July 25, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

Bangalore has been a favourite city of mine for a long time now. I have lived in that city for a considerable period of time and have wonderful memories of the same. This time however I went back, I felt sad and nostalgic and irritated at the state of a city that I love so much and that actually is the Brand that everyone in the West associates India with after Snake Charmers, The Taj Mahal and Fakirs. The Bangalore Story is the Story of India, the Story of our Silicon Valley in the once sleepy city.

This time I went back to a city that has perhaps worsened in the past year. There is not yet any visible solution to the traffic menace. The autos are as rash as ever with no one with enough political will to control them. My favourite area in the city CMH Road now wears a completely deserted and desolate look. Indiscriminate shops have mushroomed in Indiranagar destroying one of the most beautiful residential areas I have seen in India. On the Ring Road, malls after malls are coming up without any proper approach roads being built. Perhaps I am too harsh but then I have always felt that one should be the biggest critic of the person one loves most.

And what’s wrong with the city planners? Why on earth can’t they keep both the airports running? The new Airport is almost in Chennai. It takes two and a half hours minimum to reach anywhere in the city and if they do not expand the capacity of the airport soon, the old ailment of long queues will continue to haunt all the early morning travellers who wake up at 3 in the morning to reach Delhi or Mumbai at a humanly acceptable hour. Did the authorities forget that if you want an airport to be considered amongst the best, you should try to make it hassle free? To come, work in the Bangalore market and travel out the same night is next to impossible if you decide to be rigourous in your execution and true to your job.

High points of the visit – Three jokers of yesteryear decided to sport a French beard at the same time. A friend happily settled and content with the lemonade life has given him. Another friend making me bear the brunt of his indigestible but utterly lovable PJs. A bro asking another bro why didn’t they have anything to say to each other anymore?

Hyderabad has been an enigma since 2001. In fact, when I was going through my Star Wars phase, I would look into the broken mirrors of the infamous Pilani Hostel Bathrooms and nod and say to myself, “The gult-ism is strong in this one.” Telugu was a language I fell in love with and after Bengali and Maithili I consider it the sweetest language in India. Hyderabadi too had its own special significance. As much as I loved Allahabadi or Lucknowi Hindi, Hyderabadi had its own charm. It was so very earthy compared to the natural Tehzeeb of UP.

This was my first trip to Hyd after the whirlwind trip a long time back for a friend’s marriage. I still love Prasad’s and Hussain Sagar Lake. It would be a nice place to go for a morning walk with Rover, my Golden retriever. But then, that might just be a figment of my imagination as Rover is. What’s the harm in dreaming anyway? My work took me to different parts of the city and I loved to be finally be in the city that I consider the birthplace of Modern Trade in India. If ever, we have a Sam Walton story being scripted in India, the seeds of that story would have been planted in Hyd. You find a Modern Trade outlet in almost every nook and corner of the city, but none of them seem to be able to differentiate themselves.

I journeyed a dark road alone at night feeling the darkness close in on me with only the lights of the sole headlight of my auto guiding me. I found myself lost in the by-lanes of Begumpet and in the crowd at Banjara Hills.

Hyd impressed me but I also realized why it will not be a Bangalore unless it changes itself. Just like Calcutta, Hyd is a laid back city. Things take their own sweet time. I have seen the grit and determination and diligence of the Telugu Race and yet, that zeal was missing from Hyd. Maybe, it’s becoming cosmopolitan and imbibing all that makes a cosmopolitan city fail to live up to the expectations it has created. Maybe, it’s just the Mumbaikar talking from within me. I think Hyd is a city that is finding it difficult to come to terms with the rapid pace of modernization. While Delhi has defined it, Mumbai has embraced it and Calcutta has accepted it, Hyd is still trying to grapple with the issue.

The flyovers are great, the pedestrian amenities are not. There is a clear disregard to traffic rules and simple road etiquette. The autos do not bother to take turns anywhere, even the cars follow their example at times. Speaking of etiquette, all through my life I considered Delhi to be the ‘horniest’ city in India. Hyd can give Delhi a run for its money. Everyone just honks. A 15 minute drive near the City Centre at Banjara Hills can give you the worst headache of your life. The airport thankfully is at an acceptable distance and has good approach roads. And the airport is beautiful. It’s undoubtedly one of the best I have seen and I really admire the work that has gone behind the planning and execution.

High Points of the Visit – It works only 97% of the times. Would you feel afraid to go back alone? I thought you would have at least been dressed differently. It was always written on your face, Banjo.

Read this sometime back, don’t remember where - No Snowflake in an avalanche feels responsible.......


Atulya said...

"It takes two and a half hours minimum to reach anywhere in the city"

I don't know where you been trying to reach, monsieur, but from my humble abode in R T Nagar (yes Robindranath Tagore Nagar), it takes me all of 40 minutes to get to that aforementioned airport.

Hooray for North Bangalore!

Soumya Sen said...

So you like Bangalore? You blood-sucking capitalist, imperialist brute! Shame on you. May the Edinburg-educated Prakash Karat expel you from your comradeship for being an elitist bourgoise!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of etiquette, all through my life I considered Delhi to be the ‘horniest’ city in India.

You are right in more ways than one, my friend.. :P

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@ Monkee - Can we safely conclude people who have work in Bangalore would want to go to MG Road, Richmond Road or IT park? :) Yes 2.5 hrs is a safe approximation.

@ Soumya - errrr where's the elitist me being seen in liking Bangalore?

@ Vivek - I couldn't agree more.

Atulya said...

I don't know, I just thought Bongs might prefer going to Robindranath Tagore Nagar/Nogor !!

Soumya Sen said...

You are bing elitist because you are not complaining about the prices of essential commodities! How will 'aam admi' survive?

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@ Soumya - Are you propagating subsidies then?