Last month I took a walking tour through the old city of Bangalore. Up to that point, Bangalore had seemed a difficult city. Little of the wealth generated by its fabled IT industry seemed to have flowed through to public amenities. And its traditional identity as the ‘garden city’ appeared lost amidst chaotic traffic and cheap new architecture.
A visit to the flower market changed all that. In contrast to the inhospitable atmosphere outside, the flower market was an island of freshness and good humour. Vendors even welcomed our cameras despite limited sales prospects.
I learnt from our guide Aliyeh Rizvi how the market works. By 4am it is busy preparing garlands for traders throughout the city. The flowers are then sold to ordinary Bangaloreans for daily use and special occasions, such as festivals and weddings. Sure enough, later that morning, I saw people walking to their work places with plastic bags of blossoms or garlands of marigold, where they would be used to adorn idols at home or work.
The ‘City Beautiful’ was not lost, but it had retreated from public spaces to private rituals. Bangalore’s gardens are now recreated every morning by individual acts of adornment.
And what of my city, blessed by expansive manicured gardens? Melbourne’s capillaries were once activated with deliveries of daily supplies of milk, bread, and newspapers. But now milk is bought from supermarkets in plastic bottles and daily news is delivered through the ether. We now have to invent ways of waking up our city, as they do in Bangalore.
Today is one day out of 365 that is privileged as a beginning of something new. But of course, every day has its own beginning. The Russians say that the morning is wiser than the evening.
Happy new day.
(Thanks Suresh Jayaram for advice on Bangalorean history).