Saturday, August 01, 2009

First Impressions….surely not the Last Impression

I have been coming to Bangalore (oops Bengaluru ) for years now but mainly on business travel. This time, consequent to my job change, here I am with my family with our bag and baggage, in the so called “Silicon Valley “of India.


Did I just say Silicon Valley? Is it truly comparable to Silicon Valley? Yes and No. “Yes”, if we look at the industry cluster – IT and ITES and number of entrepreneurial ventures in this sector and “No”, if we look at everything else.


This place is very different from Gurgaon, where I moved from. You miss the attitude, the air, and the convenience, basically the feel is not the same. Not that I expect them to be same. Cities can’t be clones. Each city has its own signature, a certain uniqueness, on which it builds upon and draws you.


Some of my observations do suffer from serious bias…bias of comparison with Gurgaon, which is so powerfully etched in my mind. Further this is more in jest than some serious writing.

Sometimes I wonder, is this a city or a cantonment where civilians have been temporarily allowed to stay? Shouldn’t these large tracts of land be freed and the armed forces be relocated. They are ensconced the most-prime real estate, which should be the case, if you are building a modern city. Central areas of the city (read cantonment) should be converted to business and residential districts.


Right from the day I have landed, I am driving from one lane to another….Roads…you must be joking…I know what I am talking about…they are only lanes…where are the roads???….There is no road density. The answer has been converting many of them to one-ways. The city has witnessed an explosion of people with growth of, manpower intensive, IT and ITES industries. Rather than taking tough decisions like widening roads or being foresighted by building MRTS (now one is under construction and knowing this place will remain for long), government has gone about increasing taxes to obscene levels. This reminds me of the negative attitude of growing rich by pulling down others… such negative attitude only alienates citizens. Take the road tax for instance, it probably collects the highest tax and has absolutely pathetic roads….sorry lanes. The traffic crawls like a centipede.


Anyway there are some lanes worth being called roads and are crammed with speed-breaker bumpers, maybe I should call them vehicle-breakers. There is one road, christened Jail Road, 10-15 Kms long, which I pursue to come to office from Sarjhapur Road to Electronic City has no less than 40-50 such breakers. I still take it because the other route is horrible. The city is teeming with these breakers and that too without any zebra markings. I was thinking if all the breakers were painted in black and white stripes, the arieal view of Bengaluru , would look like one big Zebra crossing!


Obviously this gets on to the nerves of the motorists, hence everyone resorts to honking. It has become a part of their driving skill and routine, so much so that they honk even if there is no one around. Imagine all the buses (most of the corporates have bus pick up and drop for employees) and rickshaws honking early in the morning when you go to leave your kids to school. Noise and air pollution are at its worst. This is something that the government should seriously think about. Those shrill and continuous honks almost make you deaf and go crazy.


Most of the roads and lanes are dotted by two set of parallel lines, the open drainage, I had seen these only in villages and now here. Why there was no attempt made to convert it to underground drainage. It’s not a town anymore. The open drainages are clogged with mud and garbage, which anyway is a big health and safety scare. During monsoons, due to water logging you can’t detect them in many areas, leading to serious accidents and loss of many innocent lives. To my horror, a month back, a kid got washed away and I heard the commissioner blaming the mother on why she allowed her child to play outside. Thankfully he was sacked.


Looks like citizens have given up and they find refuge in Palmists, who dote the city everywhere. I am amazed to see the number of palmists in profession. Occurs, the whole city only lives on hope, or how else can they thrive so much!


While Bangalore was always known for its night life and pubs, what no one shared that nights are also famous for loose stray canines. These canines are in large nos., and are so very dangerous. I wonder why no action has been taken and we allow our citizens to live in fear of getting bitten. An evening stroll can result into checking in to the hospital. I pity the guys who ride their bikes back home from the office late nights (and you a have huge BPO-KPO crowd).


Hey it’s not about negatives alone….the city has equal or more no. of positives.


Weather….awesome….everything else eclipses when we talk of weather. God has been very kind and benevolent to this city. It has fantastic weather and that too round the year. Sprawling and scenic lush greenery can be seen all over and offers a very soothing sight. To a great extent it makes it up for every other lacuna and probably the only reason why people have been tolerating all the other hardships. I wonder if cities like Bangalore and Gurgaon have just been lucky….lucky by chance…Bangalore’s got such a pleasant weather and Gurgaon happened to be South Delhi’s neighbor and close to the airport. Had the Govt. been a little proactive, they could turn these cities to a Singapore or Hong Kong equivalent. Anyway, great weather a boon. One can swim all the year round, one can play any time of the day, golfers need not get up very early in the morning, your AC bills come down etc. Extreme environments can be very tough on elders, therefore this place is great for them.


What a safe place it is for the ladies. And that’s important, since women comprise of >50% of IT/ITES workforce and majority work in US / UK shifts. It is therefore utmost that city provides a safe environment.


Foodies will like the bakeries and fruit juice corners, and are very reasonable, which are in abundance…


Probably there is no better place than this for travel junkies. There are hundreds of destinations, at drivable distances (within 6-7 hrs drive). Motivated by this fact, I have bought Outlook’s weekend guide. Need to go on the first one.

What I liked the most…day before yesterday, at around 1 pm, I was strolling on the 4th floor cafeteria terrace of my company, looking at the vast expanse and thinking about my work. It was naturally quiet, as guys start rushing in at about 2pm, suddenly I heard a cuckoo sing and that too for a full ten minutes. I looked at the cuckoo sitting on one the trees planted in the campus, down below from the terrace, I didn’t move. It was such a heavenly experience. I hadn’t heard a cuckoo sing in years. I would have definitely not got this in Gurgaon.


Anyway…I am sure it will finally work out for me in this city.....as they say…time is the greatest healer. I would have figured many charming locales and my next blog could be a 180o turn from this one. Amen.

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