Returning Home to Bangalore

The first sensation we felt after a 1.5-hour flight from Mumbai was the cool kiss of a Bangalorean breeze on our rosy cheeks. After the stuffy humidity of high monsoon season on the coast, our return to the mountains was a refreshing experience. I hadn’t realized how much this city has slowly grown on me, despite the traffic, the pollution, and the ambiguous piles of trash that sometimes littered the road. The weariness of travel lifted from my shoulders and for the first time since arriving in India, I felt that I was returning home.

The warmth that Bangalore seemed to emanate was probably compounded by our time in Mumbai. The anachronisms of this grand, yet dilapidated city were its defining characteristics. As a tourist and foreigner, I felt confused by how legacies of colonialism, like the Gateway of India, could be regarded on the same level as tributes to Gandhi or richly decorated Hindu temples. I made the sobering realization that the places my Lonely Planet guide recommended visiting—Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Mumbai High Court, the Taj Mahal Palace—were all deeply influenced by the British presence. Even more prominent was the huge number of foreign tourists that flocked to the city and gave it such a cosmopolitan, yet unfamiliar, vibe. On the other hand, Bangalore, sheathed in steel and concrete, was equally worldly, but also comfortingly Indian. Auto rickshaws puffed along narrow roads and past the stretch marks of a burgeoning twenty-first century city. Millions of people pulse through Bangalore’s central networks and spill out into the sprawling suburbs while construction roars within earshot wherever you go. It was messy, complex, and highly endearing.

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, beautiful, but unmistakably British.

 

What I love most about Bangalore, and what I miss most now that I’m back in the states, is its youthfulness and hopefulness. The tech capital of India earned its name by living up to the dreams of optimistic college graduates who came here to work in IT or business and who bring with them boundless energy. Startup dreams can come true, fueled by liquid capital and raw faith in the breakneck speed of development. I just needed to look around me to understand the powerful draw Bangalore seemed to have on the rising tide of the savvy and forward-looking generation. It seemed as if all our colleagues at JUST and Janalakshmi were from out of town—Kerala, Delhi, Mumbai—and were here for the unprecedented opportunities presented by this booming city. From a numbers perspective, Bangalore’s population has doubled over the past fifteen years and, as of last year, is now larger than New York City. Most people I met had lived in Bangalore for less than five years, and walking down the street, I could hear the intertwining harmonies of Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, English, and other languages I couldn’t recognize. It was an exciting place to be.

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The night market at Jayanagar, which was bustling with activity at all hours of the evening.

I’ll never forget the way Bangalore made me feel, while I sat in the back of an Ola stuck perpetually in traffic or while I strolled around Cubbon Park on a breezy Sunday morning. These moments string together into days and weeks and months, and before I knew it, I was on a plane headed to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. But a part of me is confident that I’ll be returning to Bangalore in the near future, and it’s a very uplifting feeling.

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About Tina Gao

I'm currently in the class of 2018, concentrating in Finance and Social Impact with minors in International Relations and Religious Studies. I'm delighted to be interning with Janalakshmi in Bangalore this summer!