Subramanya’s father came to Bangalore in the late 1930s, when their native village in Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh was reeling under drought. “In those days, there was no transport of any organised kind. My father walked all the distance and reached Bangalore,” he recalls. Ever since then, Subramanya’s father came to live here, and never went back to Chittoor.
Subramanya’s father worked in the Gopalkrishna Textile Mills near Subramanyapura. “He was a hard working person, and managed to buy a small piece of land near Konankunte. We used to grow ragi on that plot till we managed to build a house.” Subramanya, who turned into an auto driver two decades ago, remembers how his family used to walk all the way from Subramanyapura to Konanakunte to look after their field. “It was effortless. Bangalore’s climate was so beautiful, and full of trees. It was like walking through a forest.” Till about mid 80s, Subramanya remembers that there was only one small hotel called “Manikanta Hotel” in Konanakunte, and it was at least five to six kilometres, until one found the next. “Life here was blissful. Good weather, plenty of rains, lovely people… My father used to give us 50 paise which was enough for all of us in the family to have a big treat. You didn’t have to be rich to live in this city, now things have become merciless…,” says Subramanya, who would zip to Whitefield on his cycle.
“My father died, my handicapped brother who ran a petty shop died… suddenly life was full of problems. I was working in Jyoti Industries, but I had to earn more. I started driving this auto 20 years ago, hoping life would improve. But things haven’t looked up…,” he says. Subramanya is a social worker, and this he says comes from the days he was a worker at RSS.
“Those days it was different. Sangha meant country, and country meant Sangha. It was my everything. But gradually I became disillusioned. There used to be an intermingling of people and ideas at the Sangha, but it became casteist, individual-centric, and money played a big role. The structure of discipline collapsed…. I had to disassociate myself.” But did he believe in being a dogged Hindutva ideologue? “Everyone’s belief is sacred. I go to dargah, church… but I believe in Hinduism. I believe in living together,” he explains, talking of how the quintessential cosmopolitanism of Bangalore has changed.
Subramanya speaks of Bangalore as always having people from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. “But we became part of this city, learnt the language and culture, and made it our home. Now, it’s a dominance of outside cultures. Have you seen there is Naidu layout, Chittoor layout and others? Hindi people have monopolised the city, and we feel like outsiders…”
If people blame auto drivers, auto drivers also feel that they are being generalised. “There are good people among us too. Recently, a very old auto driver, with a severe kidney problem found Rs. 2 lakh in auto. He could have used it for his health problems, instead he handed it over to the police. The man who got his money back was so happy that he gave Rs. 10,000 for the auto driver’s dialysis…. Everyone is not bad…”
Subramanya remembers also the good people who have travelled in his auto. “I respect this society, and people have respected me. Money is momentary….,” he says.