From Indiranagar I Stage, I would make it in time for my 8 a.m. class at the Bangalore Medical College on my Lambretta scooter in exactly 16 minutes, recalls the renowned psychiatrist Mohan Isaac. But those were the late 1960s and many from that era have misty old stories about this garrison town. That one-horse-town has since morphed into a snarling megacity leaving old-timers huffing and puffing about everything from the traffic, to young people’s manners.
Yet, couples such as Deepika Nookala and Sharath Ramani have left seemingly better cities for a perch on this plateau. And while old settlers argue that the garden city has turned into garbage city, Deepika says, “It’s still a lot greener than Mumbai and Delhi.” Sharath, who spent five years in Delhi, says, “There are so many restaurants to choose from. And it’s also inexpensive.”
Senior journalists Nisha Susan and her husband Gaurav Jain, who are on a book writing sabbatical, left Delhi and settled here a few weeks ago. “Being a writer in Delhi has its advantages; it allows you to be ambitious,” says Nisha. But what she likes about Bangalore is that people here read and write for the love of it and not in pursuit of an ambition. “This creates an environment where interesting cultural work begins to take shape in a group,” she says and adds that Delhi doesn’t have synergised efforts in the literary and cultural space.
Nisha, though, grew up in Bangalore, Gaurav is still discovering it. “In Delhi, beef and pork are not as easily available,” he says immediately. Probed further, he says that there isn’t much on the city’s cultural calendar. “What Delhi has in a week, Bangalore does over a month. But there is still quality,” he says.
And climate change or not Gaurav says, “I was taking a walk in Cooke Town recently and it felt like California. The weather, the trees, the houses…”
It’s also a common refrain among Bangalore’s old timers that the city has lost its character since the 1990s, thanks to a constant influx of working men and women from across the country. But ask Zahra Hussain, an IT employee and a photographer, and she’s pretty sure it hasn’t. “There’s so much to explore around here. Take the old city, where the soul of the city resides. There are beautiful clothes’ markets selling cottons and silks, there is a Pottery Town,” she says. She says that even the kitschy paintings on the city’s walls – courtesy, BBMP – are “extremely interesting and unusual”.
Zahra adds, however, that what she likes best about Bangalore is that she’s a single woman, in her early 30s, and she had no trouble finding a home. “It’s also much safer than most other places. And it’s totally acceptable for women to hang out in pubs, unaccompanied by men,” she says, adding that the only other Indian city that is “as cool” is Pune.