Thursday, September 15, 2005


A Tale of Two Cities...

Namma Bengaluru and Aamchi Mumbai...

I returned last night from the city of Vada Pav and "Ganapati Bappa Moriya!". I came back from seeing a city ravaged by the recent onslaught of the rains, and yet smiling as it greets fresh showers and dancing as it takes it's utsav murtis to the seaside for "Visarjan". "I love Mumbai in the rains" said one of the people I met during my day, affirming the strength of spirit of a city that has seen bodies of its families floating past in those very same rains. "I love Mumbai during Ganapati, going around town seeing the various society Ganapatis.." vowed another. And I too was overwhelmed by the spirit of the people around me, walking, dancing, laughing in the constantly descending rains, as they proceeded in slow congress towards the beaches, accompanying their respective Ganapatis. The spirit went beyond the immediate group and engulfed even passersby, attracted everyone irrespective of caste, creed or religion. But, for a city with a much vaunted public infrastructure, I also saw Mumbai grind to a slow crawl in places as traffic snarls, rain-damaged roads and inconsiderate motorists attacked.

What struck me was how Mumbai today is what Bangalore is steadily working its way towards. And I am not lauding the survival and community instincts here. I am referring to the similarity, to the Mumbai I saw, coming from the state (or lack thereof) of our roads, our traveling public and the sheer chaos that greets you at every turn. And from the fact that Bangalore is today turning into what Mumbai started out being - a destination for everyone who wants to find their fortune.

Back home I landed to greet a Bengaluru taking a break from the rains, cool, breezy and relatively more quiet and composed even on Day 8 of the Ganesha festival. Bangalore takes its festivals seriously, but festivals don't "take" Bangalore the way they do it's sister up in the West. You will find warmth, joy, festivity within your homes and families and with your friends. But you will rarely find an occasion to share this with absolute strangers, both of you never rendered same, equal and joined in some common cause. Here the festivals are about family, not about community.

I sometimes wonder if there does exist a common thread, here in Bangalore, that winds its way through the lives of all Bangaloreans and gives us a sense of oneness. Does Bangalore make people here profess love for any part of the city they have made their home, forcibly or otherwise? I sometimes wonder if today's Bangalorean sees this city as more than just a means to fulfill the immediate needs of Life. Do we care about our city?

I didn't grow up in Bangalore, so I cannot say I truly care and/or love this city.

But in my own way, I do. I have had some of the best summers of my life here. In a way, I guess you are right. Bangalore, to me, has always been 'the fun place'. Its where you go, have fun and then... go back home.

And now that I live here, now that I call this place home... I wonder at how it will evolve. Not as a city per se, but rather how it will evolve in my head.

So far, its been alright.
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