if you’d want to invest that kind of effort in meeting them!
The ‘Hyderabad’ Airport
Now, if you’ve been in the city long enough, then you’ve cribbed about the Martahalli Airport (the old HAL airport) which was so far away from the city, The erstwhile new Bangalore Airport is off the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway. It is so far away from civilization, and takes so long to reach, that it seems like you’ve reached the Nizami capital. But that is until you visit Hyderabad-the Bangalore airport seems closer to the city than their own local airport! But if you do make it to the Bangalore airport before you miss your flight, there is a lot of things you can do if you have money in your wallet and time on your hands. I’d most certainly know, given the number of flights that were delayed or I missed. Don’t forget to tell your Bangalorean friends of the weather in ‘Hyderabad’, once you’re there though!
This was my experience of the IT hub of India. It was bitter sweet, and I’m out of there alive and sane. Do let me know your thoughts on life in Bangalore as an outsider too!