Monday, April 03, 2006

Alone in Bangalore

Yesterday I went through two bad experiences in Bangalore.

1. It was Sunday afternoon, and I was standing in line at Barista on MG Road to order some coffee. It was pretty crowded. The line was long and when it came to my turn to order, I noticed that a young lady came to next window – from where people get their items - and started to put an order. I brought this to the notice of the guy who was taking care of me and asked him to make sure she stands in line like others. She was quite annoyed and protested to the Barista guy that she was a regular customer and if he didn’t take the order, she would not come back again. I told him quite emphatically that if he DID take order from the other window I would like to CANCEL my order. This made the girl and her friends quite furious at me for denying them their self-assumed ‘privilege’.

2. Later the same day, we went to see the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ by Wachowski Brothers. The movie theater was Symphony on MG Road. I am not sure why no one else notices this or if they do notice why they tolerate it, but the whole picture on the screen is quite dull and dark. The darkness is prominent on all the four sides of the rectangle. Either the projector is bad, or the bulb which gives out the light is old, or there is lot of dust and smoke covering the lens. Whatever it is, the movie experience is quite pathetic. I had two choices, endure the pain this theater is causing me or walk out. I was with two other friends, and I debated in my mind for a while, and within five minutes I walked out of the movie.

Such experiences are quite common here in Bangalore. Not that the other parts of the world are problem-free. They are just different kind of problems there. Even when I was living in other parts of the world, I refused to be treated badly. When entering Germany (in 1997) while working in USA, the customs guy started asking too many questions, to the point of annoying me or insulting me. I got tired of answering and I told him point blank – “I am here because your company in Germany wants me here. If you have a problem with me entering, please sign a letter that you have denied admission, and I am ready to go back”. He let me in without another word.

Once, few German police officers (three of them) came up to me, while I was waiting for the subway (S-Bahn), and asked me to show them my passport. I was on a long stay in that country and I wasn’t carrying mine that day. I told them the same, and then suddenly I put a question to them – “Why are you asking only me? There are so many others on the platform? Why am I singled out? Is it because I am BROWN?” That completely shook them off. These cops who were earlier speaking to me in English suddenly started blabbering in German and left. When in Germany, I fought with Germans; when in France, I fought with French. When in India, I don’t mind fighting Indians, to make sure they do not trample me or my rights. 

But this constant fighting takes a toll on me. Its exhausting. I fight with bank tellers, with auto-rickshaw drivers, with traffic police, and even with educated and rich Bangaloreans. For some reason, I don’t seem to conform to the ‘system’.

I was at movies once, and was waiting in a long line at popcorn counter during intermission. I waited for quite long- the movie had already started. Then came my turn- and there was not much popcorn left with the seller. Suddenly out of nowhere, a lady, who looked quite educated - she could easily be a manager at a software company in Bangalore
- budged in, gave the seller a currency note, and grabbed the last container of popcorn. ‘Hey, I am in line’- I told her. She retorted, quite nonchalantly- ‘So was I’. And then she left. I got no popcorn.

What does one do? Somehow everyone else seems to be quite fine with this. Trampling on others to get your things seem to be in fashion – it’s like some distorted version of ‘survival of the fittest’ in place. Bribing to get things done, cutting the line to get ahead, stopping the whole traffic because your wife wanted to buy milk from the kirana store, etc - all seem to be justified in some weird Indian interpretation of ‘survival instincts’ which is considered a value and a great strength. 

I get frustrated and sometimes quite furious. Is it just me? ‘Chalta Hai!’, ‘Adjust Maadi!’, ‘Koncham Sarduko!’ I am told. I don’t want to ‘adjust’. I don’t want to accept things when they are bad. If I can’t change them, at least I don’t want to accept the treatment meted out to me. Was I the only guy who felt that that quality of the movie at Symphony was really bad? A friend tells me that it’s nostalgic to watch the movie at Symphony. Can we accept poor quality and bad treatment under the name of nostalgia? 

