Life has come a full circle. An year ago, when we just about started this journey, we had talked about the need to reflect on the reasons behind Ahmedabad been left behind by Bangalore and Hyderabad.
An year later, there is not even a city by the name Bangalore! And that is not the only reason for our re-think on the subject.
Bengaluru, as Bangalore is now known as, now resembles a victim of its own success. The sleepy town of the 50s, when it was about half the size of Ahmedabad, is now realising that success is a double-edged sword. Every reward of rapid growth comes at a price. Unfortunately, the price that technological and commercial success is demanding from the city is far greater than what the city ever had prepared for. There is no contingency fund left. Even scary is the general fear of analysts that there might not be a Plan B for the present state of affairs.
This is not a doomsday theory by Nostradamus. For, as elementary understanding of civilization tells us, every society goes through a cycle of explosive growth, stable maturity and slow decline. The latter two stages of Bengaluru – as indeed of every other town or city of India – would comfortably outlast all of those living at the moment. Hence, the issue here is not whether Bengaluru would eventually be able to survive the stress at its seams. The issue is whether the citizens of Bengaluru deserved the hardships that they are presently made to endure everyday.
No one is arguing against the wonderful strides made by the city in the fields of technology and research. In fact, the success story has long moved beyond saturation coverage in all sort and arms of media. And that contributed in no less amount the exodus of young talent from all parts of country to ‘India’s silicon valley’. Yes, at least some portion of the rush towards Bengaluru had to do with the ‘perception of Bengaluru’ as a vibrant, science and technology-oriented, liberal, progressive and westernised Indian city. (We in Ahmedabad know all too well about the disdainful comments that ‘dry’ cities like ours attract from the ‘young and restless’.) Some of the aforementioned perceptions hold true for Bengaluru; but some others are just a part of a popular folklore.
Anyone who has any idea about life OUTSIDE the IT belt would tell you that Bengaluru is NOT any more progressive or liberal or westernised than any other major city of India. Which global city across the world calls for banning of English in primary schools? Which major Indian city outside Tamil Nadu sees attack on All India Radio because of transmission of Hindi programs? Which city faces a riot-like situation as a part of ‘mourning’ by the ‘fans’ of its biggest movie idol?
Even if we dismiss those aspects as that about psychology or politics, the fact of the matter is that Ahmedabad has better roads, better power situation and a better airport – apart from having just as good educational and research institutes.
Ahmedabad has been built in 500 years. The present Bengaluru was built in the last 50 years. And there in lies the difference in the foundation of the two cities. And there in lies the real reason for not emulating Bengaluru.