Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New York Living in Bangalore

...That was the proud announcement of an advertising hoarding as we arrived, bedraggled and exhausted, just a week ago. No amount of inflight entertainment can make the journey from Heathrow to Mumbai a delight - but we survived, landed and found ourselves instantly confronted with the contrasts that are always part of modern India. As we walked to the baggage claim down a clean, modern walkway - polished floor tiles and gleaming chrome in all directions, I spotted an open door - into the parallel service corridor, just behind that shining tiled wall...Bare concrete on the floor, peeling plaster - and yes - that was surely a cockroach skuttling to safety!
Those same contrasts were obvious as we drove to the other terminal...On one side were the trappings of any international airport..., the plate glass office blocks, the advertisements inviting us to fly anywhere without more ado. But on the other side of the perimeter fence were the blue polythene walls and ramshackle structures of the slums...the irony completed by the presence of satellite dishes on some of those buildings that looked unlikely to survive the next downpour.

Landing in Bangalore, I thought for some anxious moments that the the restless buzzing city I had loved had a new personality. The road from the brand new terminal was undamaged, free from traffic...but once we were through the gates India reasserted itself in all its energetic chaos and complexity. Yes, perhaps more motorbike drivers wore helmets than before - but they still carried any number of passengers riding a precarious unprotected pillion. Yes, we passed a huge car showroom filled with the ultimate status symbol, row on row of gleaming Mercedes...but outside cows rootled in the garbage. A Hindu temple seemed to have a sideline in supplying idols elsewhere - for there was an adjoining yard filled with giant figures of gods and goddesses, shrouded in polythene for safe transit - who knows where?

It seems that "New York Living in Bangalore" is the ultimate aspiration...but for all the gloss provided by the booming IT industry, for all the city's dramatic growth (200 new families arrive within the perimeter every day of the year)...this is still my India...the place that makes me smile with its warmth and thrills me with its energy...that blend of ancient and modern...of delightfully dated signs (Rashly driven? Call 875342 - so ironic, because to drive here at ALL is surely the height of rashness!)...and endless optimism (a tiny corner estate agents named Mighty Properties. In this city of endless contrasts it seems that anything could happen...that the world crowds the streets...and every piece of graffiti shouts at the top of its voice
"Alert, alert, ALERT! Robberies here....Beware of cycle lifters! Use the stands provided. You are FORBIDDEN to urinate here. No nuisancing, by order"
This city teems with energy - even the slum dogs roaming the streets might, with the help of good karma, make it one day to the top.

No comments: