Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bangalore? Modern? huh...

I was surprised when I first came to Bangalore, after all the hype I had heard from Indian friends and acquaintances. To their minds, Bangalore was the most "westernized" or modernized city in all the subcontinent. But as you tour the city's streets and byways, you don't see much modernity. You see that the majority of commuters get to work by foot, cycle, auto, moped, bus, lorry and the minority are in a/c automobiles. Many wear Tommy and Levis to work, but many more like to wear gaudy imitations of the Tommy and Levis fashions - while there, I realized that the more common folk (chai boys) would rather wear something awful just because it looked Western. And when you see the ladies of Bangalore heading to work, in the place of power suits and pencil skirts, you see lots of colorful saris and salwar kameezes.

I guess I thought that "modernized" meant that if I were to be teleported from Times Square to Cunningham Road, that I would see a lot of similarities and would feel at home in either place. That is why I laugh with recognition when a fellow expat, who has been to Bangalore, asks me "what did you think of Bangalore? Did you find it very modern?" I say, "no way!"

But as I read more of Maximum City and of happenings in Delhi, I think that by contrast Bangalore is more modernized. I think it is the mindset of the people of Bangalore that is "modern" or "Western," and that is what their countrymen have recognized. That peculiar Indian clannishness is falling by the wayside in Bangalore, as people come together to kick Western asses out of their call centers and BPOs.


Lauren said...

Please continue to leave your thoughts! My husband has put in for a position in India with his company, and we are anxiously waiting for the interviewing process to continue. I so want this experience for our family. My children are ages 9, 7, and 3 -- what a way to teach a world view. View the world!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I feel like I am making a long distance friend!

We recently cruised to Alaska, and our waiter was from Mumbai. We met with him one evening when his shift was over to talk about India. He also said that Mumbai was very modern and we wouldn't find a lot of differences, everyone spoke English, it was safe for women on the streets at night, blah blah. My husband asked me later if I thought he was sugar coating everything, and I said that possibly that was his true viewpoint. We have to remember that we come from almost exactly opposite sides of the globe, and experience differs!

I had so many questions that I was trying to ask, and he did kind of brush over them. My husband and I are both originally from Missouri (the show me state), so we really want to get there and see for ourselves.

Firangi Mommy said...

Hi, Lauren. I would be happy to answer any questions that you feel the waiter may have brushed aside. Email me at One thing that may make you feel uneasy when you first get to India is the staring. Foreigners are no longer "freak sightings" but still people there are quite curious. I think I have a previous post on that...

I congratulate you on your courage to really show your kids the world! They will be much better off for it, as Thomas Friedman suggests.

Indie Mama said...

Hi there!

Thanks for the email - we are still regularly check in on your site. I hope your little girl has adjusted to life in the US! We are settling in here in Switzerland, but it was a very different move than we were planning (hahah...). I think you're right, this is better for now, and then hopefully Mumbai in a few years, when Das Baby can fend for herself a bit better (and remember it too!).

Oh yeah...and we are indeed in the Alps, and the "Al veet er zheen" made me laugh hysterically! (I may use it from now on...lord knows it would tick off the Germans! hehehe...)

Keep in touch!

P.S. Thanks for all your good advice, I'm sure it'll all be put to good use in a few years! = )

Anonymous said...

Sometime back, you left your views about Bangalore.

Regarding that, you are right, comparing the other big cities of India, Bangalore grow rapidly and comparatively cosmopolitan. Of course, still long way to go catchup with other major cities of west part of the globe.

Definitely Bangalore is poised for growth, not western.

Which Main? What Cross? said...

Depends on ur social circle I guess. U saw the real thing. luckily.

J B Jux said...

The truth is no Indian city is completely devoid of its roots. No Indian city is completely modernised. In every city you go, you might see clean roads and sky scrappers but just as you keep traveling you might see a rugged road with the sort of population that battle life out everyday. That is the contrast we find in India and it's an ideal place to see both sides of a coin.

Bumped in to your blog when i was looking for bangalore blogs. Will come back to read someday.

J B Jux.