“Amruthahalli is everything to me,” says Ramakrishna. An auto driver by accident, Ramakrishna is a contented man now. “My taking up this profession was due to sheer compulsion. After finishing school, I was into construction business for more than 20 years. My father Ganganna was a farmer in Neelamangala. My five siblings and I were raised here by our mother. Life was smooth for us and we never had any complaints.”

“We were four brothers and two sisters. We did not want to follow our father. So, we started doing things on our own and my parents, too, did not object to it. I incurred heavy loss due to cost rise and non-availability of labour in my business. That was in 2007. I realised that I should do something that would fetch me regular income to support my family and take care of my childrens’ education. This time I did not want to depend on anybody.”

“I am now Ramanna to everybody in the auto stand and my regular customers. My day begins at 8 in the morning and ends exactly 12 hours later. I have regular pick-ups and drops in the evening and I am able to manage to notch up Rs. 300 – Rs. 400 a day, after shelling out for maintenance and fuel. My wife is a schoolteacher and son is studying law. So, I am able to manage with the income that I get. Of course, I do go to Neelamangala sometimes to see what is happening to our family land that is now being taken care of by my cousins.”

“I am now 52. Everything - water, air and environment - was like amruth (nectar) here. The name Amruthahalli aptly described the place (halli meaning village in Kannada). But not any more. Everything is polluted. No groundwater, no fresh air. Just high rises and dust everywhere. Land was available for just Rs. 5,000 in those days. Now, there is no place even to take shelter during rain or hot weather. But we need to lose something to gain something better.”

“Four-wheelers have now become a part of every house. And the number of autos and two-wheelers have grown manifold. Sometimes, this makes it difficult for me. But there are still people who depend mainly on autos.”

“I do get nostalgic and stop by construction sites just out of curiosity to find out about the latest construction techniques and equipment. I see a lot of young men from the north working at such sites. I wonder where the locals have all gone! In a way, it is nice to see more and more people coming to Bangalore and taking up jobs.”

(I am is a weekly column about men and women who make Bangalore what it is.)