It is the saccharine scent of the budding Purple Bauhinia in spring and the sharp sizzle of carefully concocted rice and lentil batter on a pan that truly captures the essence of Bangalore. Of course, Bangalore is known for its more ostentatious epithets: a bustling cosmopolitan and “The Silicon Valley of India”. Yet somehow these don’t do the city proper justice.
It fails to capture the meanders in the streets that lay shadowed by rich foliage and blooming Jasmine. It looks over the array of rich spices laid out before street vendors who entice passers-by with their expert tongues. They’re known to persuade with an ease and dexterity, fluidly switching between languages and exploiting the malleability of words. After all, Bangalore sees the marriage of multiple cultures and proudly celebrates this diversity. It isn’t uncommon to witness multilingualism, as citizens dance between Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and English as the situation demands. They sit alongside "Chaat" vendors- a popular Indian street food that challenges the palate with what can only be described as a symphony of flavors. Spiced potatoes, grated carrots, cutting tamarind sauce, chickpea chips and refreshing yogurt, amalgamate in varied combinations to be shared amidst friends and family, typically marking the denouement of a long day's labor.
Then there is, of course, the filter coffee, brewed in the expert hands of grandmothers and local haunts. It’s a craft perfected by South India and consistently produces an unparalleled experience of indulging in caffeine. The brew is stronger in both aroma and flavor in comparison to its western counterparts and allows for the true appreciation of Karnataka’s coffee beans. One often finds this unmistakeable scent wafting gently through the nooks and corners of the city serving as a constant testament to the gravity with which the culture of food is regarded here. Its bitter undertones perfectly complement the floral notes from local temples which stand proudly, boasting intricate detail, as motifs of South Indian architecture.
The city has stories to tell, nestled away at its heart. When typical tourists head to the oldest club in the city, "The Bangalore Club", they know aren't aware of the layers of history upon which they stand. They see it for its sleek pool, courteous staff, and crisply manicured lawns. Yet, being founded in 1868, most aren't aware that they stand in a place in which historical luminaries once stood, the likes of which include the "Maharaja (King) of Mysore" and Winston Churchill.
Yet, what's unique about Bangalore is that it's also known for its modernism and continues to actively craft its narrative every day, writing new stories to be told. This is seen in the mammoth corporations and opulent apartments that tower its landscape. It is seen in the lavish restaurants that offer to its citizens, the cuisines, and flavors of the world. It is seen in Bangalore's thriving IT industry and burgeoning technological synthesis into daily life. Afterall, this is what Bangalore is known for in the context of India.
It offers to its citizens a choice. One can choose to peruse the street stalls of MG Road or Malleshwaram in search of a bargain or treat themselves to the luxury of leading brands in UB City. Needless to say, Bangalore ensures it can satisfy every capricious whim of its people.
Bangalore is a juxtaposition. It heralds the union of history with modernism. Traditional temples meet contemporary malls. The balmy warmth of spices meets the mild satiation of yogurt. Biting turmeric wafts alongside gentle jasmine. It is a city that doesn't leave its culture to remain a passive player in its narrative, but rather actively shapes and crafts it every day. It is a city that resists homogenization, celebrates diversity and boasts tradition. It is a city overrun by deluges of vibrant color and activity and scent. To most Bangalore is an oxymoron... yet peculiarly it's an equilibrium.