It’s been 100 days since I returned back to Bengaluru and have started to travel to work. Few observations, in no particular order:
I wanted to avoid Traffic and Weather in this post but all in vain. No matter what, these 2 topics always come up in every other conversation. This city needs to rise up above this.
Roads and Traffic are slightly better. At least on the ways I travel.
So heartening to see Metro work nearing completion at some places.
Rain now ruins both the road and the traffic like never before.
New Eateries have opened up. They are now bigger, crowdier, and more Instagram-worthy! Many old places are now gone too. May be every 10 years things have a churn. This time may be due to Pandemic, changes are more intensive. Few comments:
The Rameshwaram Cafe: so much crowd that you want to avoid. But so much hype that you want to visit. Repeat.
The Filter Coffee, Indiranagar: becoming new Favorite. USP: Sambhar is not sweet here.
Iron Hill, ORR: Loved it.
Long Boat, ORR: Okayish.
Working from Home, 3 days a week. Same feeling as earlier.
Working from Office, 2 days a week. Welcome change. New faces. New seat. New view. But, it is not the same as earlier because it is still not feeling organic.
Cycling is bliss. I bought a new one and am now very tempted to go everywhere on that. But, the mindset to give up generating pollution takes some time. Hopefully, the frequency of cycling increases.
All the past relationships are almost vanished. Several people have moved out, or are yet to come back. Faces are becoming hard to remember.
I am not regretting the return as much as I thought I would. It is like I just went away for a small break and life has become back to the way it was.
All in all, the return to Bengaluru is old news now. Things are returning to old times. Old is the new normal, I think.
In February this year, I sent out a mail to my team in office which was somewhat on these lines:
We are all allowed to work from home once in a while but it is getting out of hands. I suggest that we get disciplined and work from home, at max, for 2 days in a Month and not more than once a week. That too, only if it is really necessary.
me, trying to act bossy
Heh, where are the days gone when you could actually feel embarrassed in public?
Most of the people whom I call as Friends or Colleagues or Relatives who used to live (in rented houses) in Bangalore have now left the city and have returned to their home towns. They all plan to stay there and work remotely till the pandemic gets over and their employers allow work from home. Some say that this would be allowed at least till December 2020. Some say it would go on till July 2021. Some even say that Bangalore Days are over as now the Internet is good enough all over the country that it is not really important to stay and work in the same city. The traffic and the hustle bustle in the city is not the same anymore. Office spaces on everyday are as vacant as the office spaces on Weekends. Most Restaurants have shut down. Food Delivery guys, who used to drive as fast as the F1 Cars, now just stroll their way to deliver food to a lone introvert stranger who is oblivious to the pandemic or may be understands that food is not the primary source of infection. The number of cases are breaking records every day and the overall morale of the place is duller than mood on pre-covid Monday mornings.
James Altucher, a famous blogger and entrepreneur, wrote something similar about New York City. He gave detailed stats of rent coming down, people actually moving permanently to other cities, and remote working is going to be the norm.
There won’t be business opportunities for years. Businesses move on. People move on. It will be cheaper for businesses to function more remotely and bandwidth is only getting faster.
Wait for events and conferences and even meetings and maybe even office spaces to start happening in virtual realities once everyone is spread out from midtown Manhattan to all over the country.
His views have some weight and it is not all wrong. However, he got a strong rebuttal from someone who is a New Yorker and takes pride in it. In fact, he is someone who usually won’t really speak out on each and every public related issue. But, this NYC Dead thingy hit him hard.
Energy, attitude and personality cannot be “remoted” through even the best fiber optic lines. That’s the whole reason many of us moved to New York in the first place.
You ever wonder why Silicon Valley even exists? I have always wondered, why do these people all live and work in that location? They have all this insane technology; why don’t they all just spread out wherever they want to be and connect with their devices? Because it doesn’t work, that’s why.
Real, live, inspiring human energy exists when we coagulate together in crazy places like New York City. Feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t go to the theater for a while is not the essential element of character that made New York the brilliant diamond of activity it will one day be again.
