Speaking of environmentally inclined folks, acclaimed ecologist, Dr. Harini Nagendra whose earlier book, “Nature in the City” mixes history with sustainability has come up with a delightful series called The Bangalore Detectives Club, featuring a sari-wearing sleuth. The series, set in 1920s Bangalore is a must-read for all of us newer Bangaloreans who don’t understand the nostalgia that old Bangaloreans feel for this beautiful city.
Prolific author, Andaleeb Wajid promotes other Bangalore authors like Anuja Chauhan, Bijal Vachharajani and Aruna Nambiar in her Substack newsletter. Her own books are Bangalore’s answer to those Harlequin romances we all read on a rainy afternoon. Try her latest, “Accidentally Married,” if you are in the mood for romance.
Books are both a universe and a slow, private pleasure. Platforms like the Bangalore Literature Festival, Neev Literature Festival, and the book clubs that proliferate in this city try to juggle heavyweights like Sudha Murty and Ramachandra Guha with emerging voices such as Sabin Iqbal and Manu Bhattatiri, always a “fine balance.”
Some platforms like the New India Foundation and the Bangalore International Centre make their home here but don’t make a conscious effort to root themselves in this soil. Some authors do. Paul Fernandes’ work, for instance, gives new Bangaloreans an excellent introduction to what this city has lost and gained. Zac O’ Yeah writes about Majestic, which is to Bangalore what Grand Central Station is to New York. But many other authors like Vikram Sampath or Anita Nair are from here but not their books. Does it matter?
Can Bangalore as a city inspire tales, stories, books, films and more– in the way that London and New York have done, or Florence did during the Renaissance? Can Bangalore aspire to be a cultural capital with a vivid throbbing heart? What does it take for a city to provide inspiration to authors? What does it take for a city to foster the creative ferment?
Creative output is hard to engineer and even harder to manage. It is an ineffable thing that happens over decades and requires a confluence of factors in order to flower. The Rennaissance for instance, began in Florence because of patronage from the Medici family, the migration of Greeks with their manuscripts to Italy after Constantinople fell, and most importantly, educators who wanted to teach the citizenry to speak, write and read the humanities. Bangalore has immigrants in spades but most are economic immigrants who come here to do start-ups. It has patronage from the city’s elite. What it lacks is a citizenry that are interested in debating and discussing the humanities and arts. We lack the classical Bengali adda culture, which is perhaps why Kolkata (along with Mumbai) are the two Indian cities which are closest to creating a cultural ferment.
That can change for Bangalore. The origin of the word Rennaissance was the Italian rinascita, which means rebirth or revival. Post Covid (fingers crossed), several organizations are trying to create “addas” in Bangalore. Virtual addas don’t count in my opinion. You need physical presence, people meeting in person in order for ideas to have sex and create new forms. Design Friday, run by entrepreneur Sujata Keshavan used to do that.