Bangalore: from Pensioners’ Paradise to Start-up Capital

Decades before Bangalore became the IT capital/Silicon Valley of India, it had other monikers. The Garden City was one, not only because Bangalore was and is home to Lalbagh, Cubbon Park and innumerable neighbourhood parks. It was more so because of the flowering trees that lined either side of the streets in cantonment Bangalore. A similar name for Bangalore was Pensioners’ Paradise.

Hard to believe, right? Before sky-rocketing rent, water supply woes and traffic troubles, Bangalore was the beloved of retirees. Whatever part of the city you consider, it was quaint and charming. Colonial bungalows in cantonment Bangalore, courtyard homes in pete Bangalore. Perfect weather year-round, with shady trees, birds chirping and the peace and quiet of roads devoid of honks and smoke. Inner streets would see children playing cricket, football and other sports, while neighbours knew neighbours like family. Crime rates were low, rents were lower.

A calm morning in Pensioners’ Paradise. Image credits: Darshan Prakash

Then came the 90s, when Bangaloreans noticed a shift. Although the city has always been cosmopolitan and open to change, a different kind of change was afoot. Development.

An economic boom was underway, as Bangalore, a quiet, sleepy, pensioners’ paradise began staying awake. Night shifts became common as Bangalore’s young workforce was offered pay packages like never before. The IT revolution had hit the city with the strength of caffeine from a double-shot espresso, as opposed to the slowly unfolding flavours of filter coffee this south Indian city was used to.

Bangalore pensioners paradise
Traffic slowly builds on a weekday morning. Image credits: Abhishek IP

As Bangalore made way for business parks and SEZs, it welcomed, as always, people from across the country and the world, but at a cost. Trees were chopped off, roads were widened. Water became scarce, as did space. Rents doubled, then tripled, and have not stopped increasing since. Cars abounded roads, and popular shopping centres had to go ‘no traffic’ to avoid chaos. The garbage crisis, unheard of a decade ago, occupies headlines in dailies at least once a week. A city that never needed fans, is scrambling for air conditioners in the summers.

It’s not a surprising reality check that this once-pensioners’ paradise is getting closer to being the most expensive city to live in, in India. And while growth and development are necessary, are we ready to lose a city that was known for its quaint and its charming, where strangers were few and far, and where Sundays weren’t spent recovering from the week’s workload, but were reserved for slow breakfasts with families and chai with friends?

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