Saturday, February 19, 2011

Youngsters create buzz and energy in what is no longer India's Garden City

I’ve always loved traveling and not many years ago when I was in PR, I was a person on the move. The past few years, though, hasn’t seen much of movement, focused more as I was on editing rather than meeting people and writing. Things are set to change (they already have) with my work for a leading Delhi-based publisher likely to get me on the move again. Another forthcoming assignment as editor of two journals will add to the movement.

Well, earlier this week, or the whole of this week, I was in what was once the Garden City, meeting up with printers, packagers and software solution providers. I would hesitate to call it by that name hereafter. For, the tree cover that Bangalore was so well known for in the past has all but disappeared, making way for brick and glass high-rises, the Metro and what can ostensibly be called infrastructure development. Sadly, I didn’t carry a camera; the old one I had has run its course and I’ll have to pick up a replacement soon. Pictures in this case would have spoken louder than words.

Whether it was the Bommsandra Industrial Area, Vasanthnagar, Kamakshipalaya, Ulsoor or Whitefield, Nandidurg Road, Race Course Road, Bannerghata Road or Peenya Industrial Area, there was a buzz and an energy that is difficult to describe. At Whitefield, my colleague from Delhi and I played merry-go-round a few times before locating offices; there are so many of them – I’m talking about top MNCs such as IBM and ExxonMobil. Almost everywhere, we had to undergo stringent security checks. No name dropping will help anymore. At the ABB office, I had my picture taken while the security chief prepared the visitor pass.

There were youngsters all over the place, many in fairly senior positions. You can spot them with badges on roads, crossing junctions, smoking cigarettes, chatting up over tea or coffee at petty stalls outside glittering modern buildings of chrome, glass and steel... all of them smartly attired, striding purposefully indoors and outdoors almost as if there were no tomorrow. A foreign visitor would readily say that the country's future is in very good hands. I would say too, except that many of them work for overseas companies and MNCs. How much better is they turned entrepreneurs and chose to do something for India! I did meet a four-some of such a kind - all focused on conjuring up software solutions for Indian industry. May they do well.

The other thing I noticed: no trooping into offices or towards cubicles where the person you are supposed to meet, is seated. Now, he or she comes out to greet you and motions towards what are called ‘discussion’ or ‘huddle’ rooms strategically positioned close to the reception. If you wish to go to the wash room, your host has to swipe his card and take you in. Coffee is the preferred beverage that is served, and mineral water is now offered in small sealed bottles. Most of the offices are absolutely world-class. Of course, it’s a sort of caged effect and I for one would feel claustrophobic were I to work in one of these.

With the Metro set to roll soon (the trial run was successful earlier this week), Bangalore residents will find it much easier to commute. The connectivity with buses is an added advantage. Overall, I got the impression that Bangalore has become a far larger city than what we imagine it to be. Even without the IT parks, there has been considerable development, and there is much more to come. The sad part is the price that has been paid for it – the green cover has vanished from many parts of the city. The numerous trees chopped on MG Road for the Metro were / are supposed to have been / be replanted. But people I spoke to say that is unlikely.

Despite the loss of tree cover, despite the weather getting warmer, despite the ills of development and despite the high cost of living, Bangalore continues to attract people and many of them still choose to call it home. It’s as cosmopolitan a city as you would find anywhere in India. That, clubbed with a climate that still scores over other cities, is what makes the city special today; no longer its gardens.

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