Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Dogs! “NO, please take him away, please please, NOo.. I’m scared… Noooooooo! ” Yes, that was my usual and expected response to a dog for as long as I can remember. Whenever I went to my friend, a dog owner’s house, the poor canine had to be locked up in the furthest room prior to my entry. My guitar teacher’s dog too suffered a similar fate. And to me, it was justice... Some people just didn't like dogs , like some people don't eat meat. Its normal , acceptable and its just not fair for dogs to be imposed on us.

If anybody asked me if I liked dogs, I always responded with, “I’m more of a cat person.” The irony of that retort was in the fact that I’d never even been near a cat in my life. As a consequence, I was quite indifferent towards them. My dog phobia worsened as I grew older. If a dog behind a gate began to bark, I jumped a mile. If a dog on a leash was walking on the other side of a road, I lagged behind waiting for the dog to pass. I even had some traumatic incidents of dogs chasing me around corners with me screaming and running about like a raving lunatic. It was a phobia.

Unfortunately for me, my mother’s best friend had no children and two massive golden retrievers. Every visit to their house included me standing on a table and the dogs circling it conscientiously. It was a mental burden to carry around a fear like this in my head everywhere I went.

One day, something unusual happened. I had gone for a visit to my mother’s friend’s house and the dogs came running and pounced on me. I was stricken. I froze up and shouted for help. The two canines were all over me and I was not enjoying it. My mother’s friend told me to pet them; the dogs just wanted some attention. I slowly and gingerly placed one palm on the mangy head of one of them and stroked him. To my shock and secret joy, he felt nice and he didn’t bite! I took a deep breath and did it again. And again. And again. Soon, I was actually petting a dog.

After aprroximately ten minutes, the scene was this. I sat on the floor with Mishtii (the girl retreiver)'s head on the floor next to me and her paws on my lap and my hand under her tummy. That was the position we adopted for the following 2 hours.Whenever I got up, he’d follow faithfully. It felt wonderful to know that somebody loves you no matter what, albeit for a few minutes.

The first time I petted a dog, I had a revelation. I realized that I loved dogs. After that day, any dog I saw I loved. They were such kind and selfless creatures. They gave love so willingly and asked for nothing in return. Lately, I even go to my friends’ houses just to play with their dogs. I now proudly proclaim myself a Dog Lover. And loving it!

Bangalore Vs Delhi Take 1

(This was an article i wrote in 2004 after visiting Delhi.. How different things are now...)

I have spent many a days pondering what it is about this city that makes it so unique. Every time I go out of Bangalore on vacation, by day 3 away from the city, I find myself pining longingly for the familiar sights of M.G. Road and Indiranagar. For this reason, apart from many others, I concluded Bangalore has something unignorably special about it.

Let us start with its total lack of tourist appeal. There is, quite surprisingly, just about nothing of historical significance or scenic beauty, not counting Ulsoor Lake and Lal Bagh (after all, it would be difficult to find anybody traveling from Bengal to go sightseeing to Cubbon Park or Banerghatta).
The maximum you can expect is for eager tourists to come here as a stopover on their way to Mysore or Coorg. So most people are locals and are in the same groove as you and don’t nag like the enthusiastic tourist types.

