Taking some of the past into our future

A cousin, who lives in the United States, was here recently and we were discussing how Bangalore has changed. I asked her about the differences she felt from her student days here in Bangalore and now, 20 years later and what she missed of the old Bangalore in today’s city and life.
Here is what she said:
First thing that comes to mind is the increased pace of life – the rhythm of life has changed from its previous restful rhythm and slow sleepiness of a tourist town and centre of public sector operations to the hectic fast pace of a busy commercial metropolis driven mostly by private sector enterprise.

Second thing one notices is that there is largeness everywhere – the supermarkets, the malls and the smaller shops where one interacted on a personal basis have disappeared. The shop owner in the locality who knew your family and made warm enquiries about you and family, who knew which type of hingu madam preferred and sent it when the child went to buy it – is a fast disappearing breed.

Directly linked to this is the lack of personal touch in most service functions – earlier there was a one to one relationship between the service personnel whom you called in case of equipment crashes – Rajanna the electrician, yellappa the plumber or Ramanna, the linesman from Bangalore telephones. But today your computer or your modem gives you trouble and you call the dealer and he sends you one of his staff on rotation and it is all very impersonal and sometimes downright rude. It is very clear that there is no effort to build a long term relationship with the customer – it is all handled more as a one time assignment.

There is less of Kannada heard – even when one tries to speak in Kannada, if the other person knows English and perceives that you speak English, then English is the preferred language of communication. Particularly among the younger lot, there is a disinclination to speak Kannada.

You no longer know your neighbors intimately. There does not seem to be much in common or any perceived interdependence for community life. They are more private and less convivial. Socializing is reserved for their own set of friends.

Then of course most of the familiar sounds of old Bangalore starting from the Rangolipudi seller and the soppu seller and all other street vendors who announced their arrival with a typical announcement – today they are becoming rare and you have to go to shops to buy most of the stuff and even then you cannot feel the things you are buying as they are neatly packed in plastic bags – including vegetables and some fruits.

Interesting – so that is what someone who left Bangalore 20 years ago misses about her Bangalore. What I miss is the ability to go shopping to Raja market or Commercial Street on a sudden whim one afternoon and come back feeling good. Now I need days of preparation to brave the trip and when I do finally make it, I come back feeling exhausted irritated and swearing never to do it again – thanks to the traffic, the pollution and the prices.
But of course these are changes that must necessarily accompany the transition of any town or city. As there is more industrial and commercial activity and increase in population, the profile of the place changes. The growth brings more employment opportunities, prosperity and availability of things. But must such growth always accompany the sacrifice of all that is native to the place? Wouldn’t it be great if we can make this growth happen while preserving some of the local flavor – welcoming and absorbing those who come into our fold rather than getting rid of our past to get sucked into a common identity? Is it possibleto take what is best from our past as we move into our future.? Or must our past get relegated to the realm of memories and nostalgia as we become another megapolis indistinguishable from the many around the country and world?

4 Comments so far

  1. manuscrypts (unregistered) on June 12th, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

    i guess you call it the growing up pains that any city faces.. you are right about the last sentence, but i wonder if there are cities which retain their persona while going hand in hand with a global cosmo culture…

  2. PSU (unregistered) on June 12th, 2006 @ 5:59 pm

    We discuss this also in the US where quite a few are from the “old” Bangalore. But you see, the Bangalore they grew up in was a Pensioner’s Paradise while today it is exactly what you said in the last line, a ‘megapolis’. Even in the US we have people who love their little suburbs and towns like Amherst, NY and State College. They love to visit the big cities but after a short break go back to their little suburbs muttering that they sure are glad they dont live there! They do not think of driving 3-5 hours to go and visit a museum or the Indian section or for a function in a one-day trip :-). Nostalgia is good for the soul but not to bring a city to international standards. Sure we should not give up the little things that make a city great but for the infrastructure to grow we have to give up the big houses with bigger compounds. The big trees lining the streets… in the name of progress! Such is life. Think about the easier access to lots of things that were not available. It is easier to gripe that we have more traffic but never think of the internet cable service we now have connecting us all across the globe. I have to go now. Interesting post. Keep them coming

  3. Mark Pritchard (unregistered) on June 13th, 2006 @ 12:28 am

    Thanks a lot for this post. I’m really interested in exactly this topic — the changes in Bangalore and their effects on the culture and life of the people.

  4. Ravi (unregistered) on June 13th, 2006 @ 6:51 pm

    What a fantastic post. Its been worth the wait, this kind of writeup!
    Thanks & Cheers,

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