Minimum City

“He stood there waiting for her. The Shatabdi to Chennai was to leave in another 10 minutes. Lines of worry had started forming…”.
“He stood there soaking in the rain. He couldn’t believe fate had dealt him this blow. The smell of flowers hanging as garlands from the makeshift shops mixed with the smells from the nearby shops selling spices and powders of different colors, and the smells of the Masala Dosas from Vidyarthi Bhavan formed an odd concoction which numbed his senses as he felt himself sinking to never before depths.”

Strangely, verses or prose such as above have never been a part of literature and probably never will be. Firstly, they are trite, can at best be called amateurish and no one ever writes like this to classify it as literature or anything that gets published. Second reason being no one writes about Bangalore!

Despite being a hep and happening city, Bangalore for some strange reason never seems to figure in art of any form. Of course, there are the odd photographers who’d photograph Vidhan Soudha in spring with the yellow trumpet flowers in full bloom, the odd Peter Colaco who’d write a “My Bangalore” or the movies based on locations like “Majestic” or “Kalasipalya” (which, thank God for little mercies, will never be seen or known outside Karnataka). But how many people outside Bangalore, or even Karnataka, ever read these books or buy these photographs? Are they even available there? Also “My Bangalore” was selling at close to Rs. 400, which was the same as Shantaram when I last checked, and am not sure many would be excited by the price. I, for one, did not buy it.

Mumbai got Maximum City, Shantaram, Midnight’s Children, movies like Slumdog Millionaire, while Delhi has its Dilli 6, RDB (the city is an integral part of the movie), and scores of other books, none of which I can recollect now.

I agree we can’t compare Bangalore with Mumbai or Delhi. Mumbai has its underworld, Bollywood and it is the richest and most populous city in the country which make it significant enough to have people who lead weird lives that can be written about and movies that can be viewed by a global audience. Am not complaining that Mumbai gets a lot of coverage. If anything, it deserves it.

My grouse is mainly that no one wants to write about Bangalore and showcase it for the beauty of it and what it can give and has, that it’s a lot more than just IT companies, good weather and bad traffic.

Unfortunately, Bangalore does seem to be caught in a crack in the wall, where neither outsiders can identify enough with it to go deep into it, and the natives always look to the ancientness in its culturally superior neighbor – Mysore, the romanticism of the Malnad regions or the history of the northern districts. Heck, even Shankar Nag chose Agumbe to shoot Malgudi Days, which ironically has a name coined from two Bangalore localities.

Of course the problem with most writers in Kannada was that they were from other places, and none of them was home-grown. And the population in Bangalore has mostly been people migrating from other places to work in the PSUs, the Govt and other educational institutes. Times definitely are changing and with an increasing number of people well known at a national level, like Ramachandra Guha, Girish Karnad etc settling in Bangalore, I guess there is still hope for a future where we’ll get to see and read more of Malleswaram and Basavangudi apart from a fictional town coined from their names, more of MG Road and Brigade Road than hearing about outsiders complaining about their being the only places worth visiting and more of Gandhinagar and Kalasipalya apart from B-grade action flicks.

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10 thoughts on “Minimum City

  1. Good thought maga. Bangalore and Mysore have only been a part of literature in Kannada. There is one collection of short stories called Red Carpet: The Bangalore Stories, but its more about the author’s family circle than being about Bangalore. I wrote a review on my blog a couple of years ago.

  2. Watch ‘Aa DinagaLu’ !
    Hey, I hope you have watched ‘Aa DinagaLu’, it is a story of Bangalore underworld based in late 80s and early 90s. Nice movie and few nice songs set totally in Bangalore.
    Though it showcases the dark side of Bangalore in those days, it is a good watch. It was released sometime in December 2007. Made Chetan (the hero) a big star.

    1. Re: Watch ‘Aa DinagaLu’ !
      Yep… had once told me about this movie…
      need to check if I can find it anywhere online…very difficult to find Kannada movies online…

  3. Hi, Have been thinking about this too. the need to write Bangalore. true b’lore wasn’t historically or politically located like mumbai, delhi or even madras but not so insignificant that no literature or writing can emerge. it is important for our generation, for the city to be seen in perspective beyong the glib label of silicon valley. haven’t read aditi de’s book on bangalore. lavanya shankaran’s book on bangalore is a set of short stories set in contemporary bangalore, i quite liked it. bangalore needs, something like city of djinns by william darlymple on Delhi. that in my mind is one of best, engaging writing on a city.

  4. Hi, Have been thinking about this too. the need to write Bangalore. true b’lore wasn’t historically or politically located like mumbai, delhi or even madras but not so insignificant that no literature or writing can emerge. it is important for our generation, for the city to be seen in perspective beyong the glib label of silicon valley. haven’t read aditi de’s book on bangalore. lavanya shankaran’s book on bangalore is a set of short stories set in contemporary bangalore, i quite liked it. bangalore needs, something like city of djinns by william darlymple on Delhi. that in my mind is one of best, engaging writing on a city. Indhu

  5. Bengaluru doesn’t have much history when compared to Mumbai or Delhi. Give it a decade or two and you will see more books/movies centered on it. Guha already talks a lot about Bengaluru in all his articles.

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