Bengaluru’s sky is no longer blue. Its skyline is crammed with buildings in every dull colour imaginable. Offices, cafés, flats, villas, malls, and parlours… everywhere you look, a drab, misshapen building is coming up, and the view… more buildings. Aesthetics are the first to go out the window when expediency and multiple dwellings are mushrooming by the minute.
Unsaved lakes, the ubiquitous garbage, heritage monuments on arthritic knees, gardens in name only, congested roads, international schools in every nook and corner, state-of-the-art hospitals without adequate parking space – these are the casualties of this frenetic activity. Ironically, builders’ brochures unfailingly mention chirping birds and large-scale greenery in their sales pitch, little realising these are the very casualties they bring about.
And since mini cities are springing up all over town, satellite services and an instant township follow as a ripple effect. Workforces from these areas migrate via the main arteries, ploughing through the slow sludge of public traffic, and returning late through power failures and narrow isolated stretches of un-tarred roads. Not to mention the slum pockets that bubble up to support this ceaseless giddy construction and burgeoning households. Not safe for anyone, for man and woman alike.
Yes, the city can brag about startups, its IT sector, the fact that anyone from anywhere, be it India or abroad, feels immediately at home here. Films, food, big brands, budget living – everything is here. It is probably the only metro where films of so many languages play at the same time: Kannada, English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil…
Chaat and chowmein, bisi bele bath and Andhra biryani, authentic Italian gelato, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, kiwifruit and durian; you name it, you can bite into it. Or better still, order it online and be served hot in minutes.
But all these facilities cause varicose veins to pop up all over the city; nothing is subtle or subterranean. The price Bengaluru pays for being the best host is high in terms of sheer ugliness and chaos. No cosmetic procedure, no discreet nip and tuck will do – Bengaluru is beyond Botox. You meet the real Bengaluru – in case you have been spending too much time in its pubs and bookshops – during a downpour. The traffic does not move, people miss meetings and flights, everyone is stranded in the same spot for hours. Even at the best of times going from point A to point B anywhere in the city is a nightmare.
Pollution piggybacks on drainage and sanitation woes. Mini mountains of refuse loom up gamely during your daily walk or drive. A lack of street lights and stray dogs who you might step on and anger are a Siamese problem with no solution. And on the other side of the prettiest eateries are their inadequate waste disposal systems.
With all this, no citizen actually puts up his hands and says, okay, I am going. Everyone wants to go on living here forever. Which means while the influx is steady, no one is really leaving town except on fancy holidays. Soon, the air might just run out.
One wishes this was a city we could tear down and build again from scratch, with well-planned roads, coherent hubs for marketplaces and educational institutions, student hostels and shopping centres, like maybe Chandigarh. No dim-lit back alleys, only broad, broad roads awash with festive light any time of the hour or year. That this could be a city with a sky.
We at SocialStory are running a campaign to help citizens come together and save the city of Bengaluru from dying. Bring out those mobile phones and laptops and share with us the problems you see. Start participating with those who are working for change and share your experiences with us. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will share your experiences and ideas with our readers.