Raj is a Malayalee from Kerala who migrated to Bangalore with his wife and a kid when he got a job with an MNC in Bangalore. He looked for a nice apartment and moved in. After settling down he realized that apartment building consists of Tamils, Telugus, Malayalees, Marathis, and North Indians. The maids at his home are Tamilians.
He was happy that he was in a cosmopolitan environment surrounded by people from different regions. But he never bothered to notice that there were no Kannadigas in the entire building. At work, he made friends with many kinds of people. It included non-Indians, and Indians from various regions. There were few Kannadigas but they spoke English or Hindi and looked like any other Indian in their deportment and makeup.
The only Kannadigas who spoke Kannada were auto drivers, with whom he had bitter experiences in haggling fares. Other than that he did not know many Kannadigas who spoke Kannada. ‘Jaasti’ ‘Swalpa’ were good enough words to talk to an auto driver, and that’s all he knew about the region around Bangalore – those few words.
Once in a while he saw few auto drivers carrying the regional flags. He didn’t bother to understand what the flag meant, whether it was red on top or yellow on top. He didn’t bother to see the insignia on the flag either. As far as he is concerned, these flag-bearing auto drivers and low class workers were a major nuisance because they stopped traffic once in a while during their dharnas and bandhs.
He didn’t pay any attention to regional politics and skipped all the newspaper pages which covered regional issues, reading only about national and international issues. His lifestyle did not involve any Kannada festivals or events. He was in a cosmopolitan city but for some reason the element of Kannadiga was missing from it, and if it was there, he could afford to ignore it. He didn’t have to learn or know anything about local Kannadigas, their issues, their lifestyles or their politics. He didn’t have to interact with any local Kannadigas when he was going to the mall, or the movies, or the restaurants. For all practical purposes he never noticed them.
One time he wanted some plumbing job done at home. When the Kannadiga workers came to repair, they didn’t come on time, were lazy, and did a shoddy job. When he brought some Tamil workers, they came on time and did a good job. His opinion about Kannadigas further strengthened – they are all lazy, incompetent and shirkers of work, no wonder he didn’t see them contributing to the growth of Bangalore.
After few years of happy living in Bangalore during which he bought himself a nice house, one fine day he got stuck in the traffic because there was big dharna. Many local Kannadigas appeared out of nowhere and started making protests. He got to know that something was happening with alteration of state boundaries. Two districts in the North Karnataka are going to join Maharashtra. He had absolutely no idea why something like that was happening. He never bothered to understand the history of the region either.
Over the next few days, bandhs and agitations intensified. Suddenly his life was being affected by local Kannadigas who were in the background till yesterday. For all he knew, it was his city, his malls, his restaurants. So who are these people who appeared suddenly from nowhere? While he was working hard and sincere to make his and his family’s life better, these unemployed goons are unnecessarily spoiling the city atmosphere. Why are these people disturbing his otherwise peaceful and prosperous cosmopolitan life? Why are they disrupting everything that was dear to him with their agitations?
After few more bandhs, he gets fed up with these regional politics. He notices that there is a voice in the city which is seeking a referendum for the city of Bangalore to become a union territory out of Karnataka. The immigrants of Bangalore want to get out of this regional mess. They just want to go about doing their jobs and live their lives without getting affected by these regional thugs.
The message of these immigrant Bangaloreans is clear and Raj immediately identifies with it. The city of Bangalore was built by the immigrant population, the Tamils, the Malayalees, the Telugus, the Marathis and many North Indians. Otherwise Bangalore was a laid back city acting like a haven for retired and old age people. Only when the immigrants came in did the city become prosperous, became the Silicon Valley of India. Without immigrant population and their investments, this city would have never have become so developed.
Now, the immigrants ask why they should be part of petty regional politics. When they came to the city they saw the map of Karnataka that was united. Now that two districts in North are getting separated, now that the borders are being realigned, why can't they exercise their option to wean the city away from Karnataka and become a union territory, away from regional politics? Since none of the immigrants identify with the local goons/hooligans/rowdies anyway, why should they be forced to stay with these local Kannadigas?
They start seeking support of all the immigrants in the city who comprise a majority over the local population. Raj discovers that there is a conclave of Muslims on the other side of the city. During his entire stay in Bangalore he has never visited those parts of the city. He has never known about those people. Most of the immigrants avoided those parts of the city. He did not identify with them in religion or language. In fact, the immigrants derided upon the local Kannadigas because of the influence of these Muslims on their language.
While the rest of the city boomed and became developed, this conclave of Muslims was neglected completely. There were shacks and slums in that part of the city. Till yesterday, no immigrant really bothered to understand the plight of this section of the city. However, today these Muslims have become attractive to the cause of immigrants. They realize that Muslims of Bangalore city have had some bad history with local Kannadigas. Raj and his fellow immigrants now extend warm sympathies to get their support for seeking a union territory.