Next is the “Great IT Revolution” which has transformed the “Pensioner’s Paradise” into the Silicon Valley of India, though I am yet to find any signs of steep slopes or mountain inclines, the closest to it being the natural downward curve of the road somewhere near Richmond Road.
Whitefield was once considered to be on the outskirts, a place you passed on a weekend trip to some pretty hill station. But now it’s booming into the heart of the IT and BPO sector. At any random given time, at least 1 out of 3 people working in those sectors make the daily journey to Whitefield riding the rocky road over the Marathahalli Bridge which is undoubtedly going to give way anytime now.
ITPL probably lodged one out of every 20 of those. There are about three Dell buildings in Whitefield alone, and many other reputed MNCs are lodging there. Many of may wonder Why? , why this sudden interest in Bangalore and Whitefield of all places. Now, I’m not a Business trend predicting expert (or whoever those people are) but my best bet is these companies wanted cheap space accompanied by good connectivity, a cosmopolitan environment and nice weather so they chose Whitefield. Obviously once two or three clever men (or women, for that matter) did this and the whole jing-bang-load of them followed along with opportunist real estate cos. Like Adarsh and after a sudden revelation in more recent times Purvankara, Prestige and Alliance to name a few. I’ve also heard that there are plans of some big malls in that section. Yes, and MALLS. What happened? If I can remember clearly, just 4 years back the largest mall you could find was Mota Royal Arcade on Brigade Road, which held heavily-discounted fake-brands. Ah! My idea of a luxury shopping experience. And today, we have been gifted with Forum, a 13-screen multiplex, the seamless Bangalore Central and Sigma among others. Shopper’s paradise, would you say?

Topic no. 3: TRAFFIC
We know, we see it, we hate it, but what would we do without it?
Can you possibly imagine a Bangalore where it takes a mere ten minutes to travel from the airport to the Taj hotel on M.G. road? Impossible, isn’t it? For without traffic jams, where would we find the time to catch up on phone calls to old friends, some philosophical reading and stress-busting in the form of road rage? Moreover, this is the perfect scapegoat for just about all our cities troubles. Rising temperatures? Blame it on the increased levels of CO2. Anger management problems? No problem, blame the traffic. So traffic is not a bane as the supplement sections of the leading newspapers believe. It is in fact, a boon to the city-people. It will just take people a long time to realize (approximately 10 years, by which time the monorail and metro would have eased traffic loads and since distance makes the heart grow fonder, everyone will actually miss it).

One thing I just love about my city is the weather. Summer, for example starts in February and the mango showers interrupt it by April-end. And what’s more, the temperatures rarely exceed 30- 35 degrees Celsius.
After August, it’s just beautiful. Windy nights, perfect to don the latest in the autumn- winter collections of Benetton. November and December are quite cold, but in the pleasant way which makes us all smile up at the sky on the rainy Sunday morning (akin to the hit Alternative track –“Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5. I can practically hear the song in my head each time I think about winter). The rainy season, whose credibility is terribly flimsy, seems to land up like an unexpected visitor just about whenever it wishes. So one morning , you might be sweating it out on Commercial street, and the next , you’ll be ducking into Anand Sweets because you forgot to bring the umbrella your grandmother warned you to take(and also to sample the mind-blowing jalebis).

Finally, the most important and indispensable thing: The people.
There’s something about Bangalore society that sends a shiver up my spine. Honestly.
Just a month back, I was visiting my aunts in Delhi and we had gone to Sarojini Nagar for a spot of cheap, seconds bargains. And everytime we entered the shop, I would smile at the shopkeeper, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to everyone I interacted with, while my aunt would look at me like I was possessed. I took a moment to observe how the other customers requested for something that caught their eye. The most polite request I heard was ‘Arre, vo dena’ (translated: hey you, gimme that). The others merely barked orders, and one man had the impertinence to remind the shopkeeper that the customer is king and he should get what he wants that very second.
Another common Delhi phenomenon is the driving. People there, especially those on the road, feel that the only method of getting something done is by barking. So if you, by mistake, come so much as a foot away from the car next to you, uh huh, you’ve had it. That guy will get off , stand in the middle of the road and threaten to sue you. And mind you, he actually might. Taxi drivers, on the other hand, will just tell you exactly what they think of you in language you would not dare repeat at home in front of your kids. Bangalore on the other hand, I think is the one of the politest big cities around. It becomes an automatic reaction here to smile at anyone whose eye you happen to catch, and if they don’t smile back, oh, well, life goes on. That’s not all; Bangalore is one of the safest cities too. Imagine being a girl and traveling by public bus in Chennai, or even worse, auto! In fact, my aunt in Chennai does not even go for a walk down the road (she takes the security guard as a bodyguard). I’ve concluded that this is not because the people are so nice that they would not dare commit a crime, it’s just because they are too scared and just lack the guts to do anything bordering on the illegal. Well, it’s very wimpy I agree, but good for us.

