Rockin’ the Suburbs

Every morning I journey from my home in a quiet neighborhood in Bangalore, through the bustling outdoor market filled with scents of tulsi and fresh cut flowers, then I walk along a trash-filled aqueduct that runs under a crowded overpass to a busy bus stop known as Silk Board Junction. It is here that I wait for my school’s van to come pick me up so that I may join the city-dwelling teachers in the hour-long trek out to the school in the suburbs. Silk Board Junction is a popular launch pad for mostly teachers and tech workers who commute to the tech parks just outside the city, and the schools that are being built to support the influx of families to the area. I sip chai or fresh coconut juice as vans labeled IBM, Microsoft, and the like, pull up to gather batches of people. Because the traffic is so erratic in Bangalore, it’s hard to predict when exactly my van will come. Sometimes I wait and wait, sipping way too much chai, and worry that the van has forgotten me. When I first got to Bangalore this caused me great anxiety, but as I have now lived here for more than three months, I wear uncertainty with much greater ease. I do, however, greatly appreciate that when the van does pull up, it’s filled with the same teachers, who sit in the same seats, with the same driver and the same attendant who opens the door for me the same way, every time. When I get in the van the few other teachers and I always share what we did the night before. Sheela, who lives in the city so her husband can be near his tech job, always shares the elaborate meal she prepared. Jagadevi, who lives with her brood of Bangalorean in-laws, shares hilarious tales of keeping her male cousins in line.  After we are through with our ritual greeting, we spend the rest of the ride in silence.  I savor this time. I love sitting in a quiet car, watching the chaos outside. The highways of Bangalore are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I forget that people drive on the left side of the road in India, because people drive on both sides of the highway, dodging one another. Sometimes it feels like I’m in a real life game of Mario Kart.

The World Bank report, Urbanization Beyond Municipal Boundaries explains that over the last two decades the peripheries of the largest urban centers in India have seen much more rapid growth in employment than the city centers. This is confirmed by everything getting noticeably more and more crowded as we enter the suburbs. This balloon of chaos features a smattering of billboards for “your new dream home.”   After traveling about 25 kilometers we turn off the main road to our small town of Anekal. Anekal still has the remnants of being a quiet, peaceful village, but is being transforming into a fruitful suburb day by day. The town’s only two lane road, which was built only two years ago, now has it’s own smattering of billboards for “your new dream home.” Some mornings we stop for dosas at a little canteen. As we eat our food, I stare out onto a field, with the city and its suburbs in the background. I have made sure to imprint that field into my mind, because it will surely not be there for long.

With a background in program monitoring and evaluation as well as quantitative and qualitative research, Nora is interested in the development of effective, community-based social service delivery models. While in graduate school, Nora focused government-nonprofit relations and the effect on human service systems. Nora has worked as a consultant supporting the capacity building of social service organizations across the US. She also also has experience in the development and implementation of health and education programs throughout Latin America. Nora joins the fellowship after managing the strategy, research and evaluation efforts of a major social service nonprofit in San Francisco.

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2 thoughts on “Rockin’ the Suburbs

  1. From my last trip to the US:

    Woman: “Oh, India? what side of the road do they drive on over there?”
    Me: “Whatever side they want.”

    I find it Ironic how Bangaloreans now live in the city and commute to the suburbs. It’s only a matter of time before those suburbs are the city.

  2. The Burbs will be distant both in miles and memory. India is 30%+ percent urban. China is 50%+. 30 Indians move from Rural to urban each minute. Developed countries are 80/90%+. India Some of it will be new cities but many will be extensions of existing cities. Like NCR( National Capital Region) suburbs will indeed become part of Mega cities. But please god not like LA!!!! Sorry Nora.

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