Soon these immigrants become a strong voice using the support of Muslims in the city, and force the government of India to hold a referendum in the Bangalore. The local Kannadigas hold major protests in the city against the referendum for Bangalore city. However, the government decides to go ahead with the referendum. The Army is called in and the city is cordoned off, and only the residents of Bangalore are allowed to vote in the referendum. Since immigrants are in the majority in the city they clearly win. The Union Territory of Bangalore is created in the middle of Kannada region without the consent of Kannadigas, completely against their wishes. The new Karnataka is forced to shift its capital city to Mysore. Bangalore’s Vidhan Soudha and other buildings become the administration houses for the new Union Territory of Bangalore where the immigrants are in majority.
Seeing this trend in Bangalore, the Bihari and Bangladeshi immigrants of Kolkata seek a referendum for their city. There too, the immigrants win over the locals, and the Union Territory of Kolkata is formed out of West Bengal. West Bengal shifts its capital city to Kharagpur.
Encouraged by these trends the immigrants of Mumbai make similar demands. However, the local Marathas gang up and start rioting against immigrant businesses. They start making threats to the immigrants to leave Mumbai. Many buses and trains coming from outside the state are stopped and non-Marathi passengers are not allowed to enter Mumbai. Top movie stars are harassed. Army is called in to stop the riots in the streets of Mumbai.
Chennai witnesses similar incidents. Massive protests are raised against all immigrants. Non-Tamils are kicked out of the city immediately.
Meanwhile the situation in the new Union Territory of Bangalore heats up. One day Raj wakes up to find that there is no water coming from his taps. He watches TV news and finds out that local Kannadigas who were upset that immigrant Bangaloreans have weaned away their city from their region have cut the water supplies. The next day, he wakes up to find there is no power. The power grid was sabotaged outside Bangalore and there is no electricity in the entire city. For next three days, the people of Bangalore live in darkness.
The locals also cut off vegetable supplies. The tomatoes now costs 200 per kg. The next week, Raj finds the sewer water coming out into his apartment basement. The sewers are overflowing and flooding the streets of Bangalore. The TV news shows how the locals have dammed the sewer that goes out of Bangalore city. The city has come to a grounding halt, completely crippled. Raj realizes for the first time how the arteries and veins of his city run through the region that surrounds them. Till yesterday, he thought he was cut off from the region surrounding the city.
After 4 weeks of such protests, a major MNC in Bangalore announces that it is closing its operations in India and leaving India for good. They get a report from their embassy that the turmoil is going to worsen in all Indian cities. Since most cities in India have more immigrants than the locals, they predict that most Indian cities will see targeting of the immigrants. Bangalore has a set a precedent where majority immigrants wean the city away from the region through referendums.
After that most other MNCs in India announce plans to close their operations in India. Foreign investors start pulling out their money en masse. Sensex tumbles drastically. It goes below 2000 recording the sharpest decline in the history of Indian stock market. After few months, the government of India records a negative GDP growth. Indian economy is spiraling into abyss and there is no stopping now.
Meanwhile, Raj has left Bangalore with his family and took up a job as teacher in Kerala. He comes across a book one day. It is by a guy named Agatsya Sen who has won a Nobel Prize in Economics. It is written on the topic of economics of cities and regions. The gist of that book is simple:
The cities are crown jewels of a region. The region sacrifices a lot to make their cities worthy of a cosmopolitan life, welcoming the immigrants. They give more resources, more power, more water to their cities so that they make it attractive for immigrants to come in, invest and live in their cities so that the immigrants, investors and the locals benefit from the prosperity the city brings. No matter how much the investors and immigrants contribute to the cities those cities are always part of the regions. The immigrants, no matter how large their population is, should not wean away the cities from regions by force. Cities do not live in isolation. They are attached to the region integrally.
A city can be made separate unit, like union territory, only when people of the region/s around it voluntarily agree to such creation. Throughout the world, the cities continue to be the prized possession of their regions. Barcelona is pride of Catalonia, San Francisco is pride of California, and Kolkata is pride of West Bengal.
Raj realizes how foolish he was to believe that Bangalore could be forcibly taken away from the region without the support of people of that region. He realizes his fallacy of forcibly weaning out cities from the regions based on ridiculous assumptions that only immigrants develop the cities and that the locals have no part or role in the building of the city. Elitism is not a good enough reason to separate cities from their regions, he concludes. Cities are integral part of the regions and the city dwellers should not believe they live in isolation from regional politics that surround it.
He reads the book that night and goes to sleep knowing how myopia and elitist greed can sometimes bring about such dismal changes in the history of mankind.