I arrived in Bangalore late Thursday May 21, and headed out Friday to explore the downtown a bit. Here's the garden home I stayed in named Villapottipati, suggestive of Bangalore's reputation as the garden city of India. (This lovely structure was cordoned off from the noise and dust of surrounding properties by high barriers on all sides; gardens do have their walls.)
A few of the stately administrative structures in downtown Bangalore…
…and there's alot of high-modern commercial real estate as well, more even than I saw in Delhi. Bangalore is about twice as populous as Varanasi (6 million vs. 3 million), but worlds away as to the flow of nontourist capital.
Like basically all of India, industrial and infrastructural development is everywhere in Bangalore, sustaining its healthy (though not by Indian standards) annual economic growth rate of around 6-7 percent. Yet 80 percent of the population survives on under 100 rupees (~$2) per day, the accepted standard for poverty -- a figure approximately two times that of China.
What can be done about rural poverty in India? At Koshy's, a famous gathering place in Bangalore, I met some visionary Indian activists who have devoted their lives to this problem: here are Narinder and Sonja Bedi, who initiated an organization called the Young India Project several decades ago in the village of Penukonda near Bangalore. They have focused on a number of rural development and empowerment projects, but a current emphasis is organizing villages around the right to employment, built on India's one-of-a-kind National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 (see http://india.gov.in/sectors/rural/national_rural.php), which aims to provide "at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work."
Since Bangalore is the garden city of India and I was ready for a bit of breathing room, I decided to head off to nearby Cubbon Park to take a walk and shoot some photos. Here are a few scenes from the park…
There was a big rainstorm the previous night, and my suspicion is that alot of it drained through this pond; it was quite muddy everwhere.
Abbey Road? No, one of Bangalore's crosswalks where cars actually wait for pedestrians -- who as you can see are nonetheless a bit wary of it all. I would be too, having barely made it from one downtown block to another during my brief excursion. India has its own rhythm, one I found much less endless, much more friendly, a week into my visit. Our students get to experience this for a longer duration, and clearly take home much more from India than I will, though I'll be musing on the complexities of environment and development for some time. How, indeed, to fashion environmental studies and environmentalism in the U.S. with full cognizance of what is going on in countries like India? We can no longer limit ourselves to our little corner of the earth.