IT is life in rush hour
pensioners’ paradise and the original pub city of the country,
Bangalore has seen a lot of changes — good, bad and ugly —
since it donned the silicon mantle in the early 1990s. Jangveer
Singh on the changing face and undying spirit of the
cities have created
the kind of buzz worldwide as Bangalore, now Bengaluru, has
done. The charming garden city of yore is today a pulsating
international hub of IT-driven commerce. Bangalore is a metophor
of an India that has arrived on the global scene.
Indians it is the place to be. They flock to it in endless
streams to fill constantly vacated positions in the new offices
that have captured the cityscape. Bangalore is no longer an
air-conditioned city. Nor is it a pensioners’ paradise.
this, one has to admit Bangalore still remains the city with the
most pleasant climate in the country. Bangalore turns into a
Kasauli or a Shimla nearly every morning and evening and the sun
never sizzles except for a few months. Pensioners may no longer
find it possible to wade through the suicidal traffic but the
city offers them intellectual stimulation and a cultural
panorama which is hard to find anywhere else.
This city with
a rich culture has attentive spectators for classical music
performances and Kannadiga kavi sammelans. The young have their
annual Bangalore ‘habba’, a cultural event which aims at
blending the old with the new besides presenting the regular
rock shows. Young artists find buyers and also spill out on the
roads to sell their creations.
ruling the roost and bringing in the moolah much to the joy of
their parents, the picture would seem complete. But, it is not.
Bangalore is a city still in transition. Its youngsters are
stuck between western and Indian cultures, while the older
generation wants to reassert the traditional way of life.
Bangaloreans are trying to cope with the IT rush and the
multicultural lifestyle, the administration has failed to create
an infrastructure that caters to the needs of the city’s
population, which has grown by nearly 50 per cent in the last
eight years and is currently around 70 lakh. Even the issue of
bringing the metro was debated for 10 years before the project
could finally be taken up. The city’s planners are struggling
to establish the much-needed flyovers even as ideas like stilt
roads to end bumper-to-bumper traffic are still only being
is so bad on the road leading to the country’s IT mecca —
Electronic City — that recently women IT professionals carried
out a signature campaign to put pressure on the government to
ease traffic congestion on the Hosur Road. The campaign was
initiated after a few women had miscarriages on the road while
travelling to work. Incidentally, it takes about 90 minutes to
cover 10 km on this road.
traffic experts the city’s roads are simply not designed for
today’s traffic. They say only a public transport system can
save the city from utter chaos. Moves are afoot to reduce the
wait for buses through a system of trunk routes and feeder
routes instead of the point-to-point service in operation now.
The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation has cleared the
proposal but the implementing authority has not acted on it.
Traffic and bad
roads are not the only problem. The real estate boom has sounded
the death knell of the numerous lakes of Bangalore which earlier
not only served as sources of water supply but also as natural
drainage channels. Today, while some of the lakes have been lost
forever, others are dying off as they are surrounded by concrete
and their drainage channels are cut off. This is adversely
affecting the city’s climate, greenery and its rich avian
When one comes
to housing, the lesser said the better. What started as an
incentive to IT companies by letting them start enterprises in
residential areas in their infancy stage has today led to
overcrowding of nearly all residential areas in the city. The
situation is such that four persons who had filed a PIL in the
High Court against commercialisation of residential premises in
Koramangla were gheraoed by residents of the area and forced to
withdraw the case. Offices are established in garages and entire
IT companies run in residences, creating traffic bottlenecks.
Building bylaws are disregarded with impunity with highrises
coming up in residential areas. Builders take over a few old
houses, demolish them and build apartments. With politicians
openly sympathetic towards violators, there is little any
regulatory authority can do to set things right.
So herein props the question
again. What is right in Bangalore? A lot, including the law and
order situation and an educated populace. If the enigma of the
city has to be unravelled, the famous Salpa adjust maadi (please
adjust a little) attitude of the Kannadigas deserves mention. It
is this attitude which has given birth to Bangalore as it is
known today and attracted a pot-pourri of people and cultures to
it, never mind the attending ills. As long as Bangaloreans
continue to adjust, the city will continue to grow by the day.
CONSUMER CALLING: Many malls have come up in the city since it became an IT
is Bangalore and Bangalore is IT. Many feel Bangaloreans
periodically drum up noise about the progress made by
Hyderabad to leverage its masters to give more
concessions. Prof S Sadagopan, an iconic IT teacher,
admits he is often asked that how long IT would keep
generating jobs. "I am convinced IT is no longer a
‘fad’ but has become the key to every other industry,
be it telecom, banking, automotive, entertainment,
hospitality, health, and industrial automation. And,
naturally, not all these key industries go sick at the
figures speak about Bangalore’s supremacy in IT. The
state accounted for 37 per cent of the country’s IT
exports of around Rs 1,008 billion in 2005-06. Karnataka
retained its top slot by exporting software services and
hardware goods to the tune of Rs 401 billion. As India’s
silicon hub, Bangalore alone contributed Rs 366 billion to
this pool. The city attracted 201 new IT companies during
the last fiscal, including 124 foreign equity companies,
with a combined investment of Rs 27 billion.
At present, about 1,200
tech firms, including about 500 multinationals, employ
about 375,000 people, including 170,000 in the IT-enabled
services such as call centres and business process
outsourcing (BPO) services.
beans to burgers
by legend, the city was named Benda Kaal-ooru (town of
boiled beans) when the 11th-century Hoysala king Veera
Ballala II was served boiled beans by an old woman when he
lost his way while hunting. This was eventually
colloquialised to Bengaluru. The walled city was
established by Kempe Gowda, founder of modern Bangalore.
advent of the British came the cantonment. The walled city
had the natives, speaking Kannada, in localities called
Chikkapete and Nagarthpete (pete means market. In
the cantonment, on the other hand, came a large number of
migrants from the Madras Presidency, speaking Tamil and
also the administrative language of the time – English.
Colonies like Cooke Town, Fraser Town and Benson Town came
into existence then.
In the olden
days when a ‘Pete’ person crossed over to the
cantonment area, it meant experiencing the thrill of
alcohol and meat, a forbidden cinema or an outing to a
coffee club, says Janaki Nair’s book Bangalore’s
20th Century – The Promise of a Metropolis. In 1949,
the city and the cantonment were merged under a
Corporation, signalling an attempt to join the two — an
attempt which is still on.
this, Bangalore became the hub of a number of public
sector enterprises like HMT, Bharat Electrical Limited and
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. All these enterprises
fostered a relationship with the academia and even the
Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, which was set
up to cater to the public sector enterprises, had a
sectoral specialisation in agriculture, education, energy,
habitat and human settlements, transportation and health.
sector firms hired people from diverse geographical
backgrounds, thereby strengthening the cosmopolitan
character of the city. Nair says having passed the
smokestack stage of industrialisation, there was no
proletarian culture in the city which equipped its
residents to better handle the knowledge sector. This
tradition of accepting outsiders and an inherent
cosmopolitanism made it easier for multinationals and
other knowledge-based industries to set up shop here.
Colourful fare: Cinema houses
decked up with cut-outs of actors in Gandhinagar, the Kannadiga
heartland of the city. Photos
by the writer