I am now, although temporarily, in the city I have always wanted to live in - Bangalore. When I was graduating from school in early 2005, the software boom was at its peak. Every youngster dreamt of working for a software company and migrating to Bangalore. I wanted the same, though I squirmed at the prospect of coding and debugging. I am an engineer by accident, not design.
Nevertheless, I wanted to live in Bangalore. To me, it was the City of Life. I dreamt of a cozy highrise apartment with a view of the brightly lit streets below; of evenings spent on the balcony watching the numerous pin points of tail lights of cars moving below; of weekends spent window shopping at malls; of secondhand bookstores where I would spend hours together. I looked forward to living and walking among the Englishspeaking, fashionablydressed upwardly mobile youth of India.
But by 2008, I realised that things would hardly be so hunkydory. I learnt about the cost of living; about the tiresome traffic jams and the work that would leave you with precious little time to laze around. And somewhere along the way, I accepted that I was not cut out to be an IT professional - my heart was simply not in it.
What awaited me here - a dreamy life or disillusionment? A little of both, I would say. I love the climate - the cool blue skies frowning in the evening rains and the breeze that makes you smile despite the lint and dust that settles in your hair and eyes. I love the trees that canopy the roadside and the parks and lawns that dot the city. I love the malls with their crowded food courts and the overpriced branded clothing stores where I windowshop. I love traveling all over the city in the Volvo buses, mostly with a book and a friend for company.
I am also a little tired of the people I meet - everyone is young; stylishly dressed; Englishspeaking with a badge on a tag around their neck that proclaims which company they work for. Everywhere I see young women with lipsticked mouths and sunglasses perched atop their heads wheeling prams along the hypermarket aisles, their husbands in threefourths and flipflops dragging along another kid by the hand; I see girls with auburnstreaked hair in halterneck tops, carrying oversized handbags and young men sporting goatees ordering pizzas and shakes in the food courts; In the buses, I see men in their thirties working on laptops or giving instructions on their cell phones. And I wonder - where is everyone else?
Where are the sareeclad mothers scolding their brats in languages other than English? Where are the middleaged and elderly men and women who must have lived here before the MNCs came? I mind their absence very much - I, who was not born and bred in this city. In some ways, I wonder if Bangalore is becoming the Bombay of yore.
Bangalore is younger, peppier - evolving with the multitudes that throng towards it. It is an everchanging entity, whose characteristics and borders change vibrantly. I realise that I still want to live in Bangalore.
The problems I cited are still here, perhaps even worsened over the years. But the magic that this city holds for me is as real as ever. In spite of everything, old dreams die hard.