I recently read an article by Pico Iyer, where he explores some of India’s many contradictions around social and economic development. Iyer shares his experience in realizing that even though India is growing rapidly and has take on many classic elements of globalization, these changes are actually quite superficial, as the country is holding on steadfastly to its fundamental qualities. “The beauty of India, I thought, lies in how little it ever changes, deep down; it clings to the ways of a thousand years ago, and to the multifarious customs it has adopted in the centuries since, with an intimacy that many a neighbor might envy.”
Iyer’s observations come from visiting Hyderabad, but his assertions are no less true in the city I live in, Bangalore. Whether elsewhere in India or in Bangalore, there are two major topics that come up when discussing the city: how nice the weather is and how much the city has changed in recent years. Even without a basis for comparison, the change people are talking about is clear. Bangalore is the city with the fastest growing population in India (Center for Global Geography Education), and this can be felt with the burdensome traffic and nearly impossible to find housing. Another sign of change is the strong presence of companies like Infosys and IBM; it seems that every other person I meet in Bangalore works in the tech industry. Maybe the most striking sign of change is that the more recent popular trends in the US have made it to Bangalore, such as brunch and microbrew beer. And, sometimes when I go to the posh microbrew bars I do forget that I’m in India. That is, until I step outside and pass cows eating piles of food on the sidewalk.
I’ve asked several Bangaloreans how they feel about their city’s rapidly changing environment, and it’s hard for me to get a strong pulse on how they feel. One of my coworkers is sad that she and her husband had to move her from their native Tamil Nadu for his tech job. However, she doesn’t mind too much because the weather here is “perfect.” When I asked my mentor how he feels about the changes, he told me his ideas for how the roads could be paved differently. The other day my cab driver lamented over how the recent increase in pollution is causing the crows to disappear from Bangalore.
Each of the responses I have received about the changing Bangalore are examples of how India is maintaining its identity. The Indians I have talked to accept that the change is happening. Instead of protesting the change, people have been eager to discuss their ideas and feelings about where they and their community fits into the present reality. It seems that the willingness to accept change is what allows Indians and India to, at its heart, remain the same.