March 30, 2014

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More-ons 2.0



"More is a home that is ready to live in. More is not having to pay rent. More is a stop to landlord problems. More is the stability that comes with your own property. More is not waiting for years. More is knowing that anything you need is minutes away. More is a dip in a 9000 sqft. swimming pool. More is luxurious lakefront living. More is the ability to own a home at the age of 25. More is a terraced residence on Bangalore's only hill. You deserve more."

So convincing, I almost wired the money immediately to said housing agency. Because, lets face it, if you are on the wrong side of 25 and not living on a hill, within walking distance of your office, with a solid view of some receding lake, a swimming pool designed by Olympic hall-of-famers, an air-conditioned fitness centre with internet access on the treadmills, Azhagiri International school on your right and Dayanidhi Vineyards on your left, you have not made it; you are just another also-ran, outperformed by your peers.

So I continue along my daily commute, trying to figure out what has caused the sudden increase in this kind of targeted advertising in Bangalore, especially over the past few years. Also intriguing is the fact that this period coincides rather eerily with a time when Bangalore has become a cultural wasteland--a city that seems to have lost its soul. We have had virtually no music scene ever since Palace Grounds became an elaborate fuckin' wedding hall instead of a cultural venue. Our sports grounds are making way for some Confident Group project. Sunday Jams and Freedom Jams are a thing of the past. Trees are being cleared to widen roads, so we can get to our glass offices faster.  Energy-inefficient, resource-draining buildings mask formerly beautiful parts of the city, like a Band-Aid covering Cindy Crawford's mole. The only public spaces that remain are fickle malls and multiplexes that were constructed by displacing the poor, so that middle-class folk would have some place to take selfies. Our Volvo buses are wider than our streets can afford. Our cars are getting better, but our roads are getting worse. We find shade below flyovers and take shelter from the rain in underpasses. We are a city constantly under construction. A city in a hurry, with no idea where it is going.

And I know what some of you are saying:

"Chill out bro, at least we've got our weather. Bangalore's weather is amazing".
 "Sorry, I believe we've fucked that up too. Look outside, it's 35+, hotter than Chennai."
"But macha, I have a/c at home, office and in my car. For me, its always 21 degrees Celsius in Bangalore"
<Slow clap> "Boss, do you know anything about thermodynamics? Fuck that, have you studied 3rd standard science? How do you think air-conditioning works? When you switch on the a/c, do you think leprechauns soak in the hot air around you. Or is it just possible that this heat is being transferred somewhere else, so that you can feel cool? And is it just possible that in doing so, we are contributing to the rising temperatures in Bangalore?
"Ya, probably, but once it rains it will be cool, bro"
 "Yes, the rains will be nice for the first 20 minutes, after which we will be up to our ankles in fluids whose origins I do not know"
"Macha that's ok, those days I'll be taking the car anyway"

Perhaps the state of our city is symbolic of the mindset of a new, growing set of people who are slowly becoming a majority in Bangalore---the newly rich. Young, urban professionals who have discovered easy money overnight, and are not sure what to do with all of it. Some buy property, some have elaborate weddings, some buy air-conditioners, some buy expensive cars, some buy expensive bikes, those that don't have cycle balance buy expensive gadgets and those that don't have any hobbies buy expensive cameras. And it is this group of people that are the target market for bullshit ads that are trying to sell something that can't be bought. Want good health? Buy Sugarfree Natura. Need some peace of mind? Buy Forever 18. Looking for happiness? Buy bridal jewelry from Kalyan jewellers. Together, we have all bought into consumerism in a big way. You need only go into a supermarket or mall on a weekend for proof of this.

We no longer buy only 1/2 litre of milk or a dozen eggs. We now buy 500ml of Paco Rabanne for men--because we can, and 12x2litres of Thums Up because of "buy 10, get 2 free offer". We no longer buy 10 kg of rice for the month; we go for the 750-buck Barbeque Nation buffet and eat only curd rice, because someone else is paying. We no longer want the latest Sportstar or Overdrive; we need to have that tablet which was launched yesterday. We no longer need only 5 pairs of Jockeys for the work week; we now need 5 Fastrack watches that will go with them. We are no longer happy with just one comfortable pair of sneakers; we now need one pair of Oakleys for every day of the weekend. We no longer know what we really want; we only know that we need more of whatever it is.

Look at us. Well-educated people who've been sold a dream. We have been told through TV, advertising and other media that someday, all of us could have everything we ever wanted. So it is only natural that after twenty-odd years of education and work, that we feel a sense of entitlement and aspiration. But how sustainable is this idea that everyone deserves more? How long would it be before we drained all our resources and ended up fucking up our cities and ourselves?

These are questions that I have thought about, over the past few weeks, and to be honest, I have no real answers. So, I said to myself, "Fuck it. Everyone else is getting what they want, why shouldn't I?" And so, I have decided to go with the flow and buy into this "gimme culture" to see if it can give me some satisfaction, or at least until I can get some real answers to these questions.

So until then, gimme apple cake from Iyengar bakery. Gimme doughnuts from Thom's Cafe. Gimme plum cake from Koshy's. Gimme jam bun from B.P. bakery. Gimme mutton samosa from Albert bakery. Gimme idli-vada from Veena Stores. Gimme draught beer at Pecos. Gimme lime juice at Savoury. Gimme video games from National Market. Gimme balcony seats at Rex. Gimme a Nokia 1100. Gimme more trees. Gimme work-from-home. Gimme sustainable housing. Gimme a concert at Palace grounds. Gimme football on the streets. Gimme less, because more is an illusion. Gimme less, because I don't deserve more; I deserve better.

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Edit: 3 years since the original post, and nothing much has changed. The latest proposal from the Government of Karnataka is to build a 6.7km steel flyover from Basaveshwara Circle to Hebbal, at a cost of 1791 crore rupees and roughly 800 trees along some of the most scenic routes in Bangalore. I think it's fairly obvious to any multi-cellular organism that this move will hurt Bangalore in the long run, and that efficient public transport(with existing road, metro and rail infrastructure) is the best way forward.


If you are convinced, please sign the below petition to oppose construction of this steel flyover. If you aren't, please sign it anyway, and I will buy you fresh apple cake from Iyengar bakery. Promise.
https://www.change.org/p/bengaluru-s-plea-don-t-want-steel-flyover-want-better-public-transport




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