Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bangalore Vs Other Metros

A slow darkness was engulfing the sky, reluctantly. The sun was blushing, as if in excuse for the delay. The roguish wind began his nightly haunts of streets, towns and alleyways, reaching down the darkest corners with his icy fingers and a few feathery clouds solemnly watched from the frozen blue carpet of the sky. It would not be long before they were rudely cast away by the drunken wind, shoving in grey smoke from the cities and towns celebrating the night. Very soon, small twinkling lamps appear on the doorsteps of each house on every street with every window holding a delicate Chinese lantern aloft, spilling light like molten gold onto the passers by. The bleak grey road runs by every house, without fail and saw a family, a few friends or perhaps just a mother and her children lighting earthen lamps, and even the dreariest of walls smiling at the warmth. A willowy bough of ivy scaling the mansions nearby was caught elegantly twisting around to watch the glorious blanket of the night softly fall onto the world. A few of her berries dangled by the window, glistening slightly from excitement, looking like small ruby sets she clutched with her slender fingers. Peering in, one saw children gathering around elders, jumping and jostling to get at the fireworks first. Sparkling sticks, crackling wands, flower pots- small, medium and large, spinners, rockets and the ear splitting crackers that fluttered the unsettled wind and threatened to blow out the lamps – but there were just too many of them! After what seemed like too long, everyone came out, armed with lighted incense sticks and pencil flares, and the festivities began. The stars, too, appeared, blinking, astonished at the jewel studded cities below them, and it was not long before some of them had to make way for zooming rockets that set the inky black parchment overhead afire. The sky was soon streaked with bright flashes of red, green and gold and an occasional blue lightened it. Cacophonous sounds were erupting everywhere making the old ones jump, their hands flying to their ears at the slightest provocation. And so, glorious night set off on her journey, a bright, star studded one at that and a rather loud one than usual. It was time for Diwali and Bangalore was all decked up for the occasion. Starting early, so as to enjoy the revelry till the very minute before the infamous Bangalore shut down, a fast paced, modern and easy going spirit of Bangalore was also awakened from one more of its brief slumbers. A number of party-goers rocked the night away at pubs, bars that is, of course, until eleven pm. In parallel, the antithetical soul of Bangalore was home surrounded by friends, family- the earthen lamps, and home-made sweets. Not a single heart was left in the darkness as the orphanages, old age homes, minority hostels were full of new found friends- every twisting ivy prospered at the sight. There were people enjoying Chinese fried rice with roti and palak paneer. Two complete strangers sharing an auto to get home early. A street decorated by one group of boys for diwali and another group would soon put up the shamiyanas for id. No one feels alone in such a melting pot of cultures. This is typical Bangalore at its peak.

True to the sentiments of patriotism, any Bangalorean would certainly brand all this and the fantastic weather to qualify Bangalore as one of the best cities in the world. But why then, with all its orthodox-south-Indian-meets-the-west charm has Bangalore not carved a niche for itself comparable to that of the famed ‘metros’?? What then, is missing in the jigsaw…? The most common complaint on anyone’s lips these days is the lack of infrastructure. The joys of traveling in a metro- the lower costs, the lesser traffic snarls and the better assurance of reaching the targeted appointment or crucial job interview or even the hospital on time is certainly an improvement. There is also the need for construction of better roads and the promise of maintenance from the government, lest the citizens might have to apply for a private insurance policy! Other elements we can all afford to loose are: the potholes, the dirty (and at times, paan-stained, dark and unplanned gullies), the prospect of being forced to have candle lit dinners all summer thanks to power-cuts, and the annoying one-ways which force us to take circuitous routes to our destinations for no apparent logical reason. The list can just go on. On the other side- the one that marks the people, (for there is no smoke without fire!), the blatant intolerance, the lack of an open minded acceptance and awareness, and the road rages could certainly be done away with. The reality is that some changes are needed in offing to place Bangalore on any note worthy map.

Any wise and observant fellow would probably remark at this point, that although Bangalore has all these deficiencies, it is not as if the other metros are perfect either. They have many such defects and so many hidden fallacies and yet, they are the subjects of all movies, backdrops of books and some of the biggest industries. In fairness to Bangalore, it is probably true that Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta have been the apple of everyone’s eye from time unknown. But a glance at the history books would confirm that these cities have had a lot of luck- the special key point of being born as ports to their favor. In the olden times, these ports attracted trade, and sometimes even foreign invasion, but prospered all the same. A quintessential part of the charm of these places is the beautiful seaside, and the plethora of historical monuments be it the Gateway or the Howrah. Delhi, on the other hand, has had its share of the limelight in being the place of all Moghul controversy, the item of Rajput desire, and the heart of all conquests in India from, some say, 2500 BC. It certainly sets a theme with the sandstones of the red fort glowing in the pride of the past at sundown or the qutub minar, standing tall. All this while Bangalore stood in almost anonymity! The main note that rings through this quite harshly is that these cities have had a lot of mollycoddling and even more attention from times unremembered for the now obvious reasons. In a nutshell, those guys have had a good head-start..! So, is it even fair to compare the well planned architecture of a city like Delhi of old with the hasty modernization of young Bangalore…? In actuality, the very fact that Bangalore has seen such progress so quickly is a sign that more is to come and that expectations are running too high, too soon. The true beauty of a flower is felt only when it has completely bloomed and this cannot happen in a hurry. It maybe argued that America, the youngling, has matured pretty quickly. But then again, the emotional, cultural and traditional face of the country lies in utter ruins. Unhappy faces surround you there, and many of them migrate to India in their quest for peace. So, why lower the standards when one can rise up to it, and probably go even beyond in the flurry of competition…? It must graciously be accepted that there is a need for a better Bangalore; the acceptance gives way to action, a desire to improve and stand apart. That better Bangalore on everyone’s mind is not a fast paced, commercial Bangalore that has no time to light a lamp with a friend on Diwali. No, the charm of yesteryears must linger on and the fragrances of the future should mingle with that of the past. That will be when a new Bangalore will be born- fresh, clean-hearted and free from all the grime. It is not for recognition that the city must strive, the scars of recent terror attacks have assured us that we are not altogether unnoticed and have had our share of the dark fame. No, a work loving, sincere, peaceful city- the paradise that everyone is crossing continents in search of- is what every Bangalorean must work for surely, when that happens, Bangalore will be a city beyond compare.

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