I had myself left the city on 14th July and went to my home town. I thought may be I would also stay there for a long time. Return to the city where my friends and colleagues aren’t there is not really fruitful, in fact, dangerous if you know what I mean.
But I returned back on August 16th, 2020 for several reasons, including my wife working in Bangalore at a place where work from home isn’t really allowed. Here is my opinion on whether the Silicon Valley of India is now a thing of the past:
No, Bangalore days are not over. Working from Home is not same as Working in Office. In fact, working from home, even from your hometown is not the same as working from your home in Bangalore. The feel is not there. Like Jerry Seinfeld said, some places stand out because of the Energy. I am not in a die-hard fan of Bangalore the city as such because it can certainly do better in a lot of aspects but I absolutely love working here. I really miss working in office, meeting people, discussing ideas, talking about weather and traffic even when there is always a love-hate relationship, having tea road-side, and in generally sitting at my desk in office. I have no qualms in saying that whoever, I know, has moved out of Bangalore has always complained about how the Bangalore work culture is perhaps the best there is and other cities are not the same. Since I have not really worked elsewhere in last decade (except small stints in Hyderabad and Jaipur), I don’t know that. But there is certainly something which makes a place worth living. Of course, without people, the soul is not there. Even if some politicians and their stooges do drama by Hindi-Hate-Mongering every few months, but there are still many sane people around care about better things and solve problems and not create them. There might be 1000 wrong things here but which place doesn’t? I have spent 10 years here and it has shaped my personality, I think, in a positive way. It has made me more accepting, more open and more optimistic. I want to stay an optimist, even if I am missing out on spending a long time with my family unlike many other folks. I’ve just stated about Bangalore but every city in the world is special for its own reason and you might have some reasons about it yourself.
I feel that once this is over, and this will be over soon, it would take just a week or so for normalcy to return. And not just Bangalore, every city around the world will rise up again. There might still be some people who will have FOGO (Fear of Going Out, h/t: Mark Manson) and might not return to office. May be, masks wearing will stay for another year. But I am sure, most people who really want to work and are ambitious, will return to the cities, and the offices will be swarming with people again. Humans are stubborn. These viruses and all might scare us for sometime. But, we will return to work and crib about how bad the traffic is and why can’t the government do something about it. We will return to work and go to the cafeteria and eat the tasteless food. Your favorite restaurants will be back serving your favorite overpriced meal. We will still use Zoom and all, but we will also meet people in person. The dullness in the air will transform back to the energetic vibe which makes us believe that tomorrow is going to be better.
So I reached a place called Iggalur, Southern most part of Bangalore. Total green, total South India. Half of the people there speak Tamil and the others Kannada. Both languages being similar to Buffalos to me (Kaala Akshar Bhains Barabar, Sherlock). Tamil was like Pi written in all the angles possible and Kannada mostly ‘W’s. Anyways, I have no right to bash any script so not doing it. The place, Iggalur, was painted in Green and the skies painted in many different shades of grey. In fact the cloud looked like they hung lower than usual. Bliss. It was quite a pleasant change from the scotching Hyderabad heat and way better than Jaipur’s boiling year-long summers. The temperature being just what the doctor had ordered. (Shastribot effect). While Hyderabad was Eminem, for more than one reason, Bangalore was like Lucky Ali. The apartment at Iggalur had no TV and no Internet but some amazing views and silence which you could actually hear. I loved the weather more than anything. Well, I had heard about the climate of Bangalore but experiencing it first hand was something amazing. For a guy who has lived all his life at the place where you can count the drops of water when it rains, this was like repeated telecast of Sachin Tendulkar hitting straight drives. As the modern day kids say, orgasmic. Though after a few days I moved to a more suitably located part of South Bangalore mostly inhabitated by ‘Amiths’ or the North Indians.
