Swati Ramanathan, 42
Co-founder, Janaagraha (citizen’s movement)
There are many wonderful things about Bangalore. We are multicultural, multi-class and multi-commercial. Almost anything grows in our soil. There’s an abundance of flora and fruits—orchids, oranges, apples, mangoes; and we have the largest export house for roses.
We have some of the best academic institutions in the country. We have two incredibly large parks in the centre of the city. The best part of the city is that there are gullies in every area, including places such as Kumara Park, Koramangala, Chickpet, Fraser Town and Cox Town.
Not everyone knows that Bangalore was affected by a plague in 1898 and the two well planned layouts of Malleswaram and Basavanagudi were born in the aftermath of the plague. I liked the book Deccan Traverses: The Making of Bangalore’s Terrain (by Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha) because it gives a history of the tanks in the city with beautiful maps.
I’ve grown up in Bangalore. My family comes from Kutch in Gujarat, but my father settled here in the late 1950s. After doing my undergraduate degree here, I studied design at Ahmedabad, went abroad with my husband, had children, did my Master’s and worked there, before returning to the city. Today, Bangalore is my home, part of my history and who I am.
Bangalore was a sleepy town that was suddenly thrust into international limelight, with a surging economy and all the associated pangs of growth—the absence of planning, traffic jams, loss of heritage areas and deteriorating quality of life. It has the ability to grow outwards unlike Mumbai, but is doing so without care.
I wish we had integrated transportation systems, sensible platforms for participation and urban plans which could be implemented. Still, Bangalore is at the crossroads, and is certainly not a dying city.
Arun Pai, 38
Bangalore has always been positioned as the “city of the future”. Many things which India is famous for globally stem from this city—be it the iconic Infosys, Wipro and Biocon, or brands/business models such as MTR, Café Coffee Day, Reva and Air Deccan, or civic movements such as Janaagraha and BangaloreOne. Thousands of immigrants and expats are eager to shift base here, and the pressure on real estate prices/housing indicates that there is something right about it.
Though I’m a Bangalorean, I moved out at the age of 18. I lived and worked in Chennai, New Delhi and Mumbai and London, New York and Orlando before returning home in 2004. I have vivid images of Bangalore being a sleepy pensioner’s paradise, though it now represents the vibrancy, youth and progress of 21st century India.
Bangalore’s openness to innovation is remarkable. It is a test market for several consumer products. This metropolis is open to the public-private partnership model, as seen in the case of BangaloreOne (a multi-agency information and payments centre). The city encourages new launches. A typical example would be Reva, India’s only electric car.
I was disappointed when the MG Road promenade was pulled down for the Metro, but mass transit is a critical element of progress and has costs attached to it. I hope localities such as Defence Colony, Indiranagar, Basavanagudi and Malleswaram remain as they are. This is because there is a community feeling among the residents here. People go for walks and know each other. This sense of familiarity and feeling of oneness should not be lost.
We are the city that inspired Thomas Friedman’s best-seller The World is Flat, which has made a huge impact on the world’s perception of India. Its title and the concept behind the flat world was an acknowledged contribution of another Bangalorean, Nandan Nilekani.
S.L. Rao, 71
Chairman, board of governors, Institute for Social and Economic Change
Bangalore is a friendly city and does not have the aggressive pro-Kannadiga and anti-outsider attitudes that are seen, or can be sensed, in other cities. To that extent, Bangalore scores for its atmosphere, along with its lofty trees and parks.
Having lived in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and New Delhi, I have found Bangalore to be superior in climate. Interestingly, its climate keeps one active and saves money which would have otherwise been spent on air conditioning.
I was brought up in Mumbai and studied in New Delhi. I first came here in 1956, and after my marriage in 1960, I became a regular visitor. My parents moved here in 1971 and in 2001, after retirement, Bangalore became my home.
Bangalore has a rich tradition of Carnatic and Hindustani music; people still visit traditional places such as Bangalore Gayana Samaj, where music concerts are held.
The senior community, too, has something to look forward to. For interesting group discussions, my favourite places are the Indian Institute of World Culture and the Bangalore International Centre. However, for more intimate conversations, places such as Koshy’s and India Coffee House are the best bet. It’s common to see older people socializing at the Bangalore Club.
I hope Lal Bagh, Cubbon Park and MG Road won’t alter drastically. Cubbon Park is dense with traffic, and MG Road has changed forever with the Metro but, so far, Lal Bagh remains the same. Groups of people get together and walk briskly every morning. Strangely, they share a walking life but not a social life. Almost every locality has a park, though it may not have a history like Lal Bagh, which has an annual flower show.
With a little effort, Bangalore can be a better place to live in. Issues such as parking need to be addressed. Parking should not be allowed on main roads. Central pockets such as Brigade Road, Commercial Street, Jayanagar Market and Avenue Road should be restricted to pedestrians. The Metro should be up and running fast.
Bangalore is choking, but not dying. It is already not attracting as much of an influx as it did, and this could reduce further. But the situation is not beyond repair.
