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Archive for December, 2011

Life in Bangalore

Posted by joyboseroy on December 8, 2011

I moved to Bangalore one month ago to start a new life with a new job. The place certainly has a certain allure and reputation, with nicknames like garden city, silicon valley of India etc. I wanted to experience this. But the truth is a little less pleasant. Lets summarise some of the problems I could see, in my mindset as an IT worker moving to bangalore (and india) after having worked and lived in the west for 9 years and being familiar with Western work culture.

Bad infrastructure: perhaps this has more to do with the history of bangalore. It used to be a sleepy regional city, a younger cousin of Mysore which was a much more prominent city since the days of the british, when it was mainly a cantonment city. Then after independence the government moved scientific and defence institutions here, more recently the IT companies followed, both foreign and Indian, mainly for outsourcing IT work to the cheap local labour (with mixed results I guess). So this place never had a chance to take a breath, to grow up like any other normal city. Thats why you have the frequent traffic jams at 8 in the morning and 5 in the evening, thats why it takes 2 hours to travel 10 km, thats why there are so many one way streets, thats why there is still no proper metro for whole of bangalore, namma metro only covers a small area and are still waiting for permits from other government departments to expand. Roads are broken at places, even main roads and ring roads. Another strange thing is the amazing number of dogs: I dont mind the street ones because they dont bother you except once in a while barking in unison all of a sudden, its the domesticated ones which are sometimes ferocious and attack you when you are just passing by some small roads.

People: As for people, I get the feeling this is a place permanantly in transition, its a transit point for careers and lives of so many people, everyone is here looking for a better job a higher salary or waiting to go abroad, nobody wants to stay here for the rest of their life with the job they have, thats my experience. Everyone is alone in this sense. Its a little bit depressing. Thats probably why some say it has got no character of its own, unlike other Indian cities with a bit more history such as Pune or Kolkata or even Mysore.

IT Campuses: Working in Bangalore feels like having come back to school. IT companies typically arrange fleets of buses to ply employees to and from the company premises to different areas of Bangalore. Many of them also arrange mid day lunches and breakfasts and dinners if you come to work early enough and stay long enough. While this are all quite generous gestures, it does feel a little bit infantalising the workers: surely with the salaries they earn they should be able to buy or procure their own lunches and transport? However looking at the traffic situation the school buses do seem a blessing. The other thing that struck me was the ubiquitous dog tag: everyone wears or carries one. The software tech parks feel like little colonies of opulence among a grinding mass of poverty, to which only the priviledged few have access, for the rest it is sometimes even forbidden to take pictures of their interesting architecture. And yes, everything seems BIG here, these IT companies seem to have on average THOUSANDS of workers rather than the 10s I am more used to.

Evil Autorickshaw drivers: The trickle down theory of money applies to them more than anyone else. Their reasoning goes: if you dont know Kannada you must be an outsider immigrant who is earning loads of money and so you must pay double or treble the prevailing fare and share some of this ill gotten money with us. They seem to impose this through means of intimidation, as a google search of “auto complaints bangalore” will reveal. Fair enough I guess, it is true we earn much more than them and even 100 rupees more doesnt seem like much, but its the thought of being fleeced every single time by these people that causes pain. Guess I (and most of my colleagues in the industry) wouldnt mind if the price is jacked up and everyone gets charged only the correct (higher) fare, but its the lawlessness and unfairness that riles people. even the police seem to turn a blind eye, giving out two complaints numbers which arent picked up and nobody really uses. As always its the old and weak and vulnerable people who suffer the most from this, young software engineers usually manage to avoid them somehow but the older relatives and residents and women usually cant.

Attitude of the police: I had two encounters with the police in Bangalore so far. One was when I accidently lost a mobile in an auto and went to the police station to lodge a lost property report (needed to show to the mobile company to get a new sim), their attitude is “huh, software engineer? has too much money!! no worry about money!”. The other one was when i was eating in a roadside stall and the guy next to me was apparantly a plain clothes policeman: he started chatting to me, and on learning I was from North India originally said “this Bangalore is a truly excellent international city, here even single young girls can walk alone in the streets at 12 midnight without fear of molestation (which is true of course compared to places like Delhi), if someone tries to steal the rest of the people will literally beat him up, so enjoy, live freely and earn money here, just one thing, dont be like lalu prasad and dont cause trouble (I think he meant dont fight for political rights) or you too wont be spared”.

Work culture difference: Perhaps i need to work longer here, and broad generalisations are usually incorrect, but as someone who has no previous work experience in India (although I have been to university here) and whose only work experience has been abroad, the differences are quite apparant, it may be shocking to some. For starters, work is same everywhere i find indian work culture a little more challenging, you can never take anything for granted, you have to chase up on everything else it wont be done. There is a little lack of creativity in some people on average, people are over eager to please their managers and get good appraisals, on the other hand I saw people work harder here and a lot of people are much more ambitious and technical minded, they really want to learn and progress to a promotion or a better company and earn more and maybe migrate. In this sense some people dont seem to love their jobs (they are doing it for the money or the promotion), but a few exceptions do find passion in their jobs. There is also a culture of groupism (which manifests sometimes in office politics) which I really hate, Bengalis mix with Bengalis and so on.

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