So I’ve decided, Bangalore rocks and if I had the choice of living in some Indian city it would definitely be Bangalore, and if ever I get tired of it, I’ll just visit Delhi in the oppressive heat of May and I’m sure I’ll come racing back home.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Delhi vs Bangalore Take 2..

Back in 2005, I had visited Delhi.. just to feel what it would be like to go back to my home turf, look around and just feel the scene..

Once again, after 4 years, i visited again.. Once more , to feel the scene.. This time i was staying in Gurgaon, the up-and-coming suburb.

Gurgaon is, for starters, mall paradise. Its the mecca of all hard-core shoppers and in Sale season, it is heaven. Its better than Heaven. every store - from the Marks and Spencers to the Shopper's Stop and everythign in between has massive giveaway sales.. Its just mind-boggling.. the kind of economic activity this place generates. The government, for reasons beyond my comprehension, has imposed a compulsory holiday on Tuesdays for all commercial centres. They have no choice but to stay closed. Imagine the revenues they lose out on!

Despite all this, Gurgaon remains the concrete jungle of lore. There are massive buildings everywhere you turn. Its hard not to be suffocated by all the glass and concrete.. The buildings are a mixed bag, some office buildings, then a mall or two and then huge apartment complexes. The sky too is tainted.. You can barely see a star. The day I landed, I could not breathe. The heat, the claustrophobia just took over me...

How do people live here? It eludes me completely. How do they manage to feel even a little bit at HOME.. How can this possibly be home to anybody. Isn't it more of a jungle of money and society, with Page 3 parties, pubs and hard-selling businessmen?

Delhi city on the other hand, is beautiful. It retains a certain amount of old-world charm which even Bangalore cannot recreate. The localities of Greater Kailash, CR Park, Vasant Kunnj, Karol Bagh. I could go on.. Except for their facade being marred by a McDonalds or two.. They are rel;atively unspoilt. And being the capital city does them no harm. The infrastructure is top class.. Huge distances can be covered with hardly any bottlenekcs, an unheard of phenomenon in my native Bangalore. Maybe we too can learn a thing or two from them.

Though, the city isn't all good. The peoples attitude, their outlook and their general behaviour leaves much to be desired. The pace of life is so fast that they don't have the time to walk slowly and selflessly. The focus is on 'ME', How did they get there?

That is probably the most frightening but interesting part of this conversation. Influx from other cities, especially from north India, for the sole purpose of occupation and heavy industrialization at the fastest pace possible, coupled with rapid monetary growth in the people.

The change I saw could be attritubed to my growth and my perspective. and what struck me the most was not how much Delhi had changed, but how much Bangalore had...
In the past 3 years, its gone through so much - more than any other city i've observed. Flyovers, Malls and Whole IT parks have sprung by the dozen. And not to leave out apartment complexes. The whole growth makes my head spin.

This trend of Delhi's emergence as it is now is identical to Bangalore's growth and for that I fear. How will we survive in this fast-growing, high-competition world..? How will we retain the 'Garden City' title? Where is the pensioner's paradise now? There is nothing wrong with our city becoming younger and less with it becoming industrialized. The immigration of people from all over the country is to be welcomed for where else will we find the coming together of such different points of view and experiences and cultures. But, I think, we need to keep a check on the personal growth. Are we losing the sense of society, of caring for others and the friendliness that Bangalore was always kown for? I honestly hope not.
What makes Bangalore, for me, the best city to live in? The people, the weather, the architecture and the spirit of the city.

Right now, the people need to feel a part of the city. To have care and grattitude for everything that it has given us. I hope that it can see where we are and where our inevitable future lies if not for a concerted change in all of us.

I love Bangalore :D