The other day, someone asked me which is the capital of Karnataka. I said Bengaluru and Bengaluru! Yes, we have two cities — Bengaluru and Bengaluru. One is a ‘Bean town’ and the other is a ‘Boom town’. One, with its British bungalows, with English names to its streets, one of ancient temples and bustling markets, parks and lakes, palaces and forts, heritage houses and leafy avenues. People and areas which bring in the old charm.
The other, which calls itself ‘Brand Bengaluru’, which at times is ‘Bangalored’, calls itself the Silicon City, has glass facade buildings, multiplexes, sky-scrapers, apartment complexes and the like.
Then you have the ‘insiders’ who are the locals, who sometimes feel they are being suppressed and taken for granted by the ‘outsiders’ of the other Bengaluru – the migrants from states across India and from the United States and other countries. These people who show up Bengaluru as a culturally diverse city, and the other Bengaluru which is a beautiful ethnic city.
You have glossy buildings and glossier people, looking as if they have come out of glossy magazines – this is one Bengaluru. And the other Bengaluru where there are slums, there is poverty, there is struggle for existence, there is middle-class melange.
You still find the old-world charm in areas like Malleswaram and Basavanagudi and the Cantonment, with their culture and manners. But some Bengalureans of these areas have themselves become migrants in other countries.
Fifty years ago when we had only one Bengaluru, the city was so small that if you sneezed, the whole city would say ‘God bless you!’ Empty roads, a car here and a car there, tree-lined avenues, cool climate, charming citizens. This Bengaluru still exists in some pockets, though vehicles are hogging the roads. But, for the world, the other Bengaluru, is a technology hub, the IT capital. For the old-timers, it’s tough to reconcile with the transformation of the Pensioners’ Paradise into a chaotic city. You have a city that winds up by 10pm and with the advent of IT boom, a city that starts its day in the night where people log into IT firms.
Bengaluru, known for its pleasant climate and peace-loving people, is now battling modern urban negatives like pollution, vanishing lakes, noisy traffic and road rage. While the urban planners are trying to make both Bengalurus co-exist, the mantris and babus look the other way when confronted with this complex but cosmopolitan city. We need to make the two Bengalurus meet. For this, we need to put some bang back into Bengaluru – bringing in a heady mix of ‘By2 coffee’ and ‘Swalpa adjust madi’ culture of old Bengaluru, and the bytes of new Bengaluru.
For me, Bengaluru is home, the city I love with all its contradictions. I am both an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’. Belonging to the old Bengaluru and the new Bengaluru.
Utthara Kumari B