I stopped going to Koshy’s (on St. Mark’s Road) because the waiters there are extremely arrogant and rude. Most of the Bangaloreans seem to accept the treatment under the garb of ‘nostalgia’. May be, under the name of nostalgia, one should bring back sati (suttee) and untouchability, get back bad hygiene and poor products and get back the British rule along with the Maharajas.


  1. nice post. very true. the "chalta hai" attitude has been ingrained in us and is a way of our lives now. the problem is we have set the bar so low that we accept anything and everything. its "chalta hai" when people misbehave, jump the queue. when the quality of service provided is so low that we dont complain. when the all the shops close down at 10:30 pm we accept it. when aishwarya rai's "no comment" makes a headline in the newspapsers we accept that too.

    its allmost become an identifying quality of ours. we can accept anything.

  2. Really liked the 'Alone in Bangalore' article. Believe me, you are not alone!

    In fact, would like to connect 'Rang De Basanti' with 'Alone in Bangalore'. The best scene in that movie in terms of acting talent was that of Aamir Khan feeling utterly helpless and useless...and it seems that scene was so successful because he emoted the helplessness of the average Indian against all the ills of the system.

    Ramya TV

  3. Good one! While some of your experiences seem extreme, "chalta hai" and not caring about others is common in India. I related to the 'alone' part too.

  4. I totally agree with all that you've said. I too feel like I'm the only one fighting with everyone all the time.
    But now, after developing high BP, I'm finally fed up of all that and have decided to keep cool and not bother about all the stupid people around.

    Nothing and no one can change them, so no point in me alone fighting and spoiling my health!

    I see no hope for Bangalore or India. Unless people change their attitude, nothing can be done.

  5. Great post.
    I am not a Banglorean. I am a desi (Hyderabadi)living in USA. I feel like the "Chaltha Hai" attitude is what made me go easy on things that happen to me here at USA.

    At many times the waiters here understand what I order for, but some of them just close there ears even before I talk, thinking that all that I would utter would be gibberish to them, since I am BROWN. It could be just "Water with no Ice" but they still pretend not to understand.

    May be its my English or may be its the feeling that they have about Desi's in India.

    Sometimes I feel I should revolt back but immediately the "Chalta Hai" idea pops into my head and I forget about it.

  6. Jyothi-
    I lived in US for about ten years and now I am back. There are good things about that country and there are bad things about that country. While I was there I almost became a part of that society but there was a vaccum- couldn't describe it. There was one sentence that would ring in me- which kept my hopes up- someone said - "It may be raining spears and daggers at home, and pearls and diamonds in the foreign land, its still better to be home".

    Right now, I am back home, and no matter what they say- I do my best not to say- "Chalta Hain!". I keep my fight up- for what use? I don't know. That fight in some way culminated in starting a telecom company here in Bangalore.

    I guess it works different for different people. My wife is ready to say "Chalta Hain!" almost all the time and she is happy. It works for her! :)

    I am not sure it works for me- because it causes lot of agitation in me.

  7. You should have gone to Theater manager and complained about the poor ligthing in the corners rather than walking out and bragging about that

  8. Jai:
    Usually I do not get irritated by all inane and stupid comments that I get. But this one of yours is really annoying.

    Actually, I did go talk to the theatre manager at a different hall- to which he responded- "Nobody else seems to have the problem. Why are you alone complaining?"

    Anyway, you are missing the point. Some get it some don't.

  9. Too good sir. I do face this in Pune as well. A true blog. Thankyou for posting such a blog to improve the moral of atleast a few individuals who can raise voice eventually....hopefully.

  10. Good one.....
    I had a similar situation at hyderabad airport...

  11. Here are some stories that make my day -

    After reading your stories that made me sad I went and read some of these other stories.

    I thought of these really inspiring stories - one of them is here -

    In fourth grade we were supposed to bring in a dime for a folder to use in class. My parents were divorced and money was in short supply. Watching my mom fend off creditors, I did not have the nerve to ask her for a dime. When I got to school, I really wish I had asked my mother for the dime because everybody else in class had the dime ready on their desk for the teacher. I was embarrassed and felt silly.

