Early last century and even after Independence the Garden City was the cynosure of all who came. Even up to late 1970s. I still remember vividly taking the Singapore planners around and see the way they admired and hoped to make their then crowded city into a Bangalore.
They created a Singapore into a business and visitors’ paradise. And we plunged literally down the drain. But to be honest the challenges were very different. Singapore is a small city State nation. Bangalore is the envied centre of a huge populated country. At 3000ft plus amongst valleys and mountains it sits in dream space between two oceans.
Unfortunately we built the Vidhana Soudha and moved the capital from Mysore to Bangalore and all hell broke loose. The retired elderly city with only the armed forces and the public sector such as HAL HMT and BEML suddenly became the place to come and start businesses and industries. A very welcome scenario, but the pressure of urbanisation had to be answered. The green belt dissolved. The lakes became townships. And people from all over came pouring in. The city was in a hurry to become a metropolis.
In the early ’70s, I had my practice in Madras and always visited my family in Bangalore and ran back as fast as I could from this lazy boozing place.
In 1980 when I returned back from an overseas commission, my wife and I decided to settle in the quiet Ideal Homes satellite Township (RR Nagar) and make peace with our lives. But the city gobbled up and thrust our profession to the heights. Name the industry or business everyone wanted many steps here. The Grid Line Cantonment fused with the Royal Ring roads of South Bangalore and the organic Chickpet the traditional business centre and it fused to become a no one everywhere anywhere. Arteries and veins of communication had no meaning any more. The organic growth became a chaos.
Fundamentally there are two extreme scenarios, and a lot in-between. I shall only for this space deal with the extremes. Taking the negative first, it is scaring.
Can the infrastructure collapse? But somehow we are carrying on. Time is of no essence, getting the work done is contradiction? Now from being a scene of elderly it is the space of the youth. Youth in a hurry. From an eight-hour city it is 24/7. The basic essentials of life – water, power and food somehow reaches.
What could happen as the worst scenario? Life comes to a freeze as transport collapses. Power and water run out. People will starve, get sick, poor will be hurt and the marauding goondas will take on big crimes. Fear will rule, but will people runaway? Where will they go? I have travelled many cities and towns; still Bangalore is the place to settle. Language is no barrier. Can this go on? People are scared. Yet they do not migrate away. Transport and physical communication are a nightmare.
Let us leave this negative scenario and shift to the positive dreams. And more I interact with the youth something magnetic happens. There is vibrancy that evokes one not just to ponder but a smile of awareness rises. And a transformation becomes evident. In a decade or two the challenge of change will overcome and not just solutions but in depth answers will prevail. A new awakening has already happened.
May be late, but the metro is in. The ring road is on, and there seems no limits to the discovery of innovative water resources, Power through various alternatives are not just on the shelf but with effort available.
Art and Culture thrive not just in small areas, but in every new community centre. The Mega Bengaluru is not a stratified whole. But many parts are and shall integrate to make this a liveable city. The entertainment and civic centres have focused and bring people together generating a positive energy. Energy drives the day to day scenario to new heights.
I strongly believe we are passing through a phase of struggle and identity. And shall rise out of it with confidence and make this Ecumonopolis, a living space in time which will enhance the quality of life to every citizen with a dream to accomplish and charter new territories. Namma Bengaluru Vision for the future is to be there up front running a unique race of its own. Even as I write this article there is an in depth discussion going on around me about creating neighbourhood hubs and infusing a new sense of energy with the elements for bettering human life. From the green oasis to the disorderly chaos of the present to a sustainable energy filled future that is the Bangalore that each one of us shall inhabit and live to enjoy.
(The writer is an architect)