Remember how the rich are always complaining: “I had to wait six months before they could deliver matching Maseratis for my father and me,” or “I got my wife a 15-carat diamond, but that show-off Sudhakar on the seventeenth floor got his wife and girlfriend both 20-carat diamonds, and now my wife won’t speak to me”, or “I sent my private jet to Paris because the cook insisted on fresh scallops for tonight’s dinner, but Customs kept the package in a non-airconditioned room, and now everything is ruined.” Well, that’s the way Bangaloreans are. Mostly, of course, about the weather, which they treat as their personal climate control. “It is so hot,” every one of them gripes, when, in fact, it is gloriously cool. “No, no, this is the peak of summer, it is stifling,” they will insist, while you go around switching off even fans because, well, you’ve come from Delhi, which is 45 degrees and rising, and in Bangalore, unless you’re careful, you’re going to – achoo! aaachoo! – catch cold.
The newspapers feed the malcontent, the city pages griping about trees being felled when, in fact, Bangalore is gloriously, lushly green. In the Whitefield gated community where I’m staying on this visit, they rise magnificently tall, as they probably have for decades. “No, no,” my host corrects my misconception, “they’re only as young as this place,” which, for the record, is just a few years old. Not only do trees in Bangalore rise fast, unlike in Delhi they’re unlikely to come crashing down every time there’s a strong wind. These days, though, the city seems more concerned about noise pollution. In Whitefield, there is one road on which traffic roars, I concede, “but the birds are noisier”, I clarify to my wife on the phone, a koel outside my window distracting me from work, so maybe Bangaloreans do have a point.
The cook says he’s going to the grocer down the road — do I need anything? “It’s just a small store,” my hostess apologises, “nothing fancy,” just French milk, Italian cheese, quinoa from South America for the diet sensitive, Swiss chocolates, Australian jams, specialty teas, American oatmeal. My kirana store in Delhi, I hasten to assure her, hardly offers me a choice of bread. “That reminds me,” she says, “they should have focaccia fresh from Ooty today,” unless I’d prefer “the rye bread from Pune, the sourdough bread from Kodai, or perhaps our own local bread, which is rather good too.”
My hosts ask me to accompany them on an evening walk through the quiet streets of their privileged community, clarifying that most owners, just like them, are only part-time residents. Bangalore real estate seems to have done well from its migrants who, here, have brought second or third homes, retreats for their parents, or seclusion for their amours that remain secret because there aren’t any permanent neighbours to pry into, quite literally, their affairs.
Bangaloreans also remain resiliently mobile: the newspaper boy does his rounds in the morning on a motorcycle, personal trainers and beauty therapists are available for house calls, and my host, despite my protests, has booked me a reflexology massage — naturally, at home, because of the Bangaloreans’ aversion to, and only legitimate grouse: “traffic”. It’s true that the roads are mostly choked, but with temple trees and gulmohurs outside, grapefruit and figs on ice to keep themselves fortified within their chauffeur-driven cars, and a pedicurist-on-call at journey’s end, Bangaloreans don’t know how spoilt they are — or perhaps they do, but like to complain anyway.