I had chosen Bangalore over Oh-So-approachable-With-Eatable-Food-Hyderabad or The-North-Most-City-In-South-India-Pune (Sorry Chennai, you are good only from a distance. Touchwood.) Because it was supposed to be the ‘IT’ City. I had heard so much about it being cosmopolitan with plethora of big IT giants and abundance of opportunities to work and many college friends were living here. You know, when you come to a city, you come with a mindset. I too had some expectations with the city of Bengaluru. Heh, some of them have been met, some still wandering to be met. So now I start my, I hope, un-biased or may be biased experience of the city and mind you, it will have some fair and unfair comparisons to my hometown Jaipur and Hyderabad where I had spend the last 65 days. Since I am talking about myself, who is an Engineer by degree, I am going to talk about stuff I see. Also, this post is from an Indian who has lived all his life in those geographical parts of India which are above the Tropic of Cancer. So some biasing is justified. Yes, offense if you feel so.
While Jaipur smells mostly of spices and Elephant dung, Hyderabad can be truly described by Russel Peter’s snide comments about Indian cities in general where as you step out of your plane and you smell shit. Bengaluru is like a coffee shop. Smells good Da. Though when it rains here pretty good, there is no familiar smell of the mud that I consider very Non-Indian.
The first thing someone hits when someone enters a new city is the road. And since Bangalore was made, probably for retired people, it has roads as wide as the walkway in a garden. They took the name Garden City too literally I guess. Bangalore acts being fast paced but it is stuck in traffic jam. One wants to reach a place before time and it drains all your energy out till you reach the point. First thing to do when you come to this city, remove the word punctual from your CV. Drivers here are so insecure and rash, same as Hyderabad, as if they want to reach home quickly to check whether their wives are sleeping with neighbours or not. What they don’t realize is that even the neighbour is stuck in a traffic jam. Jaipur’s drivers are still learning how to drive though.
The buses here are the major medium for transportation and in fact, are the best maintained buses in whole of India. The revenue earned by the Government has been put to brilliant use in BMTC. Wigs off along with scalp for that. I absolutely love the reach of the bus service. They have taken full care of the pocket of people and for those who can spend slightly higher, awesome Volvo buses are at your service. With a maximum of Rs. 50, one can glide to any part of Bangalore in the Red Shiny Volvo buses with cool wind gushing inside your clothes. Even the normal buses are kept tip-top for the masses. Like every dead dog on Indian highway has an opinion about Cricket in India, similarly everyone in Bangalore has an opinion about Traffic Condition here. And since Bus stops are strategically located just near turns, and just after flyovers, Buses feel proud to be the part of the jam. Who doesn’t want to do a jig in the jam?
Though it is a tragedy that the bus service virtually goes off after 9 PM. Why Sir? Don’t people travel after 9? Only few major places have buses running after 9. If you are stuck till late, you have to resort to Auto Rickshaws. Heh, Auto rickshaw drivers. If someone has problems of High Blood pressure, I would request not to ask anything from Auto Drivers. They suck. Suck and swallow. Shit and suck and swallow. I don’t know who told their generations that IT people are rich so they charge enormous amount even for tiniest of distances. Anand Ramchandran wrote a brilliant piece about the Autos in Bangalore so better read that. I only have cuss words for them. I might kill an auto driver as well, forewarns, if provoked more.
Food wise, I like South Indian cuisine and I have eaten more rice being in a more pan-Indian family so eating 1000 varieties of rice is not a problem. But if your diet demands more wheat, I feel slightly bad for you. The food here is costly, same goes with the accommodation which is stale and on the costlier side with ordinary apartments and high amount of security money. Seriously, what could easily fed someone in 150 Rupees, here they take Rs. 300 for ahem, err, not so good food. Now I love Idly and Dosa so I enjoy them sucking each finger with each bite with Coconut chutney. DAILY. Point to note is that everything here is cooked in Andhra Style which is spicier than usual Udupi style. And when I say spicy it means loaded with green chillies as if green chillies were free. God bless your digestive system, especially during the morning rituals. Sambhar here is as ordinary as any Salman Khan movie and I assure in my hometown, Sambhar is much better. I am yet to eat Curd-Rice and Rasam. There are many North Indian joints for food but they cook North Indian food in South Indian style. Overall, I am disappointed by the restaurants here. And I am still hungry to eat real south Indian food here. I can still remember the first time I had awesomest Sambhar and Dosa in my life cooked by a Tamil neighbour aunty back in 1990s. Also, Bangalore is hill stations to people here so don’t expect cold water. Chilled water? What is that?