Som Mittal, 55
Senior vice-president, services, Hewlett-Packard, Asia-Pacific and Japan; and president-designate, Nasscom
I shifted to Bangalore when I joined Wipro in 1989. Moving out of New Delhi was a difficult decision as it was home for us. But over 18 years, Bangalore has made up for it—it means a lot to our family. I’ve progressed in my career, my wife—a culinary expert—conducts cookery classes which attract youngsters, and my children have grown up here. What makes Bangalore special is its people, they are easy to get along with and accept you as you are. And this is what I like about the city. It embraces you and never makes you feel like an outsider.
We in Bangalore are blessed that we have flowering trees throughout the year. The colours and shades keep varying throughout the year. While I like all the flowering trees, my favourites are Jacaranda and Tabebuia Argentea (common name: Yellow Tabebuia).
The Bangalore workforce is very young, energetic and cosmopolitan. I suppose they are like the youth anywhere else in the country, I don’t think there would be a big difference. However, as many of them have moved from their hometowns, the workforce is generally very aware, extroverted and mobile.
I was part of the Karnataka chief minister’s task force sometime ago, and I feel that the city’s infrastructure needs to be addressed at two levels. Firstly, the intent is right but the execution is poor. What is required is to execute on time. Secondly, as citizens we also contribute to the city in terms of civic sense and discipline. We hear of building encroachment. While a huge responsibility rests on the government, as citizens, we can also do our bit.
The IT industry can also pitch in by helping the police regulate traffic. However, it is critical to improve infrastructure to help people commute better. This can happen through the combined efforts of the government and citizens.
By 2010, Bangalore will be in an eminent position not only from an IT perspective, but will also become a distinguished centre for education and different industries.
Arjun Sajnani, 60
Restaurateur and film-maker
Having visited Bangalore as a teenager, it didn’t take me long to make it my home when I returned from the US. Now that I’ve spent more than half my life here, there is no other place that gives me the same feeling of belonging and comfort. I love the city because it has given me the identity I now have. The support for all my endeavours has been fantastic and heart-warming.
Not too many people know about the late night idlis available on Avenue Road. As a restaurateur, I buy produce at Russell Market, where I get the choicest fish, prawns and vegetables. The marketwalas still remember me coming with my mother—a most exacting perfectionist and, I might add, a most exacting bargainer! My mother is 94 and they still ask ‘kaisi hain mataji?’—a truly small-town experience in this now thriving metropolis. I hope the supermarkets don’t take this away from us.
Unfortunately, the corporation, or whichever body manages Russell Market, is doing a disservice to the city by not maintaining it in the manner it deserves.
I don’t know where I would eat other than Sunny’s, my restaurant. Though I relish Chinese food, I haven’t found the perfect Chinese place. But if Ling’s in Mumbai is a yardstick, then, yes, I would recommend Nanking (run by the same people). Imperial used to be such a phenomenal place for Kerala Muslim food when I returned from the US. I have fond memories of rows of cars parked outside. I remember the family room, which didn’t have air conditioning (and didn’t need it), and the friendliest staff who remembered your preferences. What’s more, you could bring your own beer!
Then, Imperial and the Only Place were landmark restaurants in Bangalore. Unfortunately, the new avatars don’t match up. And Imperial has had to match strides with Empire and a host of others.
I think Bangalore has a more discerning public compared with other metros. If we can hang on to our individuality in having the facilities of a metropolis while keeping some small-town values intact, the city would remain a homogenous whole, rather than being fractured into areas or suburbs.
G.R. Gopinath, 55
Executive chairman, Air Deccan
I was living on my farm near Hassan, Karnataka, which is wonderful but remote, inaccessible and has no educational infrastructure. When my daughters were growing up, we had to move to Bangalore. It has been 14 years since I have been dividing time between my farm and the city.
Bangalore is modern but it also has a quaint old-world ambience. Another thing I appreciate the city for is its lush greenery, a lot of which, I am afraid, has been lost, but, nevertheless, it is a friendly city with a tolerant and cosmopolitan outlook. The cultural and intellectual landscape is rich, with great traditions of art, literature and science that have developed within the city.
The old cantonment areas, which are the city’s lungs, also have immense historical significance. These areas have housed armies for centuries, beginning with the maharaja of Mysore’s troops to the British Indian garrisons, and now the Indian Army.
The old residential areas of Bangalore—such as Basavanagudi and Malleswaram—have a quaint timeless character of their own. These places are colourful, old-fashioned, full of temples, fresh vegetable markets, and they pulsate with energy.
We do need infrastructure but the solution doesn’t lie in building flyovers mindlessly. Like London, which has few flyovers within the city but a very efficient tube network, Bangalore too should build efficient public transport systems. The Metro in New Delhi is a case in point. The city should also have model, no-vehicle zones in places such as Brigade Road and MG Road on the lines of European cities. This will encourage cultural events such as fairs and musical events in these areas, and assure an ever increasing stream of visitors and tourists. The cultural life of the city too has to be revved up: pubs and theatres should be allowed to remain open till late at night.
My heart always longs to return to my farm and nothing can change that, but Bangalore comes a close second.