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Thoughts on a Sojourn - Part II

Continued from here.

I did whirlwind tours of Bangalore and Chennai in December, went to Singapore to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and then to Ratlam to attend a wedding. Singapore deserves a separate post, but here are my thoughts on Bangalore, Chennai and sleepy Ratlam.

Bangalore is fast changing, my last lengthy visit to the city was in 2006 - in 4 years Bangalore has changed - the metro track running all along MG Road has changed the way the city center looks now. I could not recognize the square which I so often roamed around last time, until I noticed that the mall on the corner had 'Forum' written on it.

Nice to see that the Bangalore metro quietly seems to be moving faster than its much publicised contemporary the Mumbai Metro.  And the 9km flyover that connects Electronic City to the city is an absolute charm - travel which used to take 2 hours can now be zipped in a cool 25 minutes!

There are some things that still haven't changed or rather gotten worse - traffic sense among drivers is non-existent, roads in the city centre are still made of tar - high time they were converted to cement. Finally, night life hasn't improved even a bit - pubs close at 11:30PM and so does the rest of the city! Wonder when Bangalore authorities would realize that a healthy nightlife makes a city safer than the other way round - something they ought to learn from Mumbai.

Everytime I visit Chennai - I end up loving it for its traffic. Even the much notorious Old Mahabalipuram Road (or IT Highway) is better than most roads in Mumbai. The weather sucks though for those not used to it and I haven't heard of the term night life being used in connection with Chennai ever.

That apart Chennai has improved in terms of its cosmopolitan index - more people now speak Hindi in the city and acceptance to outsiders is now better than it was when I visited it last (again in 2006). I wanted to visit offices of Lets do Something - a company started by friends but none of them were in town during my stay there so could not.

Nevertheless, I was able to catch up with Sunil Vishnu - the cofounder of Evam and an inspiration for me since childhood. It was a wonderful chat knowing more about how Evam is doing, their latest play 39 Steps and the other new things in the fold.

LDS and Evam - two 'activity inclined' entrepreneurial ventures started in Chennai by close friends - make me feel hopeful that Chennai is as much the right place to start up something in lifestyles or cultural space as much as Bangalore is for tech startups. I wish the best of luck to both the companies!

Near the border of MP and Rajasthan is the sleepy town of Ratlam - made more infamous by the movie Jab We Met, but earlier more famous for the Ratlami Sev. It was a good 3 days spent in the town - mostly attending a marriage and a day lounging away under the Sun in the cool Winters of MP.

Everytime I visit such places, I feel they are better locations to ruminate over the more complex questions of life, universe and spirituality than bustling metros. No wonder literary geniuses such as Ruskin Bond, HG Wells, Shakespeare etc were often born out of such lonely abodes. However, the only problem in India is that such lonely places also lack good avenues of education and self improvement - hence talent in such places is often wasted.

If we were to provide high quality education in such 'sleepy' towns, we would surely have cultural and technical geniuses born from such factories.


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