Monday, June 29, 2009

City comparisons!

Quote from my Swedish colleague "Yesterday was the hottest day I have experienced in the all the time that I have lived in Sweden". The temperature was 25 degrees, but in the sun it was probably really hot. Even an Indian like me, who has seen the 45 degrees plus temperatures of Delhi and Nagpur was sweating. Sweating was an experience I had almost forgotten. No, I do not exaggerate, I do not think I have sweated for some time now. And somehow it was a good feeling. No, dont even try to compare it with Indian heat... it was NOT that hot. But it was not chilly like normal swedish summers. Yesterday was like a warm winter day in Bangalore. Umm... I am now comparing too many cities.

So this is the idea for the day... the best city to live in. Inspired by a friends blog, which in turn is inspired by a Business Today article heres my take on some cities I have lived in:

Delhi (my duration of stay: 1 year): The song sums it up pretty well "Yeh sheher nahi mehfil hai". People who live in Delhi are somehow very passionate about the city and about their love for it. Ok, so we all are in love with cities we grew up in. But sometimes the passion really seems misplaced. Delhi is the most unsafe city amongst all the cities I have lived in, and I have lived in quite a few shady places ;). The weather cannot get any worse, it has extreme winters AND extreme summers. So there is no time of the year when you can really enjoy the outdoors. The winter temperature can dip down to 3 degrees, and there is no central heating anywhere, which is not a pleasant thought. The summer temperatures can hover slightly below 50 degrees, its very easy to get a heat stroke and be hospitalized because you stayed in the sun for too long. The culture is as different as it can be. When I went there, my cousin told me to tuck my shirt in from one side and let it hang out from the other side. I thought he was kidding, till I saw everyone else doing it. The next week it was supposed to be tucked in at the middle. People in Delhi follow fashion like religion. They are brand concious to the point where it borders on insanity. They do not think modesty is a virtue and your status in society is judged more by the phone you carry, the watch you wear and the car you travel in than the work you do or the person you are. People socialize only at their own level, are not very friendly, and believe in minding their own business. I stayed one year in an apartment where none of the residents every approached me to talk or said a hi, and seemed very unapproachable when I tried talking to them. There are some very good memories I have of Delhi, of my first job there, of my chacha and chachi, my cousin, of Dev and Jassi... of whizzing around on my bike on DND flyway at 3am, the cool breeze on the Delhi-Jaipur highway on a bike trip in the evening, of the golgappas and the sweet shops, of haggling at Palika Bazaar and lunch at Connought Place. But I dont see myself settling there in the near future, I wish I could somehow recreate the same good memories in some other city :).

Kolkata (duration of stay: 2 years off and on): If cities could have antonyms, Kolkata would be the antonym for Delhi. Things are as different here as could be. A city that believes in friendship, you can talk for hours with any stranger, and you wouldnt feel wierd. In fact he/she would not even feel like a stranger. I have had experiences where I have asked a shopkeeper the way to some place, and he has left his shop in the care of his assistant and walked me to the place where I wanted to go as he found that easier to do than to explain. Not to mention he loved talking to me during the short walk. On the flip side, people just refuse to mind their own business. Which can be not such a pleasant thing if you are looking for privacy. They believe that all issues in your life, whether it is regarding your childrens education or your sex life, should be open for discussion by neighbours and the small shops that are around your neighbourhood. If you take up a flat and move in, you can be assured that you will be visited by most of your neighbours within an hour. Some will get you lunch, others will get you sweets, some will drop in to tell you the cheapest vegetable market around. There will always be one neighbour who will drop in to say how everyone else is bitchy. It is also a city where the higher class lead a very different life than the majority lower class. I have somehow found the lower class life more interesting and diverse, and have felt more at ease there (My delhi cousin will be ashamed of me :P). I have fallen in love with this city in a way I cannot explain, I have driven around on my bike around this city much more than any other, I have loved the rickshaws, the taxis, the taxiwallas and their interesting conversations. I have loved the Park Street egg rolls, the "Indian Chinese" at the Park Street retaurants, the Kolkata metro, and the hustle bustle of Esplanade, and the crowds of Gariahat. I have such fond memories of City Centre (I virtually lived in that place!!), whizzing around on my bike on the EM Bypass, and eating at "Dhaba" at Ballygunge Phadi. Someday I will love to go back there, unfortunatly it cannot be in the near future, I do no think at this stage of my career I will fit into the work culture of Kolkata in the profession I am in. But someday Kolkata will see more of me :).

