“So what did you see in Bangalore in these two months?” I asked the intern who bid goodbye to us after completing her internship tenure.
“ISKCON, a few clubs, Mystery House, Visvesaraya Museum, Jayanagar shopping complex” was her reply.
“How about Vidhana Soudha?”
“No. When I asked my friends they said there’s nothing to see in Vidhana Soudha. They are all from Delhi.”
“Ah! How about Cubbon Park and Lalbagh?”
“No. I saw Ulsoor Lake. It was foaming.”
“So if I come to Nagpur, what does your city have to see around?”
“Nagpur? There’s nothing there. There are two lakes which stink. There’s nothing interesting otherwise.”
“If you don’t love your own city, if you don’t sell your city to outsiders, how do you think they’ll be able to like your city?” I asked. After giving it a moment of thought she nodded saying “Yes. That’s something I realize now.”
“Isn’t it but natural? For a person belonging to a city, the places in the city don’t seem all that special.” said another colleague.
I believe every city has its own character. Cities are characterized by a synergy that exists between its peoples, cultures, food, economy, art, music and such things. A city is something you can experience like you experience a movie or a play. We, the citizens, are the ones who contribute to what a city becomes famous for.
Mumbai is famous for its fast-paced life, crowded local trains, Vada Pav, Chowpatty Beach and Gateway of India. Delhi is famous for its street food (chats), its historical monuments, wide roads. Bengaluru is famous for its not-too-fast-not-too-slow approach towards life, pleasant weather, pubs, technology orientation, lakes (frothing?), darshinis, filter coffee, masala dosa, trees and such stuff. Chennai is famous for its filter coffee, dosas, Saravana Bhavan.. You get the point.
These cities are not famous because their administration advertised these things. They are famous because someone experienced these things and sold the experience (in the sense of selling ideas) to the outside world. They became ambassadors of the city and marketed the city knowingly or unknowingly.
And that’s where some cities fail to impress people from other cities, because some of us don’t market our cities well. Bengaluru, for example, fails to market anything beyond Cubbon Park, Lalbagh, M.G.Road-Brigade Road-Church Street experience. Some might know Koramangala and Indiranagar because they are hubs for the pubbing crowd. Vidhana Soudha, K.R.Market, Russell Market, Dodda Ganesha temple, Someshwara Temple, Bugle Rock, JP Park, Visvesvaraya Museum, HAL Museum, Rangoli Metro Art Center, V.V.Pura food street, Malleshwara are all left out of the typical hangout list. And then there are mango farms, vineyards and rose gardens all around the city. Bangalore accounts for 70% of roses exported from India! Did you know?
Being a Bangalorean at heart, even I didn’t know there’s a “Legends Motorcycle Museum” and a “Philately Museum” in the city. You can read about them here. There’s even a Chatrapati Shivaji’s memorial in Sankey Tank (see cover pic). Although the government is equally responsible for neglecting the tourism potential of the city, thanks to its span, we – the people are equally responsible for such dearth of knowledge about our city. It’s only but natural for an outsider to not see something that we ourselves are blind to.
So guys! Next time when someone asks what’s special about your city, market it as if there’s no other city better than yours. Your city deserves it.
P.S. – A 2016 Egyptian movie called ‘In the Last Days of The City” is one such example of a man romancing his ever-changing city of Cairo. A must watch for anyone who believes in the concept of breathing cities.