Bangalore is brimming with positivity and energy
After 20 years in Delhi I lived for four years in Chennai editing the , which has a handful of editions in Karnataka, the hub being Bangalore.
Last weekend I visited Bangalore, the third most populous of India's megacities but perhaps its most youthful. It was at the invitation of a think-tank, the Takshashila Institute, founded in 2009 on a corpus given by Rohini and Nandan Nilekani, the latter famous for co-founding India's second largest IT multi-national, Infoys. The director, Nitin Pai, has been at Takshashila's reins since 2012 when he returned from a two-decade stint in Singapore, initially as a student but then as part of the Singapore government. He invited me through twitter; in a sign of the times, we had never met in person though he wrote a column in my last paper, the Mumbai-based<DNA> .
I jumped at the offer because among other reasons, I love Bangalore and I miss the South. After 20 years in Delhi I lived for four years in Chennai editing the<New Indian Express> , which has a handful of editions in Karnataka, the hub being Bangalore. So I was not just a regular visitor but in December 2007 I also spent a month in an heritage mansion on Brunton Road built by the late media doyen Ramnath Goenka. DNA also had a Bangalore edition, so the visits continued once I moved to Mumbai where I spent two years. In three years of freelancing I've only been to Bangalore once, to discuss a start-up idea with entrepreneur-MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar. The city is a major incubator of start-ups, topped only by Silicon Valley, where in any case 40 per cent of start-ups are by people of Indian ethnicity. A former DNA colleague now living in Bangalore spends his time discovering start-ups and is writing a book about it.
A hint of Bangalore comes from my son, a third-year student and part-time musician, who was in the city the weekend before me with his band. They had been paid to fly in and play at a corporate offline event at a tech part in Sarjapur on the outer ring road - India's Silicon Valley rims the periphery of urban Bangalore. The whizkids were just a few years older than him, and they were whooping it up; and he echoed what I've always felt - that visibly more than other Indian megacities, Bangalore is brimming with positivity and energy.
In fact, while I was an editor my favourite campus for recruitment was Bangalore's Indian Institute for Journalism and New Media. More than Chennai's Asian College of Journalism or Delhi's Indian Institute of Mass Communication, IIJNM students seemed hungry for news; for them the media was not just a job but a passion - and they wanted to push the boundaries of the new media. The core of my investigative team in DNA came from IIJNM and one of them has left the mainstream media to launch a start-up: his will be a data-base of 20,000 journalists from the nooks-and-crannies of India, and he will hook them through his app to media organisations looking for content. A sort of the Uber of journalism.
This kind of intensity I found at the public policy workshop at Takshashila, and what impressed me the most here was that of the 30-odd youngsters in the course that I interacted with, none were from journalism or government: five were engineers, one was an HR professional from IBM, another was a Dubai-based architect, another worked at the international auditing firm KPMG, another was a wildlife conservationist, and so on. It was a diverse group and their questions were incisive, common-sense, and thoughtful. Afterwards, Nitin and his group took me to a Brigade Road brewery. It was jam-packed, but in a way that is different from the pubs in Mumbai's arty-filmy-youthy Bandra or in Gurgaon, Delhi's cyber-suburb. In those cities, you feel the watering hole is a refuge for the young; in Bangalore, the watering hole is where the young come to celebrate their ownership of the city.
Before I returned to Delhi the next day, I lunched with a former mentor. He is 64, yet he looked a decade younger - he is a senior editor at an English TV news channel; on the side he guides some ex-DNA journalists who have launched a news website; also, he and some friends have launched a communications company that is vying to manage the re-election ad campaign of a chief minister. As we dug into our spicy Mangalorean anjal and chicken stew, he talked a mile-a-minute about the things I could do if I moved to Bangalore - and none of it was impossible, fancy or even needing big capital. The youngsters' energy was obviously infectious; he only wished all this had happened to him 20 years earlier.
When I left South India in 2011, I wrote that Delhi's journalists ought to mandatorily spend at least two years in a Southern metro. It is now more true than ever. Bangalore, my visit reminded me, is a place of vibrancy and optimism, a place which will give India that higher trajectory economic growth. And it will do so while the North remains bogged down with its self-destructive culture wars.
Aditya Sinha is a writer and journalist, and co-wrote the 2015 bestseller, Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years
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