Bangalore serves as my anchor because this is where the Geek is, says Nishant Shah
I have spent the last couple of years on the fly, measuring life in cups of coffee consumed in transit at airports, working largely with young people in the Global South about their use of digital technologies for social change and political transformation.
It was interesting to live in non-localised time zones and out of suitcases, treating Bangalore as some sort of a laundermat where I largely came to get fresh clothes. But, in this year, as I spend more time in the city, I have started rediscovering the reason why I came to Bangalore eight years ago and decided to call it home.
I realise now, that despite my geographically distributed lifestyle, Bangalore serves as my anchor because this is where the Geek is! And I use the word ‘geek' not only to refer to the (largely male) technology population of the city, but to the people who, in their own quest for knowledge, have made a supportive, symbiotic and inclusive ecosystem of interventions, interests and interactions.
Over the years, many small and big spaces and organisations, collectives and meet-ups have made the city into a mashup that willingly or unwittingly, is a consequence of the digital technologies which are often held responsible for the ‘ruin and decline' of ‘good old Bangalore'.
Here are my three favourite such spaces: one, the experimental make-shift curatorial space Jagaa that ‘makes things happen' in the crowded topography of Shanthinagar. Over time, I have been a part of a bar-camp on digital archiving, audience to an electronic music remix concert, and learned about Dutch Colonial history at Jagaa, making it the official Geek Centre for those who want to be a part of things as they happen.
Two, the Blank Noise Project (BNP) that has now made substantial interventions in discourse on safety on our streets and gender. Using digital technologies and capital, BNP constantly involves young people in and outside the city to reclaim the public spaces through performances and writing.
Three, Kiran ‘Jace' Jonallagadda, who should be in a travel book for Geeks. Jace started the first bar-camps in Bangalore so that geeks of a feather could flock together. His technology-based, community-based venture called HasGeek is all set to become the only way of capturing the burgeoning tech interest and talent in the city.
I realise, as I write this, that this list of ‘Geeks' Up!' in Bangalore is almost exhaustive. I run through the fun, the excitement and the energy that digital and internet technologies have brought the city and I feel recharged. And I am glad that the Centre for Internet and Society, which I co-founded and work with, is in this city, with all these exciting people, just a click or a corner away.
(Nishant Shah is director, research at Centre for Internet and Society, which he co-founded.)