Take Me Down to the Dynamic City


Take Me Down to the Dynamic City

Illustration: Mandar Mhaskar

Pop quiz: Name the most dynamic city in the world. If you picked Bangalore, then thanks for letting us know you’re a software engineer. You’d also be 100 per cent correct, according to a City Momentum Index prepared by an international firm. The index is meant to identify and highlight those cities that are best equipped to compete and adapt to a changing global economic climate. As those parameters are quite vague for a layman to grasp, let me break it down. A dynamic city must be rife with tension, riddled with divisive forces, and intolerant of outsiders and on these very clear grounds, Bangalore clearly wins.

Allow me to clarify.

The Garden City once projected an image of being a haven for rock ’n’ roll and relaxed start-ups without a single “jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai” floating around in the cool air. Today, however, it’s a different story. The wind of change is sweeping through the capital of Karnataka. It’s as if Bangalore, taking notes from the rest of the nation, is reeling from a major case of FOMO and is now running to catch up. Today, there is a simmering unease about “outsiders” and a fast-eroding reputation as a safe, progressive metropolis which is in direct contrast to it’s slow-moving traffic. The sudden change has been, in a word, dynamic.

Early in 2016, a Tanzanian student and her friends were mobbed by a crowd of angry Bangalore residents. The violence reached a point where the crowd even stripped the 21-year-old student of her top. This was quickly followed up by another mob that gathered to beat up an Army officer with a North Indian background in a case of road rage taken too far. Both mobs with prejudices – both biased by race. For a city that once built its reputation on innovation and ideas by outsiders, outsider hatred is the new dynamic that’s ushering in change.

Women have experienced the city’s famed dynamism first-hand in recent years, as they tried to navigate the way to their homes while running a gauntlet of catcallers, stalkers, and other horrors. This New Year, news of a mass molestation and footage of two bikers physically harassing a lone woman on the street went viral. Presumably, revellers who hadn’t had a chance to take a holiday to ring in the New Year, were offered an authentic experience straight from the badlands of North India by the city’s drunks.

The country has been left with no choice but to accept your ranking as the most dynamic city in world. Even though I personally think most people may be confusing dynamic for dynamite.

This new-found dynamism saw politicos taking up the fight against molestation with alacrity. Karnataka Home Minister G Parameswara and Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi, in their astute judgment, put the blame at the feet of India’s most ghastly serial offenders – western culture and single women daring to walk outdoors at night. It’s like these men heard the call for change and progress and made it their personal responsibility to respond to it. If that’s not dynamism, I don’t know what is.

This year, there was also a change to Bangalore’s tired old reputation of being one of the best cities in the country for live music. I mean, who wants international acts touring the city or hosting some of the biggest names in global music? In 2017, we decided to buck the trend and in a dynamic turn of events, the concert was called off due to “security concerns”, i.e. “don’t show up, you might get mugged, molested, or trampled.” The city stayed home and David Guetta flew in to the more welcoming arms of Mumbai that may have its own problems, but the guarantee of mugging, molestation, and tramping at a public event, is a rare one.

Oh Bangalore, how far you’ve come! From a city the traffic policemen of which once channelled Michael Jackson with white gloves and brimmed hats, to a city whose residents are actively involved in fist fights over lane cutting, road crossings, and parking spaces, you have indeed changed your character. But fear not, for change is the essence of all things dynamic.

The country has been left with no choice but to accept your ranking as the most dynamic city in world. And even though I personally think most people may be confusing dynamic for dynamite (dangerous, explosive, and potentially destructive) feel free to ignore me. The important thing is that you’ve won. Time for a party, and remember, there ain’t no party like a lynching party.