Well, since everyone knows you love to drink, there are plenty of pubs around. Just pay and keep peeing and peeing or puking the way you like. The liquor shops here open till 11 PM and mostly flooded with guys and girls alike. Modern, you see. If you don’t drink, don’t worry mate, come home someday and it will be lovely when mil baithenge 3 yaar, aap, main aur our ginger tea.
Places to visit? Meh. But if you are from a village in Uttar Pradesh or North India in general or Orissa/ West Bengal or combined North East or anywhere in Rajasthan (apart from Jaipur), you are going to love this place. The city has enough malls and maals and pubs and cafes in them that you were waiting for all your life. I am not going to talk about the Malls here because they are not worth it. But go to UB City mall to get inferiority complex and when you come out forget it and LOL. The Brigade Road, which seems to be having a competition of show off, is the place to be on a weekend. The roads are full of people of all shapes and sizes, with all varied sizes of eyes, the most loose or the tightest clothes possible, the ugliest and the most beautiful people possible.
Apart from old age attractions like Laal Bagh and Bangalore Palace, nothing much is there to see. My hometown had 2 aspects, one modern and one old and one could go to Malls as well as Castles on top of hills depending upon the mood. Bangalore is very similar everywhere so you don’t get to know the difference much. Though there are many places around Bangalore where one can go in weekends. Google to find out.
Umm, I feel that Bangalore is in fact a good place to work. The culture is the work culture here. People here mean business. Work more and leave the politics to NCR. The people in Bangalore come from all parts of India as possible. Also, number of Africans and Europeans can be seen, probably selling drugs or just chilling, who knows. I am most impressed with the addressing system of the houses here. You can find out the address quicker than your GPS because of the Mains and Crosses which one gets familiar with within seconds.
Bangalore, as a city, is in a hurry. Hurry to become something like Mumbai. No idea why? And in the first place, why would anyone even like to be like Mumbai? From what I have heard from real Bangaloreans, it is not what it used to be. Also, it was not made to be like this anyways. It is more hype than hip. People, who think Bangalore is the best place to live in India, have not seen India. It is, though one of the best places to live in India but certainly not the best. The best part of the city remains the weather. You cannot beat that. Although with the constant cutting of trees, exploding population and ever-growing pollution, the climate is changing more rapidly than the speed of people who read ‘offer documents are subject to market risks’. Bangalore seems like a kid who was pressed upon big responsibilities while it was still an infant. Kid did the job perfectly for making way for Indian Engineers a force to reckon with in the world and full credit goes to the people of Bangalore and South India to create job opportunities in many fields. Obama fears Bangalore and expects the Americans to give jobs to Boston and not here. Hehe, there we win. But the kid is now struggling to cope with the increasing pressure. Though still the people welcome outsiders but the odd feeling of accepting them with sour smile is slowly setting in. People here are generally cool but some of them don’t answer when asked a question in Hindi. Hope it doesn’t become Chennai. Recently a Kannada organization proposed that Kannada should be made compulsory if one wants to live in Bangalore. Rise of Kannada Manoos huh? They must also remember that the credit of city’s success should be equally shared with all Indians alike. Bangalore is way better than most of the cities in India because sometimes it lacks the Indianness which is sometimes needed and sometimes not needed. There are a lot of advantages of living here as one gets all the exposure needed. There are concerts, blogger’s meets and many major-minor events which won’t happen in most of the Indian cities. Bangalore is a big point on the world map and it is going to stay there for long. It has all the aspects of an Indian city and many aspects of a Non-Indian city. And that’s the USP.
This is neither a travel guide nor a survival guide. But this is what I feel at this moment of time about the city of Bangalore. It might change as I explore more about this city. As of now I am not sure whether I love this city or not. But certainly, I don’t hate it. This city has given me long due employment so I have utmost respect for the place and the people here.
P.S.: Fun Fact: When someone dies in an accident in Bangalore, people say either a Dog or an Engineer must have died.