    Somehow, A girl named Karen, sitting next to me, saw my personal suffering and waited until the last second to put a dime on the corner of my desk. Even though I never said a word, she saw my quiet anguish and only wanted to relieve it. She said nothing and I was too embarrassed to say thank you. It was the most genuine, authentic act of kindness I've ever experienced.

  12. Confronting Road Rage With Compassion - Here is one more story -

    How to handle these situations in a "different" way -

    Confronting Road Rage With Compassion--

    I was on my way to the gym this morning and making the right turn from 21st onto Broadway when a car ran up onto me from behind, and started flashing his lights in my rear-view mirror.

    He then swings around in front of me and jams on his brakes. I go around him and he gives me the finger and mouths a couple of bad words through the window. I blow him a kiss. He gives me the finger again with even more ferocity and some more dirty mouth-mime.

    We get stopped at the next light, side by side and he rolls down his window. I roll down mine. He is a well-groomed, professional looking guy in his 40s. Could have been a lawyer or a doctor or a dad or a teacher. He was driving a newish, nice looking mid-size SUV. "F*&% you," he says, "You think that you can just pull out into traffic with that Volvo like an a**hole."

    Those words didn't make a lot of sense to me, but he probably didn't anticipate having to face me at the stoplight and couldn't think of anything else to say.

    I hadn't done anything wrong, and I knew it. He knew it too."You should write a driving manual," I say. "A**hole," he repeats. I say, "You know, life will go a lot more smoothly for you if you treat other people with love and kindness instead of anger and hate."

    Without skipping a beat, but with a noticeable change in tone, he says, "You're right. You really are. I apologize. I'm sorry."

    With that the windows go up, the light turns green, and we pull away.

    My blood was pumping from the encounter. I was jolted by the encounter, but couldn't tell if it was the fact that someone would treat me so badly for absolutely no reason or if it was my complete surprised when my words had such a direct and powerful effect on him. Those words just came out of me, naturally, and without thought or planning or with the goal of teaching this guy the error of his ways. Those words just came out.

    Later on, after my workout, I wondered who had taught who a lesson there at that stoplight. Had I taught him in that tiny instant that love and kindness were more powerful than hate and anger? Or had he taught me that lesson? The answer, of course is that we taught each other that lesson.

    So it is true, just like they say in the books and tapes: treat the good person with kindness and the bad person with kindness, because your essential nature IS kindness.

    You are the other person. You are consciousness.

  13. Good post Sujai. Well said Darpan

  14. May be its just that there is good and bad everywhere in the world - Just the degrees differ..!! I'm sitting here on the other side of the globe - People protest if something is wrong. They don fear to sue the person. Its just that we as Indians don use it - We don protest. I would blame you that you don protest and you would blame another person and he would blame someone else. Its just the blame game that keeps going along among Indians. No one things - Fine I'll change something. Nothing begins with an entire group starting to fight against something wrong - It always starts with 1 person...!! That's what we sometimes fail to understand..!!

  15. Moreover - you just say that things are wrong and you were angry everytime. Things are wrong everywhere.. Did you thank the popcorn lady/guy that you didnt get your popcorn - or thank the group because they pushed that store guy to take their order first. Nothing can be more stronger than embarassing such people sarcastically. They'll bow down to it. If you can give strong and bad mouth - they too can and at the end you both are standing on the same pedestal and none is helped from it - nor shall the world take anything from it..!!

  16. Hi,

    wot u've written is true.diz happens to every bangalorens. i was in bangalore for the last 4 years . now i'm leaving bangalore(job change).i dint gain anything from banaglore. and i hate the arrogant attitude of bangalore girls. bangalore is a feminine city. here girls are more in number than street dogs. nd i hate their arrogant deneanour.for guys, there is chennai, cochin or mumbai.

  17. All I want to say is both of us are not alone! I am sorry I am commenting pretty late on this, but only recently did I come to know of your blog. I am just loving every bit of it.

  18. i agree with u sujai.

