BENGALURU: It doesn’t take much to gauge that Bengaluru is really the startup capital of the country. All you have to do is step out of your home or office any afternoon on a weekday. Unlike most Indian cities, you will find lots of men doing sundry everyday chores – buying veggies at neighbourhood stalls, hitting the gym in apartment clubhouses, walking their dogs, and even jogging on roadsides. And nobody stops to stare.
There was a time when hours in the middle of the day showed mostly women on the colony streets – men were, after all, away at the office. Not any more. At least in the IT City. I have come across fathers escorting their children – religiously, every day – to sports classes, and spending the entire two hours stationed outside the arena, watching patiently every shot played, every move coached.
That their unfulfilled sporting ambitions may be playing a role here cannot be denied. But then they display equal dedication, reserved as a mother’s domain so far, mind you, when it comes to ferrying kids even for after-school arts and dance classes.And they have no qualms about not being at a workplace at that hour, or fear of being judged by other mothers, tutors or neighbours about taking up domestic duties. And that’s simply because they aren’t being judged in a city where it has become commonly accepted for men to work from home, establish startup offices in their guestrooms, or just take a break from office drudgery.
The power and complete assimilation of the ‘startup culture’ is also apparent from another drab, evil necessity – the rent agreement. Few house owners in the city, unlike those in, say, Delhi, insist upon the lease being drawn in the company’s name. In several cities of India, the more reputed the employer, the easier it is to find a house on rent, with government employees taking up the proud place at the top of the list. Not so in Bengaluru, where entrepreneurs aren’t looked at as oddities, to whom one cannot entrust their 1,600 sqft space.
The acceptance has come as much from the house-owners as the houseworkers. Whenever the maid gets late, I know she would rush in and say, ‘That bhaiya in the other block had a con-call, and I had to wait to clean up the room, and give him lunch’. The bhaiya in question works for a multinational firm, and often operates from home. The househelp doesn’t mind taking up instructions from him while his wife is away, for something considered for decades as ‘women’s business’.
Actually, that bhaiya, and several others like him are also active on the apartment’s WhatsApp group through the day. They object to vehicles parked haphazardly, check whether the wi-fi is malfunctioning for all, even post requirements for maids, and upload pictures of dog poop in the lawn and a cat perched on someone’s bike.
While I have come across women having mixed feelings about the presence of men around them everywhere, at all times, most of them are happy that a start has been made, all thanks to startups.
Sr Asst Editor, City Express