S.R. RAMAKRISHNA writes from Bangalore: Fashion designers and DJs are hardly the sorts you would expect to see at a protest, but they came out on M.G. Road on Sunday to do what the affluent think only the riff raff do: shout slogans and create a hullabaloo.
The event provided us in the media excellent photo ops. It isn’t often that you get to see a street demonstration where well-scrubbed, stylishly dressed people strum guitars and sing songs.
It was, all in all, good fun for everyone.
We all know what brought the glamour gurus out on to the streets: the night curfew that the police have clamped on restaurants and drinking joints, and an order against live music and dancing.
In the 1990s, when the software crowd started streaming into Bangalore, a frequent crib in newspaper columns was that this City did not have an exciting enough nightlife. Bangalore is often considered—and I believe it is—the most Westernised of India’s cities. And this complaint sounded strange to many ears, including mine.
For those not complaining, it meant many new citizens had the inclination, and more importantly, the money, to drink and party every day, and could get quite vocal if they couldn’t. There was no police curfew then, so the new settlers blamed Bangalore’s “small town mindset”, and believed it had yet to grow up to the psychedelic pleasures of the big city.
The crib mostly left the older residents of Bangalore cynical, if not angry.
Their reading was that the brash new lot had no clue about the cultural life that had sustained old Bangalore—its lectures, concerts, literary symposiums, art and music classes…. The new Bangalore knew nothing about Ravindra Kalakshetra, Sri Rama Seva Mandali or the Indian Institute of World Culture.
When Tamil Nadu had banned racing and drinking during MGR‘s time, hundreds of middle-class Madras citizens regularly took the Brindavan Express to Bangalore and spent their weekends at the turf club and this city’s watering holes.
They will probably find it unbelievable that Bangalore is shutting its pubs and restaurants at 11.30 pm. And they’d be even more astonished to know who’s forcing the city to go home half an hour before Cinderella’s deadline.
It’s not the moral police, but policemen in uniform, armed with the law.
The police have their arguments: Crime soars if drinking and dancing is allowed beyond the deadline. Brawls break out, and drunk drivers crash. Live bands encourage immorality. Young people ruin themselves at rave parties. And so on and so forth.
Without getting into an argument about whether the City will sink into depravity if it is open beyond 11.30 pm, I am convinced we still have an irrefutable case to keep restaurants open late.
Thousands in this City work through the night, and need to feed themselves at odd hours. Not everyone has the luxury of a canteen. To deprive them of food is not just unfair, it is cruel. Software engineers, BPO employees, cab drivers, journalists, why, even policemen, burn themselves out working odd hours.
They aren’t spoilt brats itching for a fight.
They aren’t dying to get drunk.
For every Nikhil Gowda who goes out and smashes an Empire Hotel, there are thousands who just want to eat a hot meal and go home. Think of them, Mr Police Commissioner, even if you are unmoved by the DJs’ demand for a nightlife.
S.R. Ramakrishna is resident editor Mid-Day, Bangalore
Photograph: Jnanapith award winner Girish Karnad, Rubi Chakravarthy and designer Prasad Bidapa join artists and DJs for a dharna at Gandhi statue in Bangalore on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)