    U put the comment with a good intention to show something which is wrong. And the personal things which u expalined was just to explain more of what u think.

    But u know there are always people available on huge amount in this world who like to pull the leg. "THE Mr. Sanjay" was one of them.

    This blog incident show the reason why India is still not developed , even after having lots of money and education. Whenever some guy comes up with a good intention to change the things for making it good and better, these so called "THE Mr.Sanjay" kind of guy stop him.

    That is the BLOODY problem which we are not able to solve.

  19. good one but ''chalta hai''

  20. Lately seen, but a good one.


    Once I was in Narita(Near Tokyo) Intl airport, and the boarding gate is almost about to close, but forgot to exchange the yen to dollar. Quickly approached a nearby counter, but there was a queue, the teller was straight away rejected my request to treat me as an I had 2 options...boad the flight OR or join the line (and take the risk of missing the flight)...finally had to exchanged the currency in India at a compromised rate.

  21. Sujai, you should have just grabbed the womans popcorn and thrown it on the floor. If you cant get justice, get even

  22. Random Bangalorian

    Hey. You should check out this organization called Janaagraha - it addresses exactly the sort of issues you are dealing with. Your uncompromising attitude and need to believe in what is right regardless of where you are will help you find a sense of community in this organization.

    Really - if you are interested in seeing change, you should check it out.

  23. very nice post dude. I am bangalored from past 5 years and i strongly admit to your intention on our fellow fellas. I am one of the tempo loosa guy with something that doesn't work the rightway, i am afraid i might stop being myself day by day. We are required all the way, all the time, for all Bangaloreans -'THIS WAY, the RIGHT WAY' !!!!

    Cheers man! keep going

  24. Very well written post, Sujai.
    I also fully understand your anger against that 'Sanjay'. People like Sanjay suffer from some sort of inferiority complex. There only intention is to grab some attention by showing off some silly loophole in someone's logic. They deserve the treatment you have given him.

  25. -Pathetic-
    You're pathetic ---- who cares man. Get over it.
    Seems as you think you are the only one getting questions on airports? Or have to show your passport to some officers while you don't have it just because you look different?
    You may treat foreigners in your country according to your customs and they perceive it as insult --- think about.
    What 'System' should people adhere to? The one you approve?
    In India it's not customer to line-up, so in China. In Japan you get in trouble if you don't - maybe even admission denied. Both is a system - and locals are used to it.

    If you travel - accept these things - otherwise stay home!

    I'm proud to be able to visit >15 countries each year and experience these differences --- it's a privilege, not a curse!

  26. This is excellent Sujai. I nearly came to blows with someone in a SBM branch off MG Road on a visit to India -- Bangalore is my hometown and it makes me mad when I tell people to stand in the line and they retort "where are you from", implying that because I live outside India, my protests are invalid!

  27. Sujai, Really glad to read your blog and this post. Like someone said here you are not alone.

    I live in Bangalore and have grown up here and lived overseas for about 10 years. Much like you I don't take crap and expect civil behavior like standing in the Q. I have told many people off and most of them back away. Including the one's peeing on the wall or littering the place.

    I recently had an experience while entering the lift in Garuda mall with my family. There were 3 girls trying to squeeze in ahead of us and I just put my hand across blocked their access and let my wife and kids go through first. Of course they were pissed off and were muttering something in a regional language I could not understand, except the word " attitude" which obviously meant I had attitude. I told those arrogant girls off again while in the lift in plain english and said that they need to learn some manners.

    So I can relate with what you say. Keep fighting bro, India needs smart passionate people like you. And as for the idiots who comment here, fight them too.


  28. Sujai, I think the anon who commented saying he visits 15 countries each year must be airline crew. Or he is full of shit. Typical jingoistic Indian. Ajit

  29. I have never been in Bangalore.But I have been some similar experiences in many places around the world, I think that it can be a excellent experience to many people who have a worried life.

  30. Good stuff! I become your fan I will try this and share your post with my friends too. Thanks for sharing the great Article.


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