‘A city whose soul has been clinically removed’

NEW YORK CITY: Heaven knows that Bangalore has problems spilling out of its back pockets. But when the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) showcases a book titled ‘101 places not to visit‘ by Adam Russ, with Bangalore securing the pride of place in the India section, it’s time to sit up and cry.

The introduction to Bangalore reads:

“In the heart of a country of incredible sensory richness lies a town with all the life-loving vibrancy of a chicken battery farm”

And through nine short paragraphs, the 192-page “essential guide to the world’s most miserable, ugly, boring and inbred destinations” (published by Robson Books) tears into Bangalore’s food, bars, museums, and everybody’s favourite whipping boy, infrastructure.

Admittedly, its flippant tone—“tongue-in-cheek, laugh-out-loud humour (that) outlines all the not so attractive elements”—will not meet everyone’s OK, but Russ does really shows how the light has gone out in Silicon Halli. And how little we have tried to preserve our own.

HISTORY: Nicknamed the “town of boiled beans” after the staple diet of most of the town’s population until about ten years ago, Bangalore is the capital of the state of Karnataka state and has been a vital fortress town and administrative centre since the 16th century.

The Indian government’s awarding of numerous defences and telecommunications contracts to companies in the region led to a period of remarkable growth in the 1960s, until problems with the infrastructure became apparent, namely the fact that there was a limit to the number of plug adapters you culd run off a single socket.

CULTURE: As cultures go, India is as rich and diverse as they come. Tour the country and whereever you go you will be greeted by majestic vistas, earthly smells and people as rich in diversity as they are in debt to the World Bank.

Except, that is, in Bangalore, a city whose soul has been clinically removed in the name of corporate efficiency. The arrival of the major banks, telecom companies, and the other super-villains in the city drawn by the lure of first-rate graduates happy to sit for long hours in cubicles and be abused by Western consumers—has altered the city and its people irreparably.

Everything about the host culture has been watered down, westernised, or otherwise screwed up. Family life in India is dominated by conversation in India, and families do a lot of talking in Bangalore—just not to each other. This is because families don’t just get to see each other. They’re too busy explaining to you why the ATM just ate your card. To maintain family life in Bangalore, parents have to work split shifts on different time cycles. This means that someone is always home to make sure the kids get their introduction to telephone customer service homework in on time,

ATTRACTIONS: Unless you are planning a guide to the world’s largest call centres or have a fascination with theme bars so fake there are indigenous tribes in the Amazonian rainforests that wouldn’t be taken in by them, Bangalore is a city to be avoided at all costs.

The government museum is on Kasturba Gandhi road and is worthing spending a rupee on if you’re a museum curator and want to feel good about the way you display your exhibits back home.

EATING AND DRINKING: The clash of cultures has resulted in some interesting recipes appearing on Bangalore’s menus. Many of these “fusion” dishes work surprisingly well. Most, however, do not. In particular, the Dixie Fried Reclaimed Meat Thali with Kannada Chicken Bone Fries should be avoided by humands—or any other animals with fewer than six stomachs.

EAST BECOMES WEST: The arrival of American frims in Bangalore in the 1980s has had an undeniable impact on local culture, with vegetarian restaurants gradually being replaced by Pizza Hut and Baskin-Robbins. And the city authorities’ decision to host the Miss World contest in 1996 showed that they were out of touch not only with the rest of India, but probably with the rest of the world as well.

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Boredom rating: 5 stars
Likelihood of fatal visit: 2 stars
Essential packing: Tele-salesworker union card
Most likely cause of death: Falling telegraph pole

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Also read: Who killed Bangalore?