Bangalore(duration of stay: 8 months off and on): They call it the Silicon Valley of India, I feel that nothing could be more removed from that picture. When I first came to this city, I could not make myself fall in love with it, but somehow this place grows on you. By the time I left this city, it had already become my number one destination of where I wanted to settle in the near future. Yes, in spite of the fact that I cant speak the local language. In spite of the fact that the traffic situation is probably the worst here. In spite of the fact that its not one of the most "happening" cities around. The weather is a big contributor. The weather fluctuates between 18 degrees and 30 degrees through the year. I havent seen such amazing weather anywhere. The culture of the city is amazing, very casual and very genuine. You are not judged by the clothes you wear, the car you drive or the phone you carry. So you have really rich industrialists roaming around in lungis and chappals. Its not the most fashion concious city. Even the youth is not fashion specific, you can walk into any Barista or Cafe Coffee Day, and you will not exactly be hit by the fashion ticker. It is common to find sleepy IT professionals in their night clothes in restaurants and cafes. If Bangalore had veins then the blood that would run through it would be called IT. The city is a true cosmopolitan place, you have people from all over India in this place, and it shows in any office, workplace or public gathering. A city modern in thought, low on hype and driven by performance. Yes, the traffic sucks, but they say it is getting better. A city metro is also on the roadmap. I have watched the maximum number of movies in this city, been caught in traffic jams, listening to Kannada radio half of the time I was here, had the maximum amount of quality restaurant food and enjoyed working the most here. Not to mention about more "personal" connections I have with this city. A place where I certainly look forward to settling down in the near future. In the long run... I do not know, the city is still young, we have to wait and watch and see what it grows into.

I have also lived in Jamshedpur (17 years), Nagpur/Ramtek (4 years), Manipal (2 years) and Stockholm (nearly 2 years), but more on that sometime later when I am in the mood. Which is the city I love most? The answer is simple, Jamshedpur and Manipal, deep inside I am a small town guy. Who knows, 20 years down the line, I will probably end up settling down in one of those :).

Disclaimer: All views expressed above are personal and not intended to offend or upset anybodys feelings towards their hometown. I am not an expert on any city, it is an amateurs look at a city where he has stayed only for a short time. I have always cribbed about this, that I do not have a city I can call my own. I do not have a city where I know all there is to know. Jamshedpur comes really close, but I have not lived there since a long time, and it has changed so much that it doesnt seem like the Jamshedpur I grew up in. I have been a wanderer and a vagabond, someday I wish to settle down and call a city my own. Hope it happens soon.

Quote of the day: Everyone who wanders is not lost :).

Pic reference:


  1. Nice post... your description of Kolkata reminded me of my one month stay there... I stayed in Salt lake and literally lived in city centre.

  2. You haven't seen my Blagoevgrad. You will be amazed, i am positive about that:))) And of course you should come one day!:))

  3. almost everyone near salt lake has made city centre their foster home at some point of time. a very different mall :)

  4. @Buls/Olive: City Centre is one of the best malls I have been to.. I like its horizontal span instead of vertical height..

    @Shura: You should start posting with your name :) Someday I will surely visit Blagoevgrad :)

  5. oye...u are making me sound like the devil...

  6. :P Sound like?? You ARE one!

  7. Dropped in to read the city post u mentioned and found quite a treat here!
    reading about two of my most fav cities, i have concluded this...Delhi does that to people, nobody seems to love it if they dont belong to it! the fashion, the culture, the flashiness is all there, but I guess, so are we, the quintessential breath of fresh air ;) u just need to look..
    as for Kolkata, its something else! people seem to love n belong to it as soon as they visit it..something to do with the old yet warm feeling I guess..
    btw, must visit Bangalore :)

  8. @Mrinalini: Thanks.
    My heart is in Kolkata, but my brain tells me to settle down in Bangalore. So I will probably live my work life in Bangalore and retire in Kolkata :) Gawd, I am getting old.. I have even started planning my retirement :P!