Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bangalore - Choosing to live in this mega-slum

One common thing I have been hearing off late from friends/colleagues is that getting out of Bangalore by the time they turn 35 or 40 is on their wishlist. Understandable, because it is on my wishlist too! Yet to meet any person who is content with the direction Bangalore is headed. Almost everyone seems to be frustrated with this city. What makes it all the more annoying for me is that I have seen Bangalore deteriorate from a calm and beautiful place to one of the most chaotic and disliked urban jungle. 

Almost everything about this city seems to be in a mess – infrastructure, alarming levels of pollution, water resources, waste management, growing disparity in wealth distribution, increasing crime rate, rapid influx of migrants. The list almost seems endless. Well, one might say these are all inevitable in a rapidly expanding city. To be fair, Bangalore was never meant to be a metropolitan city and I doubt anyone could have predicted this growth 2 decades back. But, what makes the situation scary is that the city administration is no where close to addressing the challenge. Forget addressing the challenge, I am worried they are far from grasping the magnitude of the challenge. 

I wonder what is it that is so repelling about urban life. Given a choice, am sure most of us would opt to not live in a chaotic city like Bangalore. Here is a neat summary an acquaintance told me once - 'the biggest drawback about urban life is that it effortlessly kills the little joys of life'. Notice how everyone around seems to be in a rush, constantly chasing a deadline, always caught in the fight for survival. The problem with this is over a period of time, we get caught in this survival mode and forget that we survive to live. In fact, urban life can be demanding in terms of meeting the survival necessities and sap us of all our time and energy in this. End result – people hardly have the drive to pursue the finer aspects of life and are content with just surviving and making ends meet. I guess this is a common thread for most big cities worldwide. On top of this, cities like Bangalore(or most cities in developing world) have to deal with the pathetic living conditions. 

Am sure most agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with urban lifestyle. But, what intrigues me is what keeps people glued to cities they don't like to live in. The only answer I can think of is the available economic opportunities. Take this one factor away and I don't see any good reason to tolerate this nuisance. As long as we want an easy access to these opportunities, we have to grin and bear the associated drawbacks of urban life. Once we make this choice, we implicitly agree to give up the joys of living a simple and serene rural lifestyle. These are two non converging choices. We might try hard and dream of finding a middle ground between these two choices and get the best of both worlds, but am afraid the middle ground is more like a mirage and quite elusive.