You cannot deny the charm of Bangalore however congested it has become. And there is increasing levels of pollution. Real estate costs are literally unaffordable to the middle-class. You can see a strong dereliction of duty when it comes to civil utilities management. I saw many of the major streets in Gandhi Bazaar which is one of the most trafficked places splattered with filth. It looks like the authorities have given up on managing traffic. There are traffic signals only at major intersections – this means that for a city of nearly 10 million, you can count the number of traffic lights in the hundreds. Once you get past these, you are onto the smaller streets where traffic is self-managed. The streets are so narrow that they aren’t meant for modern vehicles. But surprisingly, you can see two cars getting by in opposite directions and one of these could be a larger SUV of the size of a Honda CRV. Of course, there are the much bigger Mercedes SUV, but I doubt they venture onto the smaller streets. I happened to visit a relative in Banashankari III stage and it was amazing that we even made it in a small car. Our car turned into a street that was curving ahead only to find oncoming traffic already blocking the intersection. After about couple of minutes of who-is-going-to-back-out sort of situation, we managed to reverse a bit and let the oncoming traffic that wasn’t ending at all get by. Once we got some space, then there was this open pit on the side of the road that had to be maneuvered. It was amazing that we got where we wanted to all. Our driver was one of those street smart Auto Rickshaw drivers and he blatantly would violate all traffic rules with the aim of getting ahead first. I was hesitant to ask him to slow down as he showed signs of autocracy! He didn’t want to take directions, but he knew the roads of Bangalore in-and-out like the back of his hand. The Rickshaw-wallas aim to get to the destination in the shortest time possible spending the least amount of gas. While that is commendable, you can’t drive a car like an auto rickshaw. With so much poverty and aspirations spread across the city, hiring a driver is inexpensive. I paid like $200 including tips for a 15 day hire. To put this in perspective, on my way back driving from the Newark airport, I was stopped for ‘speeding’ and handed a fine of $125!! Money disappears in the US when compared to India.
Amidst all the chaos and the new money-laden population settling down from the North, you can still find the charm of the city hidden in places and the local people. In celebrating the Ganesha festival with joy and festivity, remembering God for what He is as opposed to celebrating to collect money or show of aplomb, in those age-old restaurants where they take pride in delivering quality and neat food, in those stores where quality and price ought to appease the customer such as Subbamma’s Angadi or the flower vendors on the streets of Gandhi Bazaar, in finding fresh fruits and vegetables on the streets that are still unadulterated from major pesticides’ influence and in breathing that still fresh air in the early mornings on the small hill of Subramanya Temple behind BMS College of Engineering, in that awesome park that is the Bugle-Rock in Basavanagudi with its many temples exuding the 19th century traditions, Bangalore is still a charming place for those who know it well.
On another note, of all my nearly 30 years in Bangalore as I grew up, I never for once imagined there could be bats in the city. Wait until you walk by the Bugle-Rock temple in the early mornings.