Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Different people, same city

Different people, same city

Swathi Shivanand

Diversity: Everyone feels at home in our city, contributing to its cultural mosaic.

BANGALORE: Many bemoan the lack of a “culture” in the global city of Bangalore. Nothing to showcase, nothing to call its own, some say disparagingly.

Comparisons are effortlessly drawn with the “cultural” cities of Kolkata and Chennai to highlight the absence of something intrinsically “Bangalore.” The burden of proving that the city has a “culture” falls on the harried Kannadigas, who reluctantly engage in conversations defending what has been branded “their city.”

But a glance beyond the usual rhetoric will reveal a pulsating and dynamic city, an amiable and enterprising entity that has allowed people, from nooks and corners of the country, and indeed the world, to make this city “their hometown”.

“I cannot imagine living anywhere but in Bangalore. At first when I came from Jalgaon in Maharashtra, I was awed by its big-city image. But I gelled in easily and the non-intrusive environment here has allowed me to lead the life I want to,” says Sanjeetha T. Reddy, a doctor, whose native language is Telugu.

For some, moving to Bangalore from other cities has been liberating. “In Chennai, it was a homogenous society with the only difference being our caste. In Bangalore, especially after I joined an engineering college, I met people from all over the country, interacted with their cultures and celebrated their festivals. Living in the city has made my life richer,” says Harini Ravishankar, software professional.

Conflicts of identities prevalent in Bangalore are similar to other cities which are in the metropolitan phase of their lifespan. While first generation migrants retained some of their cultural ties, growing up in a cosmopolitan city has influenced the identities of their children.

“When we go to our native place, my brother and I feel out of place with all the Malayali rituals that my relatives in Thrissur are so familiar with. My parents also feel slightly bad but we try our best to replicate the traditions back here,” says Dhanya Kumaran, born and brought up in Bangalore.

There are yet others who see no conflict between being a Bangalorean and the identity inherited from parents or grandparents. “I love my fish, I love my music and like most Bengalis I cannot live without them. At the same time, I am equally outraged when people condemn Bangalore,” says Snigdha Bhattacharya, a student of psychology in Bangalore University.
Perceived conflicts

These perceived conflicts and the gradual gain in visibility of a particular community are manifested through various media, says A.R. Vasavi, a professor of Social Sciences at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. “For example, with more people coming in from Rajasthan, we have a newspaper catering to that community, the Rajasthan Patrika. The Sindhi community not only has a school but also has many colleges across the city,” she says. The Kerala Samajams, Tamil Sangams, Bengalee Associations are also part of the same efforts at preserving and promoting the identities of these communities, Ms. Vasavi adds.

For the unseeing eye, it might seem yet another city caught in the throes of globalisation, fast losing its identity. Contestable as this argument is, for years now, Bangalore remains a place harbouring a mosaic of cultures, changing its nature and changing the people who live in it.


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