Almost as if on cue, as soon as we landed in Bangalore, two things happened. First off, the weather became glorious, with afternoon showers, breezy evenings, and almost chilly 5:30 am’s. And two, suddenly the chatter about the liveability index of Bangalore gained unprecedented decibels. You know.. Just how every few years, there is a report on how Bombay is not liveable because of its crowds or how it was about to drown in some 7 years from the time I first read about it over a decade ago, and Delhi, because of its air quality. I read everything there was to read on it, wondering the whole time exactly what Bangalore was being compared to. Now of course I can’t claim to have known Bangalore in my growing up years. I visited a couple of times back then, but that obviously doesn’t count. I grew up in the very heartland of the dusty, grimy Hindi belt above the Vindhyas, with little or no exposure to Lutyens Delhi on my evening walks or Marine Drive, for that matter. My journey from the cow belt, because that was the Bihar of the 90s had short stops in Pune, Bombay and KL. Before I figured that if I was going to live anywhere in India, it had to be Bangalore. Because I can deal with the madness, the bad roads, and the lack of infrastructure because in comparison to everywhere else I have lived, Bangalore retains its charms in the now fewer lung spaces and the opportunities for work and pleasure.
Bangalore, for all practical purposes, is home to a lot of people who moved on from “home” a long, long time ago with no real destination in mind.
And it hurts me just as much as my fellow Bangalorean to read all that has been written about Bangalore in recent times. It fills me with a little self doubt too, because I am either looking at it all wrong or my life priorities are seriously misplaced. Because really, with its small town charms and big city opportunities, a weather that I can’t figure out anything wrong with (neither right now nor on every comparative weather tracking endeavour on Accuweather no matter where I lived), I only seem to love Bangalore more! I can see what everyone is complaining about and I wish that before crying foul and sometimes blaming it on “us northies” (yes, that happened in several comment threads and yes, us northies are capable of immense cribbing too. Thank you, Bangalore, for not asking us to leave every time we shoot our mouths off. We will not know where to go if you do, so we won’t.), the IT industry, Narayan Murthy, and everything else, we indulged ourselves in a little introspection. That the government will not do shit, is a given. Armchair activism on the other hand? What have we, as a community, done to clean up a little, recycle, add a little green to an apparently dying city. We can write paens to the glorious old Bangalore and complain about how much it has changed, or we can do our bit. The government needs to be held accountable, yes. But a little perspective here – the governments in our country are sods, for the lack of a better word. We need to vote, we need to hold them accountable, but taking a leaf from several other communities, we also need to do our bit.
In staying away and now that I am back, the one thing that I have noticed most about India and who we are as people, is the amount we talk! Or now, write. First there’s a newspaper article that goes viral, then we use social media to sound off everything we feel about whatever is viral that week, we write blogs (guilty!), we present arguments and counter arguments in comment threads. We talk. A lot. We do zilch.
Now obviously, we need the government to make more flyovers, decrease congestion, increase green cover and such but here are a few wild ideas – how about we carpool or take public transport when we can? How about we add a little green cover of our own in the balconies that most Bangalore homes are blessed with? Adopt a tree, maybe? Recycle? Just a few “out of the box” ideas that we can start with..
And once we have done all that, let’s hold the government accountable, sign change.org petitions (do they help?), make human chains outside the municipal office (yes, that’s my Bihari conditioning), and then some.
Because honestly, Facebook shares and updates, poetry in status messages, and Twitter rants will not change a thing. They usually don’t.