Piecing together nuggets on beloved Bangalore (Book Review)December 18th, 2008 - 11:09 am ICT by IANS
Book: “Multiple City: Writings on Bangalore”; Editor: Anita De; Publisher: Penguin India; Price: Rs.399From Mahatma Gandhi to Winston Churchill, everyone was bowled over by its weather. Today it is called India’s tech hub. But Bangalore is not just one city - it is a multiple city, say old timers, travellers, poets, cartoonists and IT professionals writing on why they love the place.
The city’s bookshops are favourite hunting grounds for historian Ramachandra Guha. On the other hand, poet Pratibha Nandakumar feels the angst of old, single-storey houses making way for mutli-storeyed residential and shopping complexes.
Swedish author Zac O’ Yeah rues that Bangalore has too many potholes, but adds that it also has generous people to help the people who fall into them and rush them to hospital!
Economist Thomas L. Friedman considers the smart engineers working on their flat screens to be among the flatteners of the world. He is the man who wrote “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalised World in the 21st Century”.
While the city is a babel of Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Urdu and Hindi with Bengali, Oriya and Punjabi added in the last few years, writer Sahana Udupa finds a new syndrome MTI - Mother Tongue Irritation - afflicting the many making a living from the call centres.
The 51 write-ups on Bangalore have been edited and brought out as a book by writer and journalist Aditi De. Published by Penguin India, the 316-page book “Multiple City: Writings on Bangalore” was released here last weekend.
“It (Bangalore) seems to engage with its past with insouciance, within a continuum where the past, the present and the future collide every milli-moment. Its street voice, their cosmopolitan culture and urban angst as much as in Kannada as in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam or English,” De says in her introduction to the book.
“Bangalore does not offer outsiders a pageant of archaeological monuments; instead, in the words of a wag, it has just ‘two rambling gardens and a crumbling palace’. It is as much at ease with the masala dosas of Vidyarthi Bhavan (a hotel well-known for dosas) as with the stiff upper lip colonial traditions of the Bangalore Club, or the shining new towers and gated communities of IT-based international commerce,” she continues.
Jnanpith award winner U.R. Anathamurthy laments that the salubrious weather helped make Bangalore a brand but increasingly that weather is missing.
“Bangalore became a ‘brand’ because of its great weather. But because it is a ‘brand’, the weather went bad. Now we have so many people, so many cars, and so much dust and smoke that we can hardly breathe,” he wryly remarks in his write-up.
In his book “My Early Life”, published in 1930, Churchill notes: “The climate of Bangalore, at more than 3,000 feet above sea level, is excellent. Although the sun strikes with torrid power, the nights except in the hottest months are cool and fresh…Snipe (and snakes) abound in the marshes; brilliant butterflies dance in the sunshine, and nautch girls by the light of the moon.”
Mahatma Gandhi, who wrote with ease on almost all subjects, had difficulty in finding words to describe Bangalore’s weather!
“I have not got the poetic language to describe the weather here, but it is really fine at this time of the year in Bangalore,” the Mahatma wrote to Raihana Tyabji, daughter of the Gujarat jurist Abbas Tyabji, in July 1927.
Gandhi stayed in Bangalore and nearby Nandi Hills for about four months that year, recovering from an illness.
Ananthamurthy has written about Bangalore’s Kannada identity in his engaging piece titled “Ooru (town) and the World”, novelist and Sahitya Akademi award winner Shashi Deshpande revisited the city through the places she has lived in since she was a young girl in “Mapping Bangalore”. Rajmohan Gandhi has written about the trysts of his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, with the city in a piece titled “Through the Mahatma’s Eyes”.
Ramachandra Guha, historian and scholar, has described his close relationship with a popular bookshop called Premier on Church Street in the heart of the city.
Poet Prathibha Nandakumar in her poem “Directions” has humorously dealt with the sudden growth of the city and how its entire landscape has changed in the process.
The book has a photographic essay by Clare Arni, a British architectural and travel photographer, who has lived most of his life in India, cartoons by political cartoonist Maya Kamath and drawings by illustrator and cartoonist Paul Fernandes.
Author Pankaj Mishra in his “Mall Miscalculations” fears that Bangalore may “go the way other Indian cities had gone before it — into another Indian urban nightmare” as “in recent years, a lot of imported notions had come to stand for Bangalore: India’s Silicon Valley, India’s electronics capital…”