If you are from Mumbai or Delhi, you can be forgiven for thinking that your respective cities are the world. Truth be told, I felt the same way about Mumbai. ‘How o how could any other city rival the city of dreams in this country?’ Or so I thought.
I left Bangalore while I was still singing ‘Summer of 69’ when it was actually 2003. I loved the city for its weather, pubs and the music scene. But it was to remain the city which was good for a break. I visited Chennai for work once and passed through it when I was traveling alone through Tamil Nadu for 20 days. Hyderabad and I happened to meet for a friend’s cousin and we’ve been friends ever since.
Never have I thought that these were cities of opportunities, a label that I associated only with Mumbai. You know after all – what could beat vada pav, locals and humidity.
But I happened to take a whirlwind tour of these southern stars at the start of 2015. In about 10 days I visited all three cities and here is what I found out. Probably you know most of these things. May be some of them are observation basis the experiences I have had. But an opinion is worth sharing right? Ask Mani Shankar Aiyar.
So in the great tradition let me share my thoughts:
What’s similar about Bangalore – Hyderabad & Chennai?
You can get almost anything you want in Bangalore or Hyderabad. So will you in Chennai, though that city still swears by its character
1. They are fun cities:
Gone are the days that the only two things to do in the south were watching a Rajnikant movie and eating a masala dosa. Ok may be you could add having a cup of coffee to that list.
Each one of these cities is now exploding with options of things to do, places to hang out and places to shop. In many ways I felt that it was easier to go out and do something interesting in Bangalore or Hyderabad than in Mumbai. Even with ever growing suburbs, Mumbai’s traditional hang out islands – South Mumbai and Bandra still rule the roost. While in Bangalore, MG Road and Brigade, though still popular, are a bit like yesterday’s story. Every suburb has its own eco system of things to do. I wont be wrong in assuming that if you live in Indira Nagar, Kormangala, Jaynagar or JP Nagar; you need to have a strong reason to get out of these places over the weekend. A girlfriend whispering ‘sex…sex…sex’ is the only thing I can think of.
Same goes for Hyderabad and in some measure Chennai. With an ever increasing migrant population and many now settling down for goood, businesses depending on ‘let’s go out’ are doing exceedingly well. So is the ‘lets call in’ business format successful. Madhopur, Kondapur, Kothaguda in Hyderabad looked like they were participating in an Indian mela and I don’t think the republic day was the reason. The celebration seemed like a permanent fixture to me.
Clearly the IT industry is to be credited or to be blamed for this. I would get shocked to meet a person who was NOT software engineer.
These are some friends I made while in Hyderabad and Bangalore. And truth be told, they were so much more fun than Mumbai or Delhi
2. It is the new India where men respect women
India is a country for the young. Though I hope we will continue to care for our old.
But if that was a parameter, then Bangalore, Hyderabad and even Chennai seemed younger than Mumbai and Delhi to me. The buzz in these cities was lively and everywhere I turned there was a gang of youngsters laughing, fighting, sipping coffee and whispering sweet-nothings into each others’ ears.
These cities in my opinion define India better than the older metropolises.
These cities also break some stereotypes. The best one they shatter is that Indian men don’t respect women. I met many young boys and girls who were living together. And no they were not necessarily couples, neither were they ‘brother-sisters’. They all seemed equal to each other and for most parts they were not self conscious.
These are the young people who will define the country in the coming years. They might not have told their parents that they live with the friends from the opposite sex, but that too will happen soon. We probably are only a few generations away from reasonable equality between the sexes.
A conversation that made me smile was when a 35 year old told me that he was in Bangalore to see his girlfriend and his parents knew about it. But they wanted to be sure that he was not spending the night in her apartment. He chuckled and said ‘ As if people have sex only in the nights.’
Something tells me that primal urges for generations before ours, were limited to the dark.
That’s Farooq bhai, he is an exception in the Rickshaw drivers – polite, well spoken, hard working. He could be an inspiration for people like me, let alone his fellow drivers.
3. They hate autos and call taxis are booming
The rickshaw driver is probably the most hated figure across these cities. And with adequate reason. I hate them too.
But a change is happening. Call cab companies are providing people with an option, a really good one. More often than not, cabs cost as much as rickshaws would. The drivers are polite, there is no hassle and plus there is air conditioning. Win!
Probably the call cabs are providing such tempting offers to ensure people get used to them.
But I think as a result of that, rickshaw drivers are getting better. At least in conduct. Some of my friends show them the the cost of the ride on Ola cabs app to ensure they charge less. My sense is a few years down the line either normal rickshaws will be gone or at least the rickshaw driver arrogance would have disappeared.
Another interesting development is the rickshaw drivers themselves are becoming a part of these companies. Like Auto Raja in Chennai and I happened to meet the Oxford educated founder, Aishwarya Raman, who I am pretty certain will make a huge success of this concept.
Even the more established call cab operators are getting into this segment. Ola has already made a great stride. Both in Bangalore and Chennai. I did not come across call rickshaws in Hyderabad.
Yes these cities have all the usual problems Indian cities face. Infrastructure not keeping pace with the requirement is a quintessential trait of this nation.
But I feel too much is made about the local vs immigrant debate. That these cities will become cosmopolitan is not even a question. They already are! Chennai probably is the only one which still demands you speak at least a splattering of the local language. But otherwise, without an exception, these are cities for the young from across the country who have come to far away lands to make a career and use skills & intellect imparted by the great Indian education system.
Only if we script this story better with the lessons from New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata – these cities and its people are mega assets